In a digital economy where cybercrime is expected to cost $6 trillion in 2021, organizations need a reliable, cost-effective way to stay ahead of hackers. When it comes to penetration testing, automated vulnerability scanners don’t cut it. Automated scanners cannot find all vulnerabilities, which leaves gaps open for exploitation by bad actors. It’s also difficult to understand the real impact of their findings because these tools are not capable of “educating” security teams.

A penetration test effectively addresses these drawbacks. Unlike automated vulnerability scanning, it provides the advanced simulation, analysis and remediation capabilities that modern organizations need. It is performed by skilled human consultants who leverage advanced techniques and methodologies to think like hackers and mimic attacks against IT systems.

So how can you find the best penetration testing provider for your organization’s cybersecurity needs?

The easiest way is to partner with Packetlabs. Our certified consultants perform expert-level pen tests, create detailed reports, and provide tailored recommendations to strengthen your cyberinfrastructure. Another (longer) way is to evaluate many pen-testing vendors and then decide if Packetlabs is your expert of choice.

To find the best penetration testing provider, here are three key aspects to keep in mind.

Assess their Technical and Soft Skills

It’s essential to evaluate a pen tester’s skills to ensure that they can identify vulnerabilities that automated testing and conventional testers miss. But if you have never worked with a pen test expert like Packetlabs before, you may not know what to look for. That’s why we’ve put together this list for you.

The best penetration testing provider will be competent in all these technical areas:

  • Networking protocols
  • System administration
  • Security administration
  • Database systems
  • Password management
  • Cryptography
  • Forensic investigation
  • Secure web communications

as well as:

  • Operating systems
  • Shell scripting languages: PHP, Python, Perl, PowerShell
  • Wireless encryption
  • Mobile wireless networks
  • Programming languages: C, C++, C#, Java, .NET, ASM

One key difference between pen testing and automated vulnerability scanning is that pen testing does not rely on automated tools alone. It involves a thorough manual analysis performed by a skilled tester. To be a successful penetration tester, these “softer” skills are essential:

  • Active learner and experimenter
  • Strong communicator
  • Team player
  • Research- and analysis-oriented
  • Problem-solver
  • Strong decision-maker

Check their Certifications

When evaluating a potential provider, ask about their testers’ certifications. Although certifications do not guarantee any tester’s competence, they provide a convenient, “industry-approved” way to build trust with a vendor.

OSCP and OSCE are both well-respected, in-demand pen-testing certifications. OSCP is a foundational certification that focuses on proactive security and the red team aspects of pen-testing.

OSCE is an advanced certification that focuses on exploit development. OSCE holders can execute attacks to compromise systems and gain administrative access to simulate the behaviours of potential bad actors. A pen tester capable of getting through the OSCE’s intense 48-hour exam is likely persistent, patient, and able to work under pressure. These are all desirable qualities to determine if a provider is the best penetration testing provider.

It’s also helpful to select penetration testers who understand how to design, build and manage an effective cybersecurity program. For this, at Packetlabs, we value ethical hackers with the CISSP certification. Testers who understand the managerial aspects of business are also a valuable resource, especially if they are CISA or CISM certified.

You can also evaluate pen testers based on these certifications:

We also wrote a blog with a more comprehensive table that breaks down common certificates and the effort required to achieve them here.

Evaluate their Experience

Experience is another factor when considering a vendor. During the evaluation phase, ask pointed questions like:

  • What kind of networks have they assessed, breached, and exploited?
  • Which security threats do they have the most exposure to?
  • Are they aware of the specific security challenges in your industry or sector?
  • Do they have experience in specific technologies or pen testing strategies?
  • Are they experienced in the technologies your organization works with?

Keep in mind that these questions are guidelines. The optimal pen test partner may not be the vendor that ticks all of these boxes but the one that quickly adapts to your requirements and provides a tailored solution at a cost-effective price. A solid background and experience working with various organizations and exploiting different kinds of networks is a bonus.

Conclusion

If you were looking for guidance on how to select the best penetration testing provider, we hope you found this article useful. If you have any further questions around pen testing, browse our other blogs on pen testing pricing, reports, and coverage-based pen tests. To discuss your needs, please get in touch.