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Once is Not Enough: The Need for Continuous Pentests

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A common recommendation for the frequency of pentesting can range from continuous to every 6 months and even once a year. The most important factor in deciding how often to test is not the industry you are in or the size of your organization, but the rate of change within your environment. A cloud-based organization that relies on multiple SaaS providers and changes infrastructure frequently will need to test more often than a traditional organization with a static network.

While a single pentest‚ÄĮcan help mitigate issues, the increasing complexity and frequency of attacks require a continuous assessment to strengthen security in a dynamic and complex IT environment.

 

What is continuous pentest? 

Continuous penetration testing replicates continuous attacks on your web applications and IT infrastructure. Threat actors regularly target enterprises to uncover and exploit new vulnerabilities. By performing continuous penetration tests, vulnerabilities can be detected and remedied more proactively than point-in-time security assessments. 

Continuous pentest begins with a baseline penetration test of the environment. While it resembles a traditional approach at this stage, it evolves into a mature and highly available security solution by incorporating an automated security monitoring tool to give insights into developing attack surfaces in specific aspects of your environment. 

Enterprises can command an on-demand penetration test to validate risks or test for new vulnerabilities resulting from a change in environment, such as vulnerable container images.

It is critical to note that continuous pentesting does not imply that a red team or testing team probes into your environment regularly. Such an exercise is neither cost-effective‚ÄĮnor practical.

Continuous pentest improves agility by harnessing the capability of automated security monitoring solutions, the results of which can trigger on-demand pentests when risky changes occur in your IT environment. 

 

The importance of continuous penetration testing 

As new security services develop, enterprises must recognize the potential benefits of doing something different rather than opting for the status quo. Continuous pentesting allows you to record the current condition of your online apps and IT infrastructure while enhancing your security posture.

The following are some reasons to consider continuous penetration testing: 

Improved‚ÄĮrepresentation of real-world conditions¬†

Real-world cybersecurity situations change so quickly that a snapshot penetration test cannot capture them. Consider the following scenario: two weeks after an annual pentest, a DevOps cloud engineer modifies an AWS setting, exposing a bucket of critical data. Continuous testing better captures real-world situations with on-demand testing capabilities and ongoing attack surface management. 

Better cyber risk management 

Traditional pentests should not be used to determine which security threats should be prioritized by your company.‚ÄĮContinuous pen-testing provides‚ÄĮinsight into your environment's dynamic risk profile and attack surface. Your tooling investments may be unjustifiable if you discover that the high-priority risks are not as significant. Investing in strategic security and increasing return on investment are two benefits of improved cyber risk management.¬†

Rapid risk-based remediation 

A pentest provides a comprehensive view of all exploitable flaws. However, the time between pentests opens the possibility of new vulnerabilities emerging and threat actors exploiting them. Addressing vulnerabilities could take as long as the period between two typical penetration tests. Continuous testing methodologies provide significantly faster remediation. 

Observe compliance 

Businesses today must adhere to many data protection and compliance rules, ranging from GDPR to PRA operational resilience. Continuous pentests illustrate that your company views compliance with applicable data privacy rules as a serious endeavour.

Maturity in cybersecurity 

Companies with a mature cybersecurity program are prepared to prevent, identify, contain, and respond to threats based on their specific cyber risk profiles. Continuous risk monitoring and reaction to reoccurring threats are fundamental tenets of cybersecurity maturity. Continuous‚ÄĮpentests‚ÄĮlead you to higher maturity, leading to a competitive edge.¬†

Conclusion 

Continuous pentesting is a process that should be incorporated into your organization's security strategy. By automating various aspects of the pentesting process, you can improve the speed and accuracy of your tests while reducing the overall cost. In addition, continuous pentesting provides better coverage of your attack surface and helps to identify emerging risks in a timely manner.