5 min read

How to monitor your internal pentesters?

Measuring penetration test efficiency in distributed organizations is difficult. Read our guide on how to monitor key insights for more thorough pentests.
Gabor Varjas
April 16, 2024
5 min read
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Security leaders are in charge of managing penetration tests on their company's digital assets. Whether these are pre-go-live assessments for new functionalities or regular pentests as part of the company’s information security strategy, they are critical for go-to-market and continued operations.

Since contracting a well-recognized security testing provider is not always an option due to budget constraints or tight deadlines, internal pentests remain an integral part of an organization’s security strategy.

But there’s a challenge most security leaders face: how can they be certain at the end of a pentest that the testing was comprehensive, left no hidden vulnerabilities — and effectively communicate this towards company leadership?

In this blog post, Gábor Varjas, Head of Ethical Hacking Services shares his experience in effectively monitoring internal pentests.

About Gábor: Gábor has over 25 years of experience as an IT security leader in multinational enterprises, such as Barclays, Qatar Petroleum, Mol Group, and Citi Bank. He built cybersecurity processes from the ground up and conducted in-depth penetration tests in distributed organizations with complex security requirements.

Security leaders are responsible for making sure that their internal pentests are up to standard

Pentesters might report having finished testing — but does it mean that the pentest was as thorough as they say, in terms of depth, duration, and number of assets tested?

Not necessarily.

Security leaders carry this responsibility on their shoulders, and the inability to guarantee the comprehensiveness of their penetration testing projects places them in a vulnerable position. Not to mention the risk it represents for the company: superficial pentests leave critical vulnerabilities undiscovered, which could later jeopardize the new features or lead to data breaches threatening the entire organization.

Managing multiple ongoing projects, potentially with a large, globally distributed team further complicates this scenario, raising additional concerns about the comprehensiveness of pentest activities.

Ensuring the quality and thoroughness of pentest projects requires proof

Demonstrating the thoroughness of pentest projects requires evidence that the testing met the expected duration and scope and that all targeted assets were assessed in depth.

Having proof that the pentest started at the agreed-upon time, and lasted the agreed-upon duration, and seeing ongoing activity in real time contributes to the peace of mind of security teams.

Real-time monitoring ties into another important aspect of security leadership: optimizing resource allocation. Consider a scenario of a high-pressure situation, where a security team lead has to represent, or even defend, their team's value and performance in an executive meeting. Being able to monitor pentest activities enables them to advocate for their team, whether it’s needing to hire additional pentesters, or protecting their team from layoffs by showing the team's contributions through comprehensive activity reports.

How to improve reporting in pentest projects with HackGATE

HackGATE is an industry-first monitoring gateway designed for ethical testing projects integrating advanced analytics into security testing for increased transparency. The platform provides users with real-time monitoring capabilities and valuable insights into their pentest activities, such as:

HackGATE separates pentesters from real-life attacks and identifies pentesters beyond their IP address, showing information including

  • their authentication methods and
  • whether they are Hackrate users or not.

It also provides detailed information about pentester activity, such as:

  • functionalities tested, such as File upload, input fields, and so on
  • tested attack patterns, such as XSS, SQLi, and more
  • what kind of traffic does the pentester generate: what do they attack and how, including the number of HTTP requests and URL paths tested

Additionally, at the end of each pentest, HackGATE generates a comprehensive report with crucial information on the quality and depth of the pentest, including benchmark estimates, such as:

  • approximately how much of the testing was by automated scans
  • an estimated score of the overall quality level of the pentest

The CISO perspective: How HackGATE changes the game for security leaders

As a CISO or Cybersecurity Lead, managing daily tasks can be overwhelming. With HackGATE, managers gain a powerful tool for real-time project monitoring: its transparent dashboard provides unparalleled visibility into team workload, progress, and project status, making it a game-changer in cybersecurity management, allowing managers to allocate or reallocate resources, set or change deadlines, rerun tests, and implement additional security measures with ease. Additionally, HackGATE eliminates the need for large Excel macros and pivot tables to create and fine-tune assessments. Its intuitive reports provide appropriate visibility even for C-level managers.

Where HackGATE truly reveals its power is when a security leader has to oversee a virtual environment, managing a large team across multiple locations and time zones. For instance, in an international bank with vulnerability management teams spread globally employing the "follow the sun" model (e.g., Singapore, India, Budapest, Delaware, Texas). In such cases, security leaders can effortlessly monitor all ongoing internal pentest team activities, see how pentesters are executing their tasks and get a clear, unambiguous view of all engagements, enabling them to ensure all necessary steps are taken.

Going back to the topic of resource allocation: With HackGATE, you can effortlessly generate a comprehensive report with just one click, showcasing your team's thorough activities and justifying the requested budget for pentest initiatives.

Ultimately, HackGATE isn't just a cybersecurity compliance tool; it's a comprehensive solution that empowers security leaders to seamlessly handle various aspects of cybersecurity projects.

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Gabor Varjas
Head of Ethical Hacking Services

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