How to secure web apps continuously with pen testing as a service (PTaaS)

Pen testing is a valuable practice for discovering and remediating exploitable vulnerabilities in code. Legacy pen testing, however, can’t keep up with the pace of agile environments. To meet the requirements of modern applications, find out how pen testing as a service delivers faster results automatically or on demand.

Your application is all-agile, cranking a continuous stream of new features and functionality for running business-critical operations. But with the hyper-velocity of code changes, how can you be sure those apps are secure? It’s not an idle question: cyber attacks on web applications and their servers continue to dominate breaches, according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

In slower-paced times of pre-agile, a red team would periodically do a penetration test (“pen test”) to manually probe and crack vulnerabilities in your apps and infrastructure. This hacker’s view of the efficiency of your organization’s security controls was intended to clarify the potential for unauthorized parties to gain access to system features and data.

There are two issues to this approach. The first is a general lack of qualified security professionals capable of doing pen testing, It’s a well-documented problem, “which continues to significantly impact countries across Europe and the world,” according to a report by the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA).

The other issue is a legacy point-in-time friendly hacker assessment is no longer enough when code changes multiple times a day. In this blog, we describe a new approach suited for the velocity of agile: Pen testing as a service (PTaaS) – a new way to secure your web applications continuously by combining traditional manual testing techniques and the use of advanced technologies through a SaaS platform.

Leveraging technology for SaaS delivery

The name alone implies PTaaS is cloud-native and entails an element of automation – both desirable traits for an agile environment. A key benefit of technology-enabled pen tests is cost efficiency. Like any SaaS tool, PTaaS is delivered as a regular, predictable service providing a continuous cycle of manual penetration testing and security monitoring to keep your agile applications safe and secure, no matter how often your production code changes. Best of all, you use PTaaS whenever needed without set up costs or having to get extra approvals for changing scope, making it much easier to plan and control cost without compromising on the quality of testing.

Real time, faster and continuous testing

First and foremost, PTaaS is desirable because of speed; the scanning and testing process is continuous or on demand. By contrast, legacy pen testing is laborious. Legacy setup and execution are time consuming, often interrupted, and when the testers finally get around to producing a report, the results are already generations of code out of date. Knowing there used to be a vulnerability might not help you protect apps now!

Since PTaaS is executed in real-time, your SecOps team can scan the applications daily or more often if needed. Results of scans are automatically posted in the PTaaS portal and should be displayed as you like to see them. The portal also provides your team with resources for parsing vulnerabilities and verifying the effectiveness of a remediation. It’s handy if the interface includes a knowledge base to help your team with remediation.

Tapping human expertise at scale

As much as we’d love to have machine learning and other technologies do the whole job of PTaaS, the state of that art is still evolving. Sometimes a vulnerability scanner might spot an anomaly but not know what to do with the data. The anomaly might be triggered by something small, such as adding a new third-party library or page; or a big change might entail major additions or tweaks to code. At this point, you should tap the wisdom of experienced red team testers. With PTaaS, there’s nothing you need to do to call humans for help. PTaaS should do that for you automatically.

Outpost24 facilitates this requirement by combining manual testing and automated scanning. Our hybrid approach unites the power of human intelligence and machine capabilities to provide continuous assessment and monitoring. It is the most effective way to identify potential threats to your application by revealing just how vulnerable your company is to cyber-attacks. It will help you understand the implications for your business and enable you to tune and adapt your security controls continuously, preventing sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands and causing delay to your development cycle.

Our manual pen testing services are CREST certificated, peer reviewed, and verified by our security experts giving you a thorough view of the vulnerabilities (such as OWASP top 10) and its associated risk level such as business logic error and backdoors missed by automated scanners with zero false positives. You also have direct access to the pen testers for clarification and recommendations on what to do with the vulnerabilities.

As an important benefit, Outpost24’s human team of pen testers are fully vetted employees of the company. Some pen testing services outsource or crowdsource this task to third-party contractors. Whilst the approach of using contractors solves the scarcity issue of finding skilled people to do the job, it opens your DevOps to potentially unvetted security access – and this risk may be too much for your company to bear simply to “get the job done.”

Summary of key benefits for PTaaS

As you consider exploring this new world of PTaaS, look for a solution that automatically provides you with the following benefits:

Speed of Delivery – Establishing PTaaS should not take months or weeks. You should look for initiation of testing within days.

Collaboration – Your DevOps and SecOps organizations should be able to talk to the red team through the PTaaS portal for information on findings. Collaboration should be smooth and easy, not hard!

Validation of Findings – The persistent value of PTaaS is getting continuous validation of remediation after you implement recommendations of the report. PTaaS should provide unlimited verification requests because your code will never stop changing.

Reporting to meet your needs – Getting PTaaS reports should not have the drama of waiting and hoping to (finally!) see results, which happens frequently with legacy pen testing. PTaaS should deliver reports when you need them.

Better ROI – With the benefits of using a cloud-native approach to pen testing, PTaaS automation should deliver better ROI compared to legacy pen testing.

Pen testing is a valuable practice for discovering and remediating exploitable vulnerabilities in code. Legacy pen testing, however, can’t keep up with the pace of agile environments. To meet the requirements of modern applications, pen testing as a service delivers faster results automatically or on demand. If you’re running multiple pen tests per year and struggling to get the full value, we invite you to check out how Outpost24’s PTaaS offering can systematically enable stronger application security for your organization by visiting our Pen Testing as a Services product page.