PTaaS guide | Choosing the right test environment 

A major challenge for developing modern applications is ensuring their security. Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) is a cloud-enabled approach that lets you proactively find and fix application vulnerabilities and protect your digital assets. A key step to using a PTaaS solution is selecting the right testing environments. This guide will help you understand the pros and cons of different testing environments, and decide which is best for your organization.

Why your testing environment matters

Selecting the right testing environment will steer the success of your PTaaS solution. It provides a controlled setting for thorough evaluation of your application’s security in context of functionality and performance. Your choice of the right testing environment will unlock valuable insights into your application’s behavior, identify potential weaknesses, and help teams implement effective remediation strategies.

Production or pre-production for PTaaS?

The specific testing environment you require may vary based on your organization’s unique needs and industry regulations. Industry best practices generally recommend including two environments for your PTaaS solution: pre-production and production. Your testing strategy might include just one, or both, depending on a few factors.

Pre-production environment

The pre-production environment is a crucial component of the testing process. This environment closely mimics the actual production environment. It lets you simulate real-world conditions and identify potential issues before they impact your live system. Testing in the pre-production environment allows you to:

  • Validate the functionality and performance of your application under realistic conditions
  • Assess the impact of changes or updates on the overall system
  • Identify and address vulnerabilities that could compromise the security of your production environment

Production environment

Incorporating the production environment into your PTaaS solution is a best practice for achieving unique insights. While it may seem counterintuitive to test in a live environment, this approach offers several benefits:

  • Uncover vulnerabilities that may have been missed in the pre-production environment
  • Assess the real-world impact of identified vulnerabilities on your live system
  • Validate the effectiveness of your security measures and incident response protocols
  • Ensure compliance with laws, industry regulations and standards

Applying your PTaaS solution to the production environment will help you gain a comprehensive understanding of your application’s security posture. Accurate posture assessment is essential for making informed decisions to protect your critical assets.

Factors for choosing testing environments

When determining the optimal testing environments for your PTaaS solution, consider these four factors:

1.      Application complexity

The complexity of your application directly affects how you test it. Highly complex applications with multiple integrations, microservices, and distributed architectures may need a more comprehensive testing approach – hence the need for testing in both pre-production and production environments.

2.      Regulatory and industry requirements

Your industry and its regulations governing your company’s operations may require specific testing environments in your PTaaS solution. For example, organizations in the financial, healthcare, or government sectors may need to adhere to stricter security and compliance standards, which could mandate testing in the production environment.

3.      Risk tolerance

Your organization’s risk tolerance will guide selecting testing environments. Businesses with a lower risk appetite may prioritize a more cautious approach; typically, this means focusing on the pre-production environment to minimize harming live systems. Conversely, organizations with a higher risk tolerance might include the production environment in their PTaaS solution to gain a comprehensive real-world understanding of their security posture.

4.      Resource availability

The availability of resources, such as infrastructure, personnel, and budget, can also influence the choice of testing environments. Organizations with limited resources may need to prioritize the pre-production environment. Organizations with ample resources may be able to accommodate a more extensive testing approach by including the production environment.

Best practices for implementing PTaaS with multiple testing environments

To ensure the success of your PTaaS solution and the effective use of multiple testing environments, consider these six best practices:

  1. Establish a comprehensive testing strategy: Develop a well-defined testing strategy that outlines the objectives, scope, and timeline for each testing environment. This strategy should align with your organization’s goals, industry regulations, and risk management policies.
  2. Implement robust security measures: Ensure that your testing environments – particularly the production environment – are secured with robust security measures, such as access controls, network segmentation, and incident response protocols. This will help mitigate the risks associated with testing in a live environment.
  3. Maintain consistent processes and procedures: Teams should use consistent processes and procedures for conducting tests, documenting findings, and communicating results across all testing environments. This will help ensure the reliability and comparability of your PTaaS solution’s outcomes.
  4. Leverage automation and continuous integration: Incorporating these tools into your testing workflows will streamline the process, reduce the risk of human error, and ensure the timely execution of tests across multiple environments.
  5. Collaborate with stakeholders: Engage IT, security, and business teams to align on the testing objectives, communicate findings, and obtain buy-in for the implementation of remediation strategies.
  6. Continuously monitor and optimize: Regularly review the performance and effectiveness of your PTaaS solution. Adjust your testing environments and processes as needed to address evolving threats and changing business requirements.

Get started with PTaaS

Selecting the optimal testing environments for your PTaaS solution is a critical decision that can significantly impact the security and performance of your applications. Using both pre-production and production environments in your testing strategy will provide a comprehensive understanding of your application’s vulnerabilities. This knowledge will help teams implement effective remediation strategies to protect your digital assets.

Remember, the specific testing environments required may vary based on your organization’s unique needs, industry regulations, and risk tolerance. By carefully considering the factors outlined in this guide and implementing best practices, you can ensure that your PTaaS solution delivers the insights and protection your business requires.

At Outpost24, our PTaaS services are customized based on your specific needs and backed by experienced penetration testers who handle live environments with care. Get in touch to learn how our PTaaS solution can help you optimize your testing environments.

About the Author

Marcus White Cybersecurity Specialist, Outpost24

Marcus is an Outpost24 cybersecurity specialist based in the UK. He’s been in the B2B technology sector for 8+ years and has worked closely with products in email security, data loss prevention, endpoint security, and identity and access management.