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Vulnerability Assessment / Penetration Testing

We live in a world where organizations are required to penetration test their systems and networks.  It’s like "pen testing" suddenly became one of the popular kids in the class.
 
Further, several laws, regulations, and compliance schemes now call for it.

  • Do you know when penetration testing is required?

  • Or when it’s industry standard?

  • Or when it’s just a good idea?

 
Probably the most confusing part of penetration testing is what it really is and isn’t, a lot of terms seem to be used interchangeably.  The main difference between the various services under the generic penetration testing umbrella is the scope and explicit goal of each service. 

 
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Assessment Services

Vulnerability Assessments:
A vulnerability assessment is a broad span technical review of an environment designed to identify as many weaknesses as possible within the environment.  Each vulnerability identified and documented would include information describing the weakness, whether any exploits are known which can exploit the weakness, the severity/impact to security if the weakness is exploited, and the steps required to remediate the weakness.
 
A vulnerability assessment is best used when the target environment has not been previously assessed or prior assessments have indicated low to medium security maturity.  In these situations, the vulnerability assessment project is designed to create a prioritized roadmap of the security issues that need to be addressed within the environment.
 
Penetration Tests:
Penetration Tests are designed to determine whether an attacker can achieve specific goal(s) against a company’s current security posture.  A penetration test is a deeper, more invasive examination than a vulnerability assessment.  Additionally, during the penetration test the attacker will identify specific attack vectors which through their experience has the best chance of successfully achieving the agreed upon goal of the engagement.  The attack vectors will be different if the goal is denial of service as opposed to gaining administrator access or stealing data.
 
The output of a true penetration test is a report stating whether the goals identified at the commencement of the project were achieved or not, and any ancillary observations made along the way.   Penetration tests do not provide a complete list of vulnerabilities; additionally, the engagement does not provide any assurance on threats and risks not specifically included within the scope of the contract.
 
Web Application Security Tests:
Web application penetration testing is an assessment that uses manual and/or automated penetration tests to identify any vulnerability, security flaws or threats in an application which uses a web based user interface. The tests involve using/implementing any of the known malicious penetration attacks on the application. The penetration tester exhibits/fabricates attacks and environment from an attacker’s perspective, such as using SQL injection tests. The web application penetration testing key outcome is to identify security weakness across the entire web application and its components (source code, database, back-end network). It also helps in prioritizing the identified vulnerabilities and threats, and possible ways to mitigate them.
 
Social Engineering Tests:
Social engineering engagements are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of security awareness programs, incident response procedures, physical security of client facilities/data centers, and onsite technology controls to prevent malicious activities.

 

CTSA personnel bring the knowledge, skills, and experience to efficiently and effectively partner with clients to complete a preliminary assessment of a client’s goals, desires/needs, and the maturity of the technology environment that will be the target of the project.  Relying on the information gathered during the preliminary assessment CTSA will propose a project plan aligned with the Above described services that will most effectively fulfill the client's needs.

Further, CTSA will use established penetration testing methodologies and project workflows/tools to complete the engagement.


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Penetration Testing Methodologies

PENETRATION TESTS CAN DELIVER WIDELY DIFFERENT RESULTS DEPENDING ON WHICH STANDARDS AND METHODOLOGIES THEY LEVERAGE.  CLICK ON PICTURE ABOVE FOR INFORMATION ON MOST COMMON PENETRATION TESTING METHODOLOGIES.

Project Workflows and Tools

THE USE OF STANDARDIZED WORKFLOWS AND AUTOMATED TESTING TOOLS HELPS ENSURE CONSISTENT QUALITY AND DEPTH OF ALL VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENTS / PENETRATION TESTS PERFORMED BY CTSA PERSONNEL.  CLICK ON PICTURE ABOVE FOR INFORMATION ON THE WORKFLOWS AND TOOLS CTSA EMPLOYS.

 

Why Engage CTSA?

CTSA personnel bring the knowledge, skills, and experience to efficiently and effectively partner with clients to complete a preliminary assessment of a client’s goals, desires/needs, and the maturity of the technology environment that will be the target of the project.  Relying on the information gathered during the preliminary assessment CTSA will propose a project plan aligned with the following services that will most effectively fulfill the client's needs.