10 tips for success pen testing programs

A 2010 article on CSOOnline goes over, “Penetration tests: 10 tips for a successful program.” I’ve had this in my “to-read” hopper for way too long. The author goes over 10 tips on getting started with penetration testing in your organization.

Penetration Test Tip 1: Define Your Goals – Unlike the author, I think the reality *is* that some goals are just to tick a compliance check box. Nonetheless, this bullet point should also include discussion on managing the expectations of a pentest. Are you looking for a 2-day blitz, a vuln scan, or deep dive into custom application/software testing?

Penetration Test Tip 2: Follow the data – I do agree with this, but sometimes a pentest is more than just focusing on the data, and rather focusing on access. For instance, if I can attack a system and get admin rights, and then domain admin rights, it really doesn’t matter where your secret data is. I have access to it. But otherwise, yes, this bullet is valid.

Penetration Test Tip 3: Talk to the Business Owners – Can’t really argue with this. Take inventory, get an understanding of software, and align with business, pretty much sums up this bullet with popular buzzphrases. Ok, 2 best practices and a buzzphrase.

Penetration Test Tip 4: Test Against the Risk – When it comes to pentesting, I’m a bit more annoyed when people limit scope based on various factors; in this case data/application value. A development server with no real data is still a risk if I can get into it, drop a keylogger/priv escalation on it, fuck it up enough to get an admin’s attention enough to log in, and then scrape their creds/hash. In this bullet, I like how the author basically illustrates my point in bullet #1: you *can* start out with compliance checklist matching, and then expand from there as you truly value the security.

The rest of the bullet points pretty much stand on their own, and are good. I would add somewhere that pen-testing is an iterative process where you go through rounds of testing, adjust as needed, expand scopes, and dig further. Basically your normal OODA loop.