Penetration Testing – Definition
Penetration Testing or pen testing is a method of testing an organization’s data defense from a controlled ethical hacking environment. Scope of the penetration test is defined and a penetrating testing company will attempt to hack into a company’s network to expose and exploit organization’s network weaknesses.With the rise of threats, many ‘would be cyber’ companies are jumping on the cyber security bandwagon, offering a variety of solutions to the market place, often times ill equipped and lacking the proper experience to successfully manage the right cyber security solutions and proactive network security testing.
The process typically identifies a target system and identifies particular goals, The testing team performs discovery of that system or systems and then attempts to achieve the penetration testing goals. A penetration test project might be white box penetration test (which provides credentials and network information, typically used for insider threat assessments) a black=box pen-test (provides no information other than targeted system, ie web app IP address) and a gray-box penetration test which would be a combination of both black-box and white-box Penetration testing (where some information is shared with the penetration testing team). A penetration test is a proactive assessment that help determine if a system is vulnerable to attack by bad actors (hackers, criminals, terrorists etc)
A Penetration test will identify the potential impact of vulnerabilities to the organization and recommends proper remediation efforts to fix the vulnerabilities to ultimate reduce risk. Without proper knowledge, many times a vulnerability test will show too many false positives leaving IT confused and in a state of perpetual worry. A true manual penetration test shows only the verified vulnerabilities, potentially chained together for exploits with proof of concept for each
The National Cyber Security Center, states that penetration testing is defined as “A method for gaining assurance in the security of an IT system by attempting to breach some or all of that system’s security, using the same tools and techniques as an adversary might.”
Top Rated Penetration Testing Companies
The top rated list of Penetration Testing Companies is based on companies that offer true penetration testing (pen testing) with remediation planning, and does not include the variety of do-it-yourself penetration testing software companies or vulnerability scans disguised as a penetration test. If you’d like to understand the difference from a vulnerability scan vs a penetration test, you can view an article here that covers that subject.
Best Penetration Testing Companies Rated:
U.S. Penetration Testing Firms are rated by a ‘mock pentest’ was requested from 30 plus providers and based on response or lack of response many companies that state they provide pen-testing did not make the top rated list due to the fact that their services are not true penetration testing. The list does not contain do-it-yourself or the one-size-fits-all offerings or automated scanning services. This list of the best penetration testing service providers have been identified by measuring the following review criteria.
- Timely response and overall customer experience
- Comparison of and Penetration Scoping documents and Sample Reports
- Support Information available
- Credentials, Certifications, Industry Pen-testing experience- Is the team Senior Level with Networking Experience
- Scoping Discussion with Engineering Team
- Price and Value
- Manual Penetration Testing (MCPT) compared to Automated vulnerability Reporting (PTaaS)
- Retest availability
- Customer Reviews
- Scoping Capabilities- Small to Large Projects including – Application, IT Internal / External Networks, OT ICS/SCADA Testing
Here is the list of top penetration testing companies:
1. Redbot Security
Redbot Security can customize project scope for any size client and / or budget. Redbot Security is a boutique penetration testing firm with a Sr. Level Team of industry experts. Their reporting shows detailed proof of concept, and the company specializes in Manual Penetration Testing. Redbot Security specializes in human based exploit testing of Applications, Internal/ External IT and OT networks. Since Redbot Security is a smaller more specialized penetration testing group, the company is able to focus on building client relationships and delivering a premier customer experience through continuously engaged Senior Engineers that have 20 plus years in the industry. With enterprise level services and highly competitive service rates, the company is in high demand and sought after for any size project. The Redbot Security portfolio of clients ranges from Mid-market companies to Enterprise accounts, and features an array of market leaders and recognizable brand names.
At Rapid7, we believe in simplifying the complex through shared visibility, analytics, and automation that unite your teams around challenges and successes of cybersecurity. Whether you’re looking for a comprehensive security platform, an assessment to better understand your security posture, or something in between, we’ve got your back.
3. Secureworks Penetration Testing Services
Secureworks approaches every penetration test as unique to every organization. Our methodology is performed by the industry’s top security testers, leveraging our proprietary tactics and intelligence from the Secureworks Counter Threat Unit™. Both Penetration and Advanced Penetration Tests are designed to show how an attacker would gain unauthorized access to your environment by compromising in-scope systems and highlight pivoting opportunities from compromised hosts. Based on the findings, Secureworks will discuss the findings with all relevant audiences and provide a customized course of action for both leadership and technical audiences.
4. FireEye Penetration Testing Services
FireEye cyber security products combat today’s advanced persistent threats (APTs). As an integral piece of an Adaptive Defense strategy, our state-of-the-art network security offerings protect against cyber attacks that bypass traditional signature-based tools such as antivirus software, next-generation firewalls, and sandbox tools. The company offers penetration testing through a 3rd party with additional support for remediation which has them join our Top Penetration Testing Company list.
5. VeraCode Penetration Testing Services
Veracode Manual Penetration Testing (MPT) complements Veracode’s automated scanning technologies with best-in-class penetration testing services to find business logic and other complex vulnerabilities in web, mobile, desktop, back-end and IoT applications. Using a proven process to ensure high customer satisfaction, Veracode MPT provides detailed results, including attack simulations, through the Veracode Application Security Platform, where both manual and automated testing results are assessed against your corporate policy. Developers can consult Veracode application security consultants on the findings and retest uncovered vulnerabilities to verify successful remediation.
Top (Key) Players in the Penetration Testing Market:
View 3rd Party 2021-2022 Market Research Reports Here:
Here is also the latest updated comparison table of Top 10 Penetration Testing Firms with at look at services offered (Last updated on August 26, 2022)
When should your organization perform a Penetration Test?
- Seek Penetration Testing Services when you have network infrastructure, devices or applications updates
- Upgrades, Modifications, Patches, Firewall Changes made to infrastructure and applications
- When Policy, Compliance and regulation changes. its time to order a penetration test
- New locations should be Pen-tested
Discover Gaps In Compliance
Using penetration testing as a means to identify gaps in compliance is a bit closer to auditing than true security engineering, but experienced penetration testers often breach a perimeter because someone did not get all the machines patched, or possibly because a non-compliant machine was put up “temporarily” and ended up becoming a critical resource. In today’s heavily regulated environment, many organizations are looking for better ways to continually assess their compliance posture. Most regulations have multiple components specifically related to system auditing and security.
U.S. Pen-Testing Organizations typically have the ability to scope a wide range of projects. When searching for the Best Penetration Testing Company for your project, you’ll need to clearly define your goals and expectations. Larger Penetration Testing Firms might turn away your project if it is on the smaller scale, since their top engineers are working on larger, more time intensive projects.
Different Types of Penetration Testing Services
Penetration Testing Services
Many Penetration Testing Services performed by the listed companies will include common hacking techniques and may or may not include the use of automated Penetration Testing tools along with manual Penetration Testing.
- Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Gathering and Data Collection
- Enumeration of Publicly Accessible Services
- Email-based (non-phishing) attack techniques
- Buffer Overflow & Underrun Conditions or Race Conditions
- Misconfigured Services
- Insecure Services
- Password Guessing & Default Passwords
- Protocol Manipulation
- Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Interception or Replay of Credentials
- Authentication Exploitation & Bypass
- Testing Cryptography Implementations
- Weak or Insecure File and File Share Permissions
- Exploitation of Domain Trust Relationships
- Database Security Misconfigurations
Please include attribution to Redbot Security with this graphic.
Research the right Pen-Test company for your project.
Penetration Testing Services is a controlled security test in which the engineer will mimic real-world attacks to identify methods for circumventing the security features of an application, system, or network. Based on the Penetration Testing company that you hire, Penetration Testing almost always involves launching real world attacks on real systems and data that use tools and techniques commonly used by attackers. Knowing that your systems will be attacked, it then becomes critical that you hiring only the best Sr. Level cybersecurity firm that fully understands your systems. In addition, it is vitally important that the team you hire is engaged, reachable (within the United States) and has a solid communication plan in place.
Most penetration tests involve looking for combinations of vulnerabilities on one or more systems that can be used to gain more access than could be achieved through a single vulnerability. Junior level engineers or vulnerability scanning companies (the ones that offer 1 size package fits all) typically do not know how to chain together a combination of different vulnerabilities to achieve exploitation. Special Note: These type of reports (Vulnerability Reports disguised as Penetration tests) are usually excessive and contain many false positives and irrelevant information. Your IT team will be lost in a sea of paperwork and fluff. (For more information on the difference between vulnerability scanning vs a penetration test, please visit here.)
In addition, many manual controlled Penetration tests will determine if your systems are able to tolerate real world-style attack patterns. Obviously knowing this, it becomes an even more sensitive testing engagement when the systems are legacy and potentially operate critical infrastructure. Learn more about ICS/SCADA Testing here.
Attackers are sophisticated and are always seeking new methods to exploit their victims. Cybersecurity Engineers need to continually be updated and researched on new methods and exploits in order to out pace the current threat environment. Check out some useful fixes (easy) that will immediately help to secure your network here.
NIST states: “Penetration testing services can be invaluable, but it is labor-intensive and requires great expertise to minimize the risk to targeted systems. Systems may be damaged or otherwise rendered inoperable during the course of penetration testing, even though the organization benefits in knowing how a system could be rendered inoperable by an intruder. Although experienced penetration testers can mitigate this risk, it can never be fully eliminated. Penetration testing should be performed only after careful consideration, notification, and planning.”
Other types of Penetration testing often include non-technical methods of attack. For example Redbot Security is one company that provides simulated breaching of physical security controls and procedures that a company may have in place. Goals could be to connect to a network, steal equipment, capture sensitive information (possibly by installing keylogging devices), or disrupt communications.
NIST 800 Warns “that caution should be exercised when performing physical security testing—security guards should be made aware of how to verify the validity of tester activity, such as via a point of contact or documentation. Another nontechnical means of attack is the use of social engineering, such as posing as a help desk agent and calling to request a user’s passwords, or calling the help desk posing as a user and asking for a password to be reset. “
For Addition Penetration Testing Information and Penetration Testing Reference Material:
NIST SP 800-115
“Penetration testing can be useful for determining:
- How well the system tolerates real world-style attack patterns
- The likely level of sophistication an attacker needs to successfully compromise the system
- Additional countermeasures that could mitigate threats against the system
- Defenders’ ability to detect attacks and respond appropriately.
Penetration testing can be invaluable, but it is labor-intensive and requires great expertise to minimize the risk to targeted systems. Systems may be damaged or otherwise rendered inoperable during the course of penetration testing, even though the organization benefits in knowing how a system could be rendered inoperable by an intruder. Although experienced penetration testers can mitigate this risk, it can never be fully eliminated. Penetration testing should be performed only after careful consideration, notification, and planning”
Industrial control systems (ICS), including supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
ICS are found in many industries such as electric, water and wastewater, transportation, oil and natural gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing (e.g., automotive, aerospace, etc). Because there are many different types of ICS with varying levels of potential risk and impact, there are many different methods and techniques for securing ICS, among them is Penetration Testing.
Examples of potential consequences of an ICS incident:
* Impact on national security—facilitate an act of terrorism.
* Reduction or loss of production at one site or multiple sites simultaneously.
* Injury or death of employees.
* Injury or death of persons in the community.
* Damage to equipment.
* Release, diversion, or theft of hazardous materials.
* Environmental damage.
* Violation of regulatory requirements.
* Product contamination.
* Criminal or civil legal liabilities.
* Loss of proprietary or confidential information.
* Loss of brand image or customer confidence.
The security controls that fall within the NIST SP 800-53 Risk Assessment (RA) family provide policy and procedures to develop, distribute, and maintain a documented risk assessment policy that describes purpose, scope, roles, responsibilities, and compliance as well as policy implementation procedures. An information system and associated data is categorized based on the security objectives and a range of risk levels. A risk assessment is performed to identify risks and the magnitude of harm that could result from the unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of an information system and data. Also included in these controls are mechanisms for keeping risk assessments up-to-date and performing periodic testing and vulnerability assessments.
Supplemental guidance for the RA controls can be found in the following documents:
- NIST SP 800-30 provides guidance on conducting risk assessments and updates .
- NIST SP 800-39 provides guidance on risk management at all organizational levels .
- NIST SP 800-40 provides guidance on handling security patches .
- NIST SP 800-115 provides guidance on network security testing .
- NIST SP 800-60 provides guidance on determining security categories for information types .
- NIST SP 800-100 provides guidance on information security governance and planning .
59 SANS White Papers
Web Application Penetration Testing for PCI – Learn More Here
The Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report reported 3,937 total web application related incidents, with 490 confirmed unauthorized data disclosures (Verizon, 2014)”
OWASP Top 10 Most Critical Web Application Security Risks
The OWASP Top 10 is a powerful awareness document for web application security. It represents a broad consensus about the most critical security risks to web applications. Project members include a variety of security experts from around the world who have shared their expertise to produce this list.
We urge all companies to adopt this awareness document within their organization and start the process of ensuring that their web applications minimize these risks. Adopting the OWASP Top 10 is perhaps the most effective first step towards changing the software development culture within your organization into one that produces secure code.
Learn More Here
Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM)
OSSTMM is a methodology to test the operational security of physical locations, workflow, human security testing, physical security testing, wireless security testing, telecommunication security testing, data networks security testing and compliance. OSSTMM can be supporting reference of IOS 27001 instead of a hands-on penetration testing guide.
OSSTMM includes the following key sections:
- Operational Security Metrics
- Trust Analysis
- Work Flow.
- Human Security Testing
- Physical Security Testing
- Wireless Security Testing
- Telecommunications Security Testing
- Data Networks Security Testing
- Compliance Regulations
- Reporting with the STAR (Security Test Audit Report)
Learn More Here
Application Software Security – 11 recommended implementation measures:
- Implement a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- Error checking all input
- Use an automated scanner to look for security weaknesses
- Output sanitization of error messages
- Segregation development and production environments
- Secure code analysis, manual and automated
- Verify vendor security processes
- Database configuration hardening
- Train developers on writing secure code
- Remove development artifacts from production code
While many controls are definitely of a technical nature, it is important to distinguish the way in which controls differ from coding techniques. Many things we might think of as controls, should more properly be put into coding standards or guidelines. As an example, NIST SP800-53 suggests five controls related to session management:
- Concurrent Session Control
- Session Lock
- Session Termination
- Session Audit
- Session Authenticity
Note that three of these are included within the category of Access Controls. In most cases, NIST explicitly calls for the organization to define some of the elements of how these controls should be implemented.
Learn More Here
Finding the right trustworthy penetration testing firm is not a hard task if you do your homework. There are many Penetration Testing Service Providers based in the USA that provide controlled Penetration Testing Services. To identify the best penetration testing firm for your project you should consider experience, credentials, scoping documentation and customer service quality. Once you have identified the best penetration testing firm for your project, the report delivered is just as important of the quality of the test. Penetration Testing Reporting should include remediation recommendations and vulnerabilities should be classified as Critical, High, Moderate, Low and Informational.
Important Penetration Testing Checklist when searching for the Best Penetration Testing Company for your Project:
- Are the engineers assigned to your project Senior Level or Junior Level
- What is the time-box for the testing period?
- Is your budget in place
- What are your goals of the test? (e.g. escalation of privileges, proof of defacement, proof of critical system access
- Compliance requirements
- Report Audience ( Executive level reporting, technical reporting, Customer facing redacted Pen-test report)
- Specialty Penetration testing (ICS/SCADA, IoT)
- Retesting requirements ( are retests built into service/ statement of work)
- Penetration Testing Services – is the Vendor Full-Service? (can they help with remediation and offer additional cybersecurity services)
- Recurring Penetration Test (is the penetration testing company a one-off or a potential ongoing security partner)