5 Tips for a Successful Penetration Test (Pentest)

by Sarah Harvey / August 18th, 2017

Regular penetration tests are a critical line of defense when protecting your organization’s sensitive assets from malicious outsiders. Just like any test, you need to be prepared. Your organization should take steps to ensure that you pass your penetration test and will be prepared to fend off attackers. Not only are regular penetration tests required by most audit frameworks and provide real-world insight into how hackers can exploit vulnerabilities, they also provide a prioritized approach to managing high-risk findings. Here are a few tips to ensure a successful penetration test at your organization.

  • Define Business Objectives

Understanding what your critical assets are and where they live is important for protecting those assets. By defining these goals prior to undergoing a penetration test, you can learn where the business risk is the greatest and make remediations to improve security at your organization based on the findings. This “test” is a good assessment of whether or not your security controls and processes are in place and fulfilling its intent. Setting the scope prior to the engagement will help you to specify how far you want the test to go.


  • Perform Vulnerability Scans

Best practices say that performing quarterly vulnerability scans can help keep vulnerability remediation manageable. By performing these scans every three months throughout the year, you’ll know if you’ve missed any patches or known vulnerabilities in preparation for your penetration test.


  • Define Hardening Standards

Developing a checklist that outlines guidelines for hardening your network and systems is an important step in preparing your organization for a penetration test and protecting your network against a malicious attack. Hardening standards secure a system by reducing its surface of vulnerability.


  • Dedicate your Penetration Test Team

Be sure your dedicated IT penetration testing team is prepared with backups ready to restore systems or recover data. These individuals also need to prepare to work with your penetration tester to accomplish your goals; finding any exploitable vulnerabilities. They also need to be ready to promptly address any findings respectively.


  • Find an Experienced Penetration Tester

If you are looking for a thorough and quality penetration test, you’ll want to find a qualified penetration tester with expertise that you can trust. After all, engaging in a penetration test can be quite the investment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the vendor-vetting process to learn necessary background information about the partners you are considering.