09 May 2024
Beyond Automation: Why you should get a Manual Pen Test?
Beyond Automation: Why you should get a Manual Pen Test?

Many companies aim to bolster their security posture by focusing on compliance requirements, implementing robust defense mechanisms, and continuously monitoring their systems. Yet, as systems grow increasingly complex, identifying vulnerabilities can be a daunting challenge. This is where the crucial role of penetration testing becomes apparent.

Moreover, it's important to note that not all penetration tests are created equal. Automated penetration tests, for example, often generate numerous false positives and may fail to effectively exploit combinations of findings. In contrast, a manual penetration tester delves deeper, continuously compromising, escalating, and pivoting through a company's defenses. This thorough approach allows them to build a much more comprehensive and insightful report on the findings, providing a clearer and more accurate picture of the security landscape.

Penetration testing is the closest approximation to a real cyber-attack, providing a realistic assessment of how well a company's defenses would stand up under threat. In this article, we explore the reasons why investing in manual penetration testing is essential for safeguarding sensitive information and mitigating cyber risks.


What is Manual Penetration Testing?

What distinguishes manual penetration testing from its automated counterpart is the approach taken. Automated testing utilizes pre-set tools to scan networks and systems, efficiently flagging common security flaws. However, these tools often fall short in detecting intricate vulnerabilities, lacking the human intuition and creativity necessary for such tasks. In contrast, manual penetration testing relies on highly experienced cybersecurity specialists (ethical hackers) who actively investigate systems, networks, and applications. These professionals use the same tools as their nefarious counterparts, often crafting bespoke code to explore every possible vulnerability, ensuring a thorough assessment far beyond the capabilities of automated tools.


Applications of Manual Penetration Testing

Manual penetration testing finds relevance across various sectors, including:

  • Corporate Networks: Evaluating the security posture of internal networks, servers, and workstations.
  • Web Applications: Identifying vulnerabilities in web applications, such as injection flaws and cross-site scripting.
  • Mobile Applications: Assessing the security of mobile apps to prevent data breaches and unauthorized access.
  • Cloud Infrastructure: Ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of data stored on cloud platforms.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Devices: Assessing the security of IoT devices and networks to avert potential breaches and data leaks.


Duration and Phases of atypical Penetration Testing engagement

The duration of a manual penetration test varies depending on the scope and complexity of the target environment. Typical engagements may range from a few days to several weeks and the process generally follows these phases:

  • Scoping document: Defining the scope, objectives, and rules of engagement.
  • Proposal: Issued to the client within 48h. Includes the testing methodology, timelines, and cost.
  • Purchase Order: formalizes the engagement and triggers the commencement of the testing process.
  • Execution: The penetration test is conducted as per the agreed scope and methodologies. The testersattempt toidentify and exploit vulnerabilities in the client’s systems, simulating an attack by a malicious actor.
  • Presentation & Reporting: Presentation of findings, including identified vulnerabilities and mitigation recommendations. Detailed report delivered in parallel.

Methodology of Manual Penetration Testing

From a technical perspective, manual penetration testing follows a structured methodology:

  • Information Gathering: Collect extensive data on the target environment, including public data, IP addresses, server services, and network structure.
  • Enumeration: Analyze collected data to pinpoint system vulnerabilities using both automated tools for known issues and manual methods for hidden flaws.
  • Exploitation: Attempt to exploit identified vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access and assess the potential impact of an attack by confirming the vulnerabilities.
  • Escalation: After initial access, escalate privileges to achieve higher-level access, exploiting weaknesses to simulate an attacker gaining more control.
  • Persistence: Maintain access over time through methods like installing backdoors, testing the system's ability to detect and counteract prolonged unauthorized access.
  • Pivoting: Use the initial access point to laterally move within the network, targeting additional systems to understand the full potential scope of a breach.
  • Clearing Tracks: Erase all evidence of the penetration test to test system detection capabilities, including deleting logs, removing any software installed, and reverting changes.


Why Invest in a Manual Penetration Test?

On top of enhancing the security posture and regulatory compliance, manual pen tests offer:

  • Uncover Hidden Vulnerabilities: Skilled penetration testers can identify subtle security flaws that automated tools might miss, including vulnerabilities that might not yet be known and listed in common vulnerability databases.
  • Prioritize Remediation Efforts: Manual testing provides insights into the severity and impact of vulnerabilities, aiding in effective prioritization of remediation efforts. 


At Cyber Node, we understand the critical importance of robust security measures. All our pen tests are manual and tailored to uncover even the most elusive vulnerabilities, empowering organizations to fortify their defenses and safeguard sensitive data.

Take the proactive step towards enhancing your cybersecurity posture today. Email us at sales@cybernode.au or visit our website cybernode.au to learn more about our comprehensive security solutions and how we can partner with you to mitigate cyber risks effectively.

  • Vulnerability Assessment
  • Cyber Security
  • Network Security
  • Data Security
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