How to Make Automated Penetration Testing More Reliable

The modern security landscape is fast evolving — and has never been more fraught with challenges. With data breaches growing in size and severity every year, and enterprise networks becoming ever more complex, it’s imperative for organizations to have a robust set of defenses.
Red team exercises and penetration testing have long been core elements of any security strategy. A well-executed penetration testing simulation or red team exercise can help identify any weaknesses that jeopardize critical network assets. Yet in order to remain effective, these testing practices must evolve along with the broader security market.

For most organizations, that means choosing an automated network penetration testing solution that not only maps out all vulnerabilities, but also provides detailed advice on how to implement fixes.

Why Advanced Automated Penetration Testing is Becoming the Modern Security Standard

Traditionally, organizations seeking to protect their networks have conducted red team penetration testing. Under this scenario, a “red team” of attackers attempts to penetrate network defenses, providing a snapshot of current vulnerabilities and outlining the likely attack vectors a hacker would exploit. While this system is effective (particularly when deployed in a targeted fashion) it is not a standalone solution for today’s rapidly changing security environment. Most organizations simply cannot coordinate red team penetration testing with enough regularity to ensure defenses are up to date.

Penetration testing automation provides the answer to this problem. Modern penetration testing tools allow organizations to automate the process of red team testing, enabling such tests to occur with greater frequency and at scale. Yet many of these solutions suffer from two key drawbacks: They require at least some knowledge of the threats and vulnerabilities being scanned for, and they do not offer detailed guidance on fixing any problems that are identified.

Fortunately, a comprehensive solution is available — one that requires no knowledge of avenues of attack while providing detailed advice for closing vulnerabilities.

How XM Cyber’s HaXM Makes Automated Penetration Testing More Reliable

A recent review from CSO outlined the reasons why XM Cyber’s HaXM is the market’s most full-featured and reliable automated penetration testing solution. Let’s take a closer look at the core features and attributes of XM Cyber HaXM, and review what CSO had to say about their impact on network security.

  • Simple installation. As CSO notes, installing HaXM is relatively simple, with a main server that has the flexibility to be deployed in the cloud or locally, depending on organizational security mandates. Software agents, which enable simulations to be run on network assets, are very lightweight. Set-up is painless; users simply define the critical network assets they wish to protect, deploy agents and designate security questions such as “can my network be accessed by unauthorized users?”
  • Detailed reporting. After attacks are simulated, HaXM creates a report that is cleverly visualized on an interface called “The Battleground.” As CSO notes, The Battleground appears a bit like a combat wargaming model, with geometrical shapes representing assets and arrows representing threats. This simulation has a movie-like feel and users can control it by using fast-forward, rewind and pause. When an asset is breached, users can see all paths taken by the simulated hacker and the vulnerabilities exploited along those paths. All of this is informed by data ingested from the network HaXM is protecting. Once tests are finished, HaXM ranks vulnerabilities based on importance and ease of remediation.
  • Actionable Remediation Insights. Unlike more limited automated penetration tools available on the market, XM Cyber’s HaXM offers actionable insights about the best way to close the paths and vulnerabilities that exist within networks. Additionally, it explains the necessary steps to implement suggested fixes. Once these fixes are made, users simply run another scan to ensure all security issues are resolved.

The Takeaway

Today’s organizational decision-makers may weigh the benefits of traditional red team vs penetration testing. The truth, however, is that both can work together in an integrated fashion. However, it’s essential to support red team exercises with advanced automated penetration testing, as the latter offers a level of vigilance that the old testing paradigm simply cannot match.

It’s vitally important to choose the right automated penetration testing tool, however — one that offers seamless set-up, detailed reporting, robust features, unmatched reliability and actionable mitigation insights.

As CSO’s review attests, XM Cyber HaXM squarely hits all of those targets.

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