How Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) can address gaps in your cybersecurity strategy

While developing an application, it’s very easy to leave security aspects for later. Functionality is key, your app is secure in the way it’s been designed, and you see no necessity to assess it for potential threats right now.

However, all a cyber attacker needs is a pinhole and from thereon, your application or network is a house of cards crumbling.

What is the best way to quickly assess and bridge these gaps without delaying time to market or losing revenue through downtime? The answer is Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing or VAPT.

vapt audit

Conducting a vulnerability assessment (VA) at key stages of application development enables you to proactively identify and eliminate vulnerabilities right from the start. This helps build a strong security and risk posture for the organisation, that also fulfills regulatory and compliance requirements.

A penetration testing or pen test (PT) will give you a real-world scenario of vulnerabilities that can be exploited, through simulation.

Typically, these activities are performed by third-party security experts such as Entersoft. Such firms have advanced tools as well as specialists who can identify and calculate a wide range of security risks.

How does VAPT work?

The process is divided into two parts – VA and PT.

Vulnerability Assessment is performed first, to assess if there are any gaps or vulnerabilities in the application or network. All the items included in the project scope are run through a scan, typically using tools like the Burp Suite scanner, HCL AppScan, etc. However, these tools only perform rule-based analysis. The results cannot differentiate whether the issue reported is an actual one or a false positive. Once VA is complete, all the vulnerabilities identified through the automated tools are manually reviewed by a security expert. In most cases, the expert can straightaway distinguish between an actual issue and a false positive based on their knowledge of the business environment and technical context.

With the list of possible vulnerabilities, a penetration test (PT) is conducted to check for areas that could be exploited by hackers or bad actors.

Penetration Testing is also known as a pen test, where an attack is simulated to check the vulnerabilities to see if they can be exploited. A pen test is done with manual intervention, and leveraging automated tools. As an ethical hacker, the penetration tester will thoroughly assess if the vulnerabilities identified could be exploited by a real-time hacker. The security experts, based on peer reviews, the level of expertise, and their certifications, will conclude that a particular vulnerability could be exploited.

After this, in the ‘post-exploitation’ stage, the expert then assesses the potential level of risk or impact on the system data, at the server level, and at an availability level. For instance, if the system goes down when exploited, it impacts availability – one of the three security principles (Confidentiality, integrity, and availability). This becomes a security alert since it has a business and financial impact while also harming your reputation.

What happens next after the VAPT audit?

The vulnerabilities which have an impact on the network or application are reported through Entersoft’s vulnerability management system, EnProbeVMS. This is a secure, cloud-based platform for real-time vulnerability management processes. A dashboard showcases all the vulnerabilities identified project-wise, along with detailed remedial steps to fix the issues or collaborate through comments.

Once customers have addressed the identified issues or some of the critical vulnerabilities, Entersoft initiates a re-test. Issues fixed based on remedial actions suggested will simply be closed.

We will then provide a final report, with an executive summary and technical details. The report summarises the vulnerabilities on your applications, network, or web services that have been fixed, and are free from OWASP top 10. Security standards adhered to throughout the VAPT process will be mentioned.

Best practice: How often is VAPT done?

The frequency of VAPT can be decided based on customer maturity, the risk intrinsic to the field, regulatory compliances, and budget allocation towards security. The model of cyber security risk assessment will vary with each organization, depending on the industry you operate in, the level of details maintained, the number of users you have, the regions you are operating in, or where your customers are from. This could translate to a stringent set of protocols or rules necessitating an external or third-party security audit.

Our recommendation for start-ups or SMEs is to conduct a VAPT audit twice a year, or a minimum of once per year which is standard practice in the community.

For enterprises following agile practices, we suggest a VAPT audit based on end-product release cycles (either quarterly or half-yearly). There is also the option of conducting a vulnerability assessment every quarter with a half-yearly VAPT audit.

What if I cannot allocate a budget towards frequent third party VAPT audits?

If resources are a constraint, we recommend having an internal security team or at minimum, to identify potential resources internally who can monitor VAPT requirements. These individuals could be trained and certified in cybersecurity courses like CH (an entry-level certification).

Such internal teams can gather knowledge about security standards and references. This enables them to address some security challenges before they rely on third-party security vendors like Entersoft. For example, Entersoft generally uses the standard known as OWASP ASVS (Open Web Application Security Project Application Security Verification Standard).

Other aspects of security measures during development stages may be taken as well, right from the design phase as per the STLC (Software Technology Life Cycle). STLC defines in detail all the remedial steps, security best practices, and the manner in which risks have to be identified and addressed.

Advantages of employing external security experts

–   Stakeholders’ prerequisite: Even if customers have strong internal security teams, stakeholders are keen to compare in-house security assessment results with those of external security specialists like Entersoft. This helps assess if internal skills match up with current security standards. In case of a gap, the external specialists are able to train and share knowledge to strengthen the internal team.

–   Compliance or regulatory requirement: Several industries such as banking may have regulatory requirements for a third-party audit by a security vendor. This also affords a good security posture in the eyes of regulators and the market.

–   Transparency in reporting: At times, internal teams may face pressure to go easy and cover up certain security vulnerabilities. Hiring an external security firm enables transparency and reporting to stakeholders.

–       Objective rather than subjective: External experts have an objective view in performing an assessment of applications or networks, enabling them to bring a perspective that internal teams may be too close to see.

IN A BOX:

What does Entersoft’s VAPT audit cover?

At Entersoft, our VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing) service predominantly focuses on:

–   Web application penetration testing

–       Mobile application penetration testing

–       Network vulnerability assessment and penetration testing

–       Web services

–   Applications deployed on cloud

Our secure, cloud-hosted Vulnerability Management System, EnProbeVMS enables clients to get a real-time view of VAPT activity status across projects, track and monitor them till closure. The advantages of our in-house platform are that there is no ambiguity in understanding and reporting of issues, with a seamless flow of information and expert recommendations to fix vulnerabilities as per industry best practices.

Explore in detail our VAPT service here.

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