Why Automated Pentesting is not the Answer to Fixing the Security Skills Gap

Why Automated Pentesting is not the Answer to Fixing the Security Skills Gap

The modern threat landscape poses a significant challenge to businesses. Many enterprises are responding by purchasing the most up-to-date security tools from vendors in the hopes of being protected, but most know that this is insufficient to secure their businesses.

While tools like scanners are useful, they can only detect known vulnerabilities. Many vulnerabilities exist that only a skilled security expert would be able to detect. Unfortunately, the problems of organisations are exacerbated by a scarcity of well-trained, qualified security personnel.

The security skills gap is widening, and individuals are coming up with outlandish solutions to address it. The most recent is automated penetration testing, which is based on the premise that bots can be created to probe enterprise defenses and detect flaws. But here’s the thing – that’s the polar opposite of pentesting. A real pentest isn’t a pre-programmed scan. A real pentest makes use of an experienced cyber-professional’s creative imagination.

Pentesting is all about being creative and thinking like an attacker to find weaknesses that machines and other pre-built-in logic can’t, allowing businesses to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. When bots are taught to discover and handle certain vulnerabilities, hackers will become more inventive and come up with new ways to get around these automated checks.

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Businesses should automate as much as possible, but depending solely on automated security assessment of their systems and networks will leave them vulnerable. The best way to fix this is to hire excellent cybersecurity professionals who can successfully address the challenges.

A shift in mindset is crucial

Security teams must adopt an adversarial mindset – they must think like an attacker. They must stay one step ahead of threat actors and advise the rest of the company on the critical and timely actions that need to be taken.

Not all flaws are readily apparent. The best method to defend the organization is for defenders to think like attackers and work harder every time they appear to meet a brick wall, refusing to give up on something that does not make sense. To successfully defend systems, security professionals need to know not only what tools an attacker might use, but also how and when they might use them. This necessitates a lot of judgement calls and asking a lot of “why” questions, which cannot be handled with automated testing. Users give automated tests what to search for and do, thus they’re only as good as what they’re told to look for and do. What makes security difficult is that the attacker does something new and unusual every time.

Attackers don’t require a large flaw to cause havoc in businesses; instead, they wait for someone to make a mistake and let them in, either through phishing or social engineering. Once inside, they climb the network or escalate privileges to get access to increasingly sensitive systems and data.

Furthermore, attackers are always developing new malware payloads and experimenting with new threat channels. Human defenders who are as inventive and tenacious as the attackers are the only way to properly level the playing field. Defenders must also keep up with the latest exploits, hacking methods, malware, and other threats.

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The cybersecurity skills gap

The cybersecurity skills gap is a human resource issue, but it isn’t simply about finding enough people to operate tools, since the tools themselves are insufficient. Every tool has a shelf life, and it’ll only be a matter of time until attackers figure out a way around it.

Businesses must expand security awareness training for all employees if they truly want to address the security issue. People who design and build networks and systems should be taught to think like attackers. They must ensure that security experts are trained to think like attackers in order to stay up to date on the newest exploits and security issues.

There is no doubt that organizations require more qualified security experts, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. It’s a people issue when it comes to security. Tools, scanners, and automated testing can help, but human creativity on multiple levels is required to truly address this problem.

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