Most of us were on high alert in 2020. Not only did we have a pandemic that threatened the health and livelihood of people all over the globe, but we also saw a steep rise in cyberattacks. Cybercriminals exploited the unique and unprecedented conditions of the pandemic to wreak digital havoc - exposing troves of personal data, conducting ransomware attacks, and developing increasingly nefarious malware.
Unfortunately, while vaccines considerably lessened the public health crisis, there's no vaccine for the cybersecurity crisis still impacting the world. In fact, the number of data breaches in 2021 has soared past that of 2020.
However, despite the sad state of cyberattacks in 2021, organizations aren't powerless. Instead, cybersecurity is now a top organizational priority that needs deliberate attention and allocated resources. So, how do organizations prioritize their cybersecurity today? - With robust Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) processes.
With this in mind, let's look at the best VAPT processes and guidelines for businesses heading into 2022.
If you're unfamiliar with VAPT or want a refresher, you can read What Is VAPT and Why Do We Need It? before continuing with this piece.
The scope for VAPT can vary greatly depending on the needs of the business and any additional industry regulations. That is to say, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to determining VAPT scope.
When looking for a third-party company to conduct the VAPT, it's essential to choose one who understands the industry and takes the time to understand the client's business. For example, existing regulatory rules help inform the systems you have in place, defining which systems, operations, and services fall in the scope of the VAPT.
With VAPT, not only is it easier to spot and mitigate critical vulnerabilities across software and platforms, but it also allows companies to uncover misconfigurations and loopholes in various applications. However, this all-encompassing snapshot of security vulnerabilities is only possible with a broad scope. Ideally, VAPT should encapsulate as much of what is happening in the organization as possible. If the scope of VAPT is too limited, companies risk missing critical vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit in the future.
VAPT can only add value when it's comprehensive.
A detailed VAPT needs to be carried out regularly to ensure robust and adequate security measures and scale with the business.
While many tech companies do frequently conduct VAPT, unfortunately, businesses in other sectors are falling behind. And that's precisely why we've included regular VAPT as a best practice guideline. Additionally, distinct benefits come with regular testing and vulnerability reporting:
Companies can perform more complex operations with more confidence, and this allows for faster business growth.
It demonstrates to clients and companies that the company is trustworthy and takes security seriously.
It should come as no surprise that the VAPT report is a critical part of the whole process. However, there's often a communication gap when it comes to VAPT reports. Why? The engineers and pentesters responsible for compiling the report are highly specialized professionals. Their job is to conduct the tests that fall into the VAPT scope, get the results, and analyze the results. However, their findings can't be implemented unless communicated effectively with the business via the report. Unfortunately, effective communication doesn't always happen.
To effectively communicate the results of the VAPT, testers and engineers must follow the best practices for technical report writing. However, if you don't fall into this category but are trying to understand what to look for in a VAPT provider, this section can guide your expectations.
The VAPT report should have an introduction and a table of contents. Essential details that need to be included are VAPT scope, project details, a timeline of tests, methodology, summary, results, and of course, conclusion.
Executive Summary Section - This section lightens technical information and serves as a brief test overview with decision-makers in mind. It defines the business case, impact, and conclusions, along with any recommendations and Graphics that can help bring the information to life.
VAPT Scope - Which applications, systems, and platforms are included in the assessment. It should also include details like IP addresses, type of attack (for example, social engineering, wireless network attack, Trojan, etc.). Any limitations to attacks should also be highlighted here. Lastly, the methodology needs to be clearly stated (white, black, gray box).
Analysis of Results - A comprehensive assessment of all identified vulnerabilities, the severity of vulnerabilities, and any recommended next steps.
Conclusion - This section is a technical conclusion for the entire exercise, aimed at a technical audience and meant to highlight all critical security vulnerabilities.
As cybercriminals continue to sharpen their tools and evolve, VAPT best practices and guidelines will evolve too. As a result, we must always be vigilant against security threats and implement best practices to protect our systems.