6 FAQs From CISOs About the Pentesting Process

As a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), you have the responsibility of not only directing your organization’s security but also conveying your risk status to leadership. The stakes are high. According to Cybersecurity Magazine, 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months of falling victim to a data breach or cyber attack.

That’s where annual penetration tests come into play: they give you a professional, outside look into your security posture — with specific remediations to continually improve your defenses.

But before committing to a pentest, we know you have questions. Luckily, we’ve got answers. Here are the most frequently asked questions we receive from CISOs about the penetration testing process: 


6 Penetration Testing Questions

1. Penetration Test vs Vulnerability Scan — What’s the Difference?

A vulnerability assessment is a budget-friendly, quick way to discover gaps in your security network. Typically, a cyber security professional will look at reports from automated tools to identify potential vulnerabilities. It’s not as thorough as a penetration test, but it can help validate the need for pentesting.

What More Will I Get From a Pentest?

When evaluating a penetration test vs. a vulnerability scan, it’s crucial to remember that they are quite different. A pentest is a simulated attack on your organization. The goal is to reveal any vulnerabilities a hacker may find and exploit in an actual attack.

At the end of the penetration testing process, you’ll receive a full report that explains what was done, how it was accomplished, and what cybersecurity gaps need to be addressed immediately. It will also suggest remediation strategies so you can harden your security effectively.

2. Which Pentest Service Is Right for My Organization?

There are seven main types of penetration tests. Each of these pentests focuses on a different area of your security. 

The pentest types include:

External network: A pentest that focuses on your externally-facing assets or wealth of publicly available information to determine weaknesses that a threat actor could exploit from the outside.

Internal network: Starting at a predetermined level of access to your systems, this test is used to see what a threat actor — such as a disgruntled employee — could do if already inside your network. 

Social engineering: In this pentest, your employees are tested to see if a threat actor could use them to gain confidential information about your organization. 

Physical pentesting: This is a simulated physical breach — such as posing as delivery personnel — to gain physical access to your computer system or other assets.

Wireless pentesting: This penetration test involves accessing your network to gain a foothold in your organization to determine if your wireless network is vulnerable.

Application pentesting: Whether you create, sell, or use multiple applications, this test evaluates flaws including missing patches in your applications.

Red Teaming: Organizations that are cyber security savvy will choose the ultimate test where “all gloves are off,” and the pentesters can use a combination of the other six types of pentesting to act as the advisory — Red Team — against your defenses. 

3. How Do You Define the Scope of Pentesting?

It’s crucial to agree on a clear scope to be able to estimate penetration testing costs and how you can properly prepare. While the scoping process can differ from company to company, at Mitnick Security, you’ll discuss and sign a scope of work agreement that confirms the type of test you will receive and the duration of the test. 

Afterward, you’ll lock down test expectations like specific targets, hours not to pentest, and any off-limit attack vectors during your kick-off engagement call. This ensures that everything is set so the test can begin and run without any surprises. 

4. How Much Does a Penetration Test Cost and How Long Will It Take?

Based on the scope and specific test type, the cost and timeline are determined before the penetration testing process begins. Keep in mind, all pentests are investments and should be planned ahead of time as a part of your organization’s cybersecurity budget.  

Since the scope is different for every test, it’s also hard to define a set length for an individual penetration test. As a general estimation, the typical time span for a deep-dive penetration test is anywhere from three to five weeks, sometimes lasting up to a couple of months.

5. Will Pentesting Disrupt My Team’s Day-to-Day?

Penetration tests are simulated cyber attacks on your business’s network and infrastructure. Because they are professionally simulated attacks and not actual threats to your network, you are able to define the rules of engagement, including the level of disruption, prior to conducting the test. 

Typically, disruptions that would cease or drastically hinder the daily operations of your business are excluded to ensure you can function uninterrupted during a pentest. Such exclusions may include denial of service attacks or complete restriction of compromised software or devices.  

Team members that are not involved or aware of the penetration test, however, may notice suspicious activity during the process and report it to your security team. This is a good thing! It showcases that your employees are being vigilant in protecting your organization against foul play. 

6. Can We Do Our Own Penetration Testing?

If your budget does not allow for frequent pentests, yes, you can conduct your own security assessments. However, you should be aware of the limitations of conducting your own testing, as you will not have an outside perspective.

Pentest Services

Working with a team of security professionals helps ensure you have an outside party evaluate your network to discover if any vulnerabilities exist. 

Benefits of working with a pentest service provider include:

  • Expert-level testing for an in-depth look at existing vulnerabilities.
  • The ability to have testing tailored to your organization’s needs.
  • Results that you can use to harden the security posture of your organization.


No One Knows Pentesting Like Kevin Mitnick

When you invest your business’s valuable time and money into the pentesting process, you want to know that you’re getting the very best. With years of experience, Kevin Mitnick and The Global Ghost Team™ can help ensure your business remains secure. Explore our pentest services today.

Topics: penetration testing, penetration test, security penetration testing

Latest Posts

Kevin offers three excellent presentations, two are based on his best-selling books. His presentations are akin to technology magic shows that educate and inform while keeping people on the edge of their seats. He offers expert commentary on issues related to information security and increases “security awareness.”

How to Prioritize Your Pentesting Report’s Remediation Recommendations

If you recently received a penetration test, you’re on the right track to improving your cybersecurity posture. However, you may be wondering what the..

Read more ›

Understanding Post-Inoculation Cybersecurity Attack Vectors

If you’ve recently improved your cybersecurity posture, you should know that the work to protect your company’s data is not over.

Read more ›

Password Management Best Practices: How Secure Are Password Managers?

Password managers are convenient tools for storing, organizing, and accessing passwords. But are they safe from cyber attacks?

Read more ›