Understanding the Scope of A Penetration Test

Penetration testing puts your security systems to the test so you can see if your security framework can withstand a cyber attack.

There’s no denying the benefits of penetration testing, especially for small businesses that are common targets of threat actors. In America, there are 33.2 million small businesses, which make up 99.9% of all companies. Over 87% of all critical and dangerous penetration test findings are discovered in businesses with fewer than 200 employees.

Before jumping straight into getting a penetration test, however, it’s important to understand the nuances of each engagement, including the scope.

In this blog, we’ll cover all you need to know about the scope of a penetration test, how to define the ideal scope for your company, and what steps you should take to best protect your business.


What Is Included in a Penetration Testing Scope?

The scope of a penetration test is one of the first phases of a pentest, and it’s important to understand it thoroughly. It’s also all-encompassing, meaning it should cover every aspect of an engagement. This can include specific users, applications, devices, and much more.

By building out this scope, you can determine what type of pentest would best suit your goals, as well as the projected costs and timeline of the engagement.

Out Of Scope (OOS)

While the pentesting scope involves a lot of components, some items remain outside of scope. While this differs per engagement, this could include:

  • Third-party-managed subdomains
  • Particular subdomains for customers
  • Applications used for production


Clearly defining these helps prevent specific areas or assets from being included in testing, avoiding operational disruption or downtime.


Considerations When Defining Your Pentest Scope

As you begin defining the scope of a penetration test, ensure you keep the following factors top of mind.

Your Goals: Penetration tests are an investment in improving your systems. Ensure that the areas you are testing ultimately support your short and long-term company goals.

Your Budget: Your budget will help determine what areas of your systems can and should be tested.

Your Environment: Ensure you have the best understanding of your systems’ frameworks and define what is and isn’t part of the pentest engagement. This will make it clear to testers where they should be testing.


The Risks of Not Defining Your Scope Properly

Inadequate Testing

By not clearly defining your scope, you run the risk of conducting a pentest that doesn’t adequately address the areas of the framework that need to be tested. This could mean parts of your network are not tested, and therefore pose potential security risks.

Your company may become incapable of properly defending itself from a real attack if a penetration test is inadequate or under-budgeted. You may waste time and resources that could have been used more effectively. In other words, don’t take your penetration testing lightly!

Lack of Proper Budgeting

Conversely, you could end up over-scoping, which results in budget constraints.

Annual penetration tests often don't take place due to budgeting issues or concerns. In fact, one-third of businesses claim cost as the reason they don't run the tests more frequently.

Ensure your company is not overspending as a result of a poorly estimated scope. You deserve the best penetration testing services that don’t cost more than you’re capable of spending.


The Benefits of Defining Your Scope and How To Create Yours

Defining your scope of a penetration test lays down the groundwork for pentesters to begin their work, and by taking the time to properly set these, you can expect to:

  • Maximize your ROI
  • Reduce the risk of either over/under spending or under testing your security
  • Mitigate security threats by receiving proper testing and identifying more weaknesses in your network so you can remediate accordingly

To define your scope correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Establish clear company objectives.
  2. Work with stakeholders and your pentesting provider to coordinate the best testing methods as well as rules of engagement.
  3. Identify all assets that you wish to test or exclude from the test.
  4. Ensure your scope is updated accordingly every year.
  5. Work with a credible and reputable penetration testing vendor each time you test.


Finding The Right Penetration Testing Service For Your Exact Needs

Scoping a pentest requires more than just identifying key objectives, creating a budget, and identifying assets and rules of engagement for the testing phase. It’s just as crucial that you work with the right penetration testing provider who has the experience and your best interest in mind.

At Mitnick Security, not only do we have The Global Ghost Team™ — our elite team composed of some of the world’s finest and most experienced cybersecurity consultants — we also work with you every step of the way during a penetration test to ensure you receive the actionable insights to improve your security posture.

Explore our pentesting services available for your business, and let’s fortify your cybersecurity together.

Topics: penetration testing

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