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The need for a proactive, dynamic cybersecurity strategy has never been more pressing. It’s time for the industry to move towards a Continuous Security Testing approach.
The very principle of security testing was introduced at a time when :
- the number of assets to be audited was low;
- the content of applications and websites was stable, and releases were occasional;
- the intrusion techniques to be explored were limited;
- there were enough skilled cybersecurity professionals.
Today, none of these points holds true.
- the number of assets to be audited is increasing exponentially;
- developments are numerous and call for frequent updates;
- intrusion techniques are legion;
- cybersecurity is facing a serious skills shortage — Forbes estimated that there was a 3.5 million vacancy in the sector at the beginning of 2023, an increase of 350% in less than 10 years.
The obvious conclusion is that we can no longer think and do security testing in the same way we did a few years ago.
We need to imagine a continuous, collaborative model to make up for the shortage of cybersecurity skills, and provide the assurance that all resources will be tested, and that no intrusion technique will be overlooked.
The Perils of Point-in-Time Testing
Historically, cybersecurity measures have often relied on periodic and point-in-time security assessments, such as occasional penetration tests. While these tests are undoubtedly valuable in identifying vulnerabilities at a specific moment, they inherently fall short in addressing the fluid nature of cyber threats. The digital ecosystem is dynamic, with new vulnerabilities emerging and malicious actors constantly renewing their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).
Point-in-time testing creates a narrow window of visibility, leaving organizations exposed to potential risks that may arise between testing intervals. Cyber attackers are adept at exploiting vulnerabilities swiftly, and relying on sporadic assessments simply isn’t sufficient in today’s threat landscape. That’s where Continuous Security Testing comes in.
What is Continuous Security Testing?
Continuous Security Testing (CST) is an approach to cybersecurity that involves ongoing security testing of an organization’s systems, applications, and networks to identify and address vulnerabilities in real-time. The goal is to shift from a reactive stance, where vulnerabilities are addressed after they are discovered, to a proactive and dynamic strategy that addresses security issues in near real-time.
Yes, Continuous Security Testing is just a fancy way of saying that security testing should be carried out on an ongoing basis. It’s not so much the definition that’s interesting, but the reasons why this approach is shaping up to be an inevitable — and welcome — change in the way companies think about security. It’s a key component of a broader shift towards a more agile and resilient cybersecurity posture, recognizing that cyber threats are persistent and ever-evolving.
The Dynamic Nature of Cyber Threats
Continuous Security Testing acknowledges the dynamic nature of cyber threats and adapts to this reality. In a world where new vulnerabilities surface regularly, and attackers are quick to capitalize on them, a static security approach is akin to leaving the front door unlocked and hoping for the best.
By embracing a continuous testing mindset, organizations can establish a proactive defense mechanism. This involves regular and automated assessments that provide real-time insights into the security posture, allowing for immediate response to emerging threats. It’s a paradigm shift from playing catch-up to staying one step ahead.
Real-Time Risk Mitigation
One of the key advantages of continuous security testing is the ability to identify and address vulnerabilities in real time. Traditional testing models often result in a lengthy gap between the identification of a vulnerability and the implementation of a fix. This lag leaves organizations vulnerable to attacks during the remediation process.
Continuous testing, on the other hand, enables organizations to detect vulnerabilities as soon as they emerge and respond promptly. This not only reduces the window of opportunity for attackers but also minimizes the potential impact of a successful breach.
Integrating Automation for Efficiency
Continuous Security Testing is not an additional burden for teams; in fact, it can significantly improve their efficiency. And that’s good news as CI/CD thrives, inducing integrations and deployments that are numerous and frequent. By leveraging automation and recurrence, organizations can streamline the testing process, optimize delivery and ensure comprehensive and continuous coverage without imposing an excessive workload on security teams.
These are exactly the same reasons why many advocate a DevSecOps approach to the software development lifecycle (SDLC). DevSecOps is about automatically integrating security milestones at every stage of the cycle, while Continuous Security Testing aims to make these milestones permanent and cumulative — both before and after the release.
However, automatically bringing in security milestones doesn’t mean only bringing in automated security tests.
Human Expertise Is Still Essential
While the emphasis on continuous security testing and automation is paramount, the human touch remains irreplaceable in the realm of cybersecurity.
Automated solutions, while efficient, can sometimes lack the nuanced understanding and creativity that human cybersecurity experts bring to the table. Penetration testing, for example, goes beyond the capabilities of scanners by simulating real-world attack scenarios, employing the ingenuity and adaptability of skilled ethical hackers and red teaming experts.
Humans can uncover vulnerabilities that automated tools might overlook, such as business-logic ones, and mimic the tactics of a determined adversary, providing invaluable insights into the actual resilience of a system. The synergy between automated solutions and human expertise creates a comprehensive security strategy, ensuring that organizations not only identify common vulnerabilities but also fortify their defenses against the unexpected and the unconventional.
Overcoming the Skills Gap with Collaborative Solutions
However, human-powered security testing faces a major hurdle: the widespread shortage of cybersecurity skills. The demand for skilled professionals far exceeds the current supply, making it difficult for companies to find and retain the talent capable of dealing with the complexity of modern threats. This shortage intensifies the pressure on cyber teams, hampering their ability to conduct thorough testing and leaving vulnerabilities unaddressed.
As organizations grapple with this challenge, collaborative Offensive Security (OffSec) solutions, such as Penetration Testing as a Service (PtaaS) and bug bounty programs, present a viable path forward.
Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) and Bug Bounty
Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) leverages the expertise of external security professionals, providing on-demand penetration testing services, which can be easily scheduled and rehearsed throughout the SDLC. This not only supplements internal capabilities but also offers a fresh perspective on an organization’s security posture.
Bug Bounty, on the other hand, harnesses the power of community, by encouraging the security researcher community to identify and report vulnerabilities. By tapping into a diverse pool of talent, organizations can overcome skill shortages, strengthen their defenses and ensure greater resilience of their cybersecurity posture.
To stand united against cyber threats, collaboration is no longer just a strategy, but a necessity in the modern digital landscape — a landscape characterized by constant and rapid change. These two realities, taken together, demand that organizations adopt a continuous AND collaborative approach to security testing, through tried-and-tested solutions such as PtaaS and bug bounty.
Combining Continuous Testing and ASM for a holistic security posture
Carrying out such tests is an excellent thing. But to unleash their full potential, they must go hand in hand with a proper Attack Surface Management (ASM) strategy.
By leveraging tools and automation, ASM provides a comprehensive view of an organization’s attack surface. This enhanced visibility is crucial for Continuous Security Testing to target the right areas for assessment. Continuous testing can then focus on the most critical assets and their potential entry points, ensuring a more effective and targeted security testing approach.
It’s also important to understand that the attack surface is not static — it evolves with changes in the organization’s infrastructure, applications, and configurations. ASM continuously monitors and updates information about the attack surface. This near real-time data is invaluable for Continuous Security Testing to adapt and assess new or modified assets promptly.
ASM and Continuous Security Testing together contribute to a more strategic and risk-centric cybersecurity approach. ASM identifies and quantifies potential risks associated with the attack surface, while Continuous Security Testing validates the resilience of defenses against these risks. The combination allows organizations to make informed decisions on risk mitigation and resource allocation.
We’ve published a comprehensive paper on ASM and its derivatives (EASM, CAASM), which we recommend you read if you want to know more.
And without giving too much away at the moment, you should know that Yogosha has big plans regarding ASM. We’ll keep you posted soon!
In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you’d like to set up Continuous Security Testing solutions tailored to your assets, objectives and budget.