Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) – The Basics

Most organizations use the vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) procedure to find out security bugs, vulnerabilities, and loopholes within web applications, software programs, coding, networks, etc.

While vulnerability assessments and penetration testing procedures are two different types of analysis, a combination of both of them provides the best results. Vulnerability assessment finds out the security issues in your system, and penetration testing verifies its existence, and other added concerns before moving to resolution.

If you’re here to simply go through or you’ve been pushed by someone in the cybersecurity field to conduct a web application security audit procedure in all its seriousness, here are a few numbers for you.

  • Verizon reports confirm that data breaches have increased by 58% in 2020, and web application breaches account for 43% of them.
  • 40% of costs for dealing with data breaches arise a year after the incident – the global average cost of this is $3.86 million.
  • At least 70% of mobile applications, cloud-based platforms, or networks have vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by hackers.

What kind of organizations should conduct VAPT procedures?

Every organization stands to benefit from a well-conducted testing procedure that isn’t just focused on compliance. However, firms belonging to certain industries are often repeated targets for hackers because of their use of sensitive data.

  • Healthcare industries – they deal with sensitive data of customers like personal information, medical details, payment methods, etc. They also deal with the creation of medical devices and software, equally vulnerable to faulty coding and hacking attempts.
  • Fintech companies – because of their extensive online presence and use of mobile applications, are constantly at risk of being attacked.
  • Manufacturing industries – this is applicable especially if they’re making recent changes to their system or network, implementing IoT, etc.
  • IT companies – these firms have access to a lot of customer data and are dependent on various web applications, SaaS applications, highly connected networks, etc.

Why should you conduct a VAPT procedure?

Beyond the statistics and the list of industries that stand to gain a lot more than the cost of a VAPT procedure, here are a few more reasons/benefits that you can also expect:

  • Many systems have hidden vulnerabilities that can turn out to be quite disastrous such as misconfigurations, faulty coding, or imperfect programming practices, to name a few. The devices in your network such as firewalls, routers, systems, or servers could be ill-configured and running on default settings.

For example, statistics dictate that most of the firewalls installed in organizations might have a default account named ‘admin’, most probably with the same password. Database servers also follow this pattern of having a default account with easy-to-guess credentials.

Needless to say, this kind of vulnerability allows hackers to manipulate your systems and networks according to the way they please.

  • There could also be the presence of programming errors where a user input received from a form on a web application could be sent without verification to the backend database server. This is the beginning of a potential SQL injection or manipulation of parameters attack, which has great costs attached.
  • Sometimes, web servers could be accepting input or requests without proper authentication for legitimacy, which allows hacking attempts. This compromises the integrity of the data collected, its confidentiality, and its proper availability.

The basic procedure of a VAPT testing process includes:

  1. Defining your goals and objectives that you wish to secure at the end of the procedure.
  2. Understanding the scope of testing – the aspects and vulnerabilities that can be covered within the testing process.
  3. Gather information about the system background, potential threats and security risks that may be encountered, etc.
  4. Analyze the information gathered and plan the simulated attacking environment.
  5. Use different testing methods and privilege levels to understand all vulnerabilities hidden in the system.
  6. Finally, analyze the results, offer resolution measures, prepare a detailed final report accessible to all stakeholders, and provide clean-up support.

Selecting a VAPT service provider:

Keeping all these requirements and advantages of VAPT testing procedures, it’s important to also note that the success of such a process depends on the provider as well.

  • A certain level of expertise and adaptable skills in finding out vulnerabilities and faults in the system and in its external environment
  • Qualified according to the standards set by international and domestic organizations of cybersecurity
  • The ability to detect when false positives are being made with a suitable combination of manual and automated testing techniques
  • Offers complete and verified information of the entire VAPT process, threats and vulnerabilities found, the business impact for other stakeholders, and remediation measures

In terms of the costs involved with a VAPT process, it’s difficult to place an exact number and move forward with that expectation. VAPT procedures are often revamped midway when dealing with loopholes or security risks according to their criticality.

However, there are certain price ranges you can expect your prices to fall within:

  1. For simple or systems (networks) that are less complex to navigate – $4000 to $6000
  2. For a medium complex system within a computing environment that’s more diverse – $10000 to $14000
  3. For highly complex systems (large companies) with an extensively distributed computing network – at least $20000-$50000+

The costs may seem extreme when you look at them, but conducting a simple cost-benefit analysis brings out a better picture.

We hope that after reading this article you have got some basics of conducting a VAPT and why it is important for your business. There are other aspects of VAPT as well such as methodologies and tools to use, if you want to learn more then you can go through this article on website penetration testing.

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