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5 mins read
December 21, 2022

5 tips for creating an effective penetration testing workflow

If you remember the movie "Hackers", with Angelina Jolie as the lead role, then you probably thought how cool it was to be a hacker. After a couple of clicks on the keyboard, they were in the system. However, revisiting this film in the present day, many QA engineers would cringe.

Olga Ryan

All developers and testers understand that much planning goes into an attack, whether a minor attack or an attempt to compromise data. This prompts developers to put forth a lot of effort to prevent someone like “Angelina” from hacking their product in less than three minutes.

In many ways, testing the readiness of your product to withstand attacks is the responsibility of the engineers. Therefore, the better their strategy for penetration tests, the higher their chances of finding all possible vulnerabilities within the system.

Keep falling into a rabbit hole

Wikipedia is considered the most popular source for falling into a rabbit hole. It would be a crime not to use this principle to avoid mistakes during your penetration testing — “…according to the principle of obliquity, the meandering path may eventually be more productive than a direct approach.”

Vulnerabilities are likely connected, creating a path of attack.

You must find at least one vulnerability and explore every device, browser, database, etc. This will identify possible loopholes, weaknesses and prevention methods for each discovered issue.

Stop treating Pen tests like a dentist appointment

Pentesting isn’t like your dentist appointment. Yeah, yearly check-ups are recommended, but when you finally show up, there’s already a massive cavity in your tooth. So that’s why it is better to have regular check-ups even if it seems unnecessary.

HelpSystems research shows most respondents only run pen testing once or twice a year (16% twice a year, 17% quarterly); that’s not good.
Unfortunately, a lack of regular testing can give hackers more time to plan different attack methods.

Assess business objectives VS risks

If you still think that a business consists of a group of dudes sitting in a conference room talking about money, devoid of QA, you’re being shortsighted. Business always correlates with risk, and so do the measures undertaken to mitigate these risks; this defines exemplary businesspeople.

So take a look into your company’s security goals to set a better pentest workflow: what are they based on, what assets are critical and what can be addressed later? As soon as you assess all risks, you can undertake appropriate remediation efforts towards mitigating malware attacks and establishing the strongest penetration testing workflow.

Stop relying on trust for luck

Many QA newbies rely on serendipitous discoveries while testing. They tend to stick to this ideology regarding their system’s protection. They hope developers didn’t leave an opening for hacker intervention; that’s foolish because hackers don’t think this way.

To ensure they have the correct target, they must identify and research every available device, application or database.
The best QA engineers usually walk a similar path — they think like a criminal; to beat them at their own game. So take a minute, and consider what you would do if you wanted to cause a breach or compromise specific data. Please create and document test cases for each of these steps.

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Choose your fighter wisely

Let’s say you’ve already done everything we described above… but want to go even further. Using the proper agile testing tool is an excellent opportunity to enhance penetration testing.

As it’s a common practice to make changes in your product infrastructure after penetration testing, it would be awesome to see the difference before and after. For example, aqua has a function for super detailed reporting which can depict, in percentage, how much each part of the system remains untested or unprotected. To summarise, try to find a comprehensive test management solution.

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Penetration testing remains a pillar of high-quality products. You can’t underestimate its impact even though there’s still a big chance to screw it up, no matter how fantastic your penetration testing platform or your test cases game is. Only a complex and pervasive approach, with a strong plan, can achieve satisfactory results for your pen testing. However, in a bundle with the tips we’ve given you in this article, you can significantly enhance this approach.

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What are the types of penetration testing?

There 6 main types of penetration testing:

  1. External  Penetration Testing
  2. Internal  Penetration Testing
  3. Social Engineering Penetration Testing
  4. Physical Penetration Testing
  5. Wireless Penetration Testing
  6. Web &Mobile Application Testing

However, there are some more types, such as

  1. Build and Configuration Review
  2. Network Penetration Testing
  3. Client-Side Penetration Testing
  4. IoT Penetration Testing
  5. Red Team Penetration Testing
What tools are used for penetration testing?

Here are the top 3 tools for penetration testing or, as it is also called, pen testing:

  1. Wireshark
  2. Burp Suit
  3. Netsparker


  1. Wireshark

Wireshark is an open-source tool and is compatible with different systems. You can use it for quick capture and intercepting of network packets.

  1. Burp Suit

Burp suit is provided as a toolset for application security testing. It enables you to perform a man-in-the-middle attack, localised between a web server and a browser.

  1. Netsparker

Netsparker is an automatic web application for penetration testing. The tool scans from cross-site scripting to SQL injection.

Bonus: aqua ALM

aqua ALM is a powerful tool that fits project managers, developers, QA leads and engineers. You can maintain the full development cycle and quality assurance within one solution.

What is a pentest?

Pentest is an ethical simulated cyber attack aiming to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities (not the same as vulnerability assessment) in a system and also evaluate risks, security level and potential threats from unauthorised parties.

White box, black box and grey box are considered targets for all types of penetration testing.

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