5 steps to effectively combining manual penetration tests and automated tools

5 steps to effectively combining manual penetration tests and automated tools.

Business leaders often compare automated vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, but the comparison itself is often flawed. The reality is that both approaches play a critical role in implementing a proactive cybersecurity strategy. While automated solutions help overcome the challenges of scale, which is crucial given the scope and complexity of today’s enterprise computing infrastructures, penetration testing brings that vital human element into the mix.  

It is all very well identifying vulnerabilities with vulnerability scanning, but that can only go so far. Actually exploiting those vulnerabilities helps businesses uncover and remediate the most severe and advanced threats.  

To that end, here is what a proactive cybersecurity strategy looks like in 5 key steps, utilising both annual penetration test approaches and automated tools.

  • Security experts will gather information about your business and its IT infrastructure. The extent of the information gathered will depend on the scope of the engagement, whether it is to be a black-, grey-, or white-box testing scenario. This will typically be discussed during your first consultation.
  • The consultant will scan your network for vulnerabilities, typically using an automated vulnerability scanning tool to locate potential issues. This is important, since it may not be practical to carry out manual penetration testing across every single component or endpoint.
  • The next step involves actually attempting to exploit those vulnerabilities. This process is also known as red-teaming, in which a team of security professionals puts itself in the role of an adversary to attempt to penetrate the defences by overpowering existing cybersecurity controls.
  • Penetration testers will step up their ‘attacks’, mimicking threats like APTs and other advanced attack methods. If they are able to gain access to your systems by exploiting a particular vulnerability, they will use the opportunity to perform vertical privilege escalation and lateral movements to search for new vulnerabilities, as well as discover which systems and data could be compromised in a real attack.
  • After the simulated attack, the consultant will generate an in-depth report detailing the methods used to access the system and the severity of the exploit. Independent testers may provide remediation advice as well, but the actions you take are entirely up to you. That said, having one company provide the testing and another address remediation challenges ensures complete impartiality throughout the process. 

As you can see from the above, vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are two different services that complement one another. For example, vulnerability scanning should happen on a scheduled basis, such as once every month or after making any significant changes to your systems or infrastructure. Pen testing should typically be undertaken every 6 to 12 months, or whenever vulnerability scanning discovers a potential vulnerability. 


Datavax is an accredited security partner in the business of testing, reporting, and providing comprehensive cybersecurity guidance. Our red-team approach replicates real-world threats and, since we do not offer repairs, there is no hidden agenda. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our project managers and testers.