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ISO 27001 Penetration Testing & Other Pentesting Compliance – A Comprehensive Guide 

Published on: March 15, 2022

ISO 27001 Penetration Testing & Other Pentesting Compliance – A Comprehensive Guide 

Non-compliance to data security regulations cost businesses $4,005,116 in revenue losses in 2020. The disruption in business that is caused by non-compliance to relevant security regulations is devastating. But that is not all. If are non-compliant to a relevant security regulation, that means you may have unchecked vulnerabilities that will lead hackers right to your sensitive assets.

Your website could be used for phishing, infecting users with malware, or data theft. Attackers are always on the lookout for vulnerable websites – unpatched security issues, outdated plugins, input validation errors, security misconfigurations, outdated CMS, there are plenty of ways for attackers to sneak in. By complying with industry-relevant security standards like PCI-DSS or general security standards like ISO 27001, and SOC2, you ensure security, build trust, and inspire loyalty. We will talk about ISO 27001 penetration testing and other compliance regulations to explore the relationship between compliance and pentesting.

What is ISO 27001 Compliance?

ISO, as you may know, stands for Internation Organization for Standardization. ISO, together with IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) published a standard for information security management in 2005 and they revised it in 2013. The European update of the ISO 27001 standard was published in 2017.

Any company that wants to run a business around information security should go for ISO 27001 compliance.

The purpose of ISO 27001 is to help organizations establish, maintain, and improve security measures for their information assets. As a whole, it gives you a framework to implement an enterprise-wide Information Security Management System (ISMS) which helps you maintain availability, integrity, the confidentiality of information, and legal compliance. If your organization successfully complies with the regulations, you are issued an ISO 27001 compliance certificate.

What are the security areas covered by ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 has 14 domains, which cover 6 security areas:

  1. Company Security Policy
  2. Asset Management
  3. Physical and Environmental Security
  4. Access Control
  5. Incident Management
  6. Regulatory Compliance

It is one small security loophole vs your entire web application

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How does ISO 27001 Penetration Testing come into the picture?

ISO 27001 regulations do not mention penetration testing directly. It might lead you to think that penetration testing is out of the question while trying to comply with ISO 27001. But you would be wrong. Let us take a look at ISO control A.12.6.1 of Annex A of ISO 27001:2013 (also known as Technical Vulnerability Management). It states:

“Information about technical vulnerabilities of information systems being used shall be obtained in a timely fashion, the organization’s exposure to such vulnerabilities evaluated, and appropriate measures taken to address the associated risk.”

Now, only a penetration test on top of vulnerability assessment will give you a complete gap analysis in terms of security. You cannot rely on vulnerability scanning alone when it comes to evaluating the exposure of your organization to a certain vulnerability. You need manual penetration testing for that. And that is why ISO 27001 penetration testing is necessary.

Since we are talking about penetration testing, it won’t hurt to learn a little more about that.

Read also: Penetration Testing – What, Why & How [A Complete Guide]

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing is a process of security testing where a cyberattack is simulated to find and exploit vulnerabilities and security loopholes. It can be implemented to evaluate the security of websites, web applications, or networks. Penetration testing involves security engineers trying to exploit their way into your system. The goal of a penetration test is to assess the exploitability and impact of a vulnerability – how easily one can exploit it, how much damage it can make, and how one can fix it.

Why is Penetration Testing Needed for Compliance?

Every industry is governed under certain security standards. These standards are important to preserve the security health of companies as well as to secure the customers and clients. There is a clause about security vulnerability management and mitigation in almost all of these security standards, including ISO 27001. A business has to show that it has kept track of the vulnerabilities, analyzed their impact, and remediated with effect. Penetration testing aids in achieving this.

After a pentest is conducted the security engineers prepare a report documenting the vulnerabilities found, the risk posed by them, and guidelines for fixing the issues. After the testee has fixed the issues, rescans are run. If the rescan shows that the vulnerabilities were fixed, the pentesting company can issue a pentest certificate.

Astra Pentest Risk Grading
Image: Risk-based vulnerability management in Astra Pentest

Now, remember this certificate does not imply compliance with any security standard. It is an assurance for you and your customers that your system is free of vulnerabilities at a certain point in time.

The pentest report and certificate help you pass the audit for regulatory compliance, which of course, has many parameters other than vulnerability management. A pentest certificate does not make you compliant it constitutes a vital part of it.

Who Needs Penetration Testing Compliance?

There are a number of security standards documented to meet the specific needs of various industry verticals. In some of them, manual penetration testing is a requirement. Nevertheless, it is recommended that you conduct pentest before applying for any compliance audit.

The following are some compliance regulations that apply to specific industries.

  • HIPAA for healthcare facilities that need to protect insurance-related information.
  • PCI-DSS for companies operating in the payment processing industry.
  • RBI-ISMS for Indian banks and non banking financial institutes.
  • SOC 2 for organizations that provide some sort of service.
  • ISO 27001 for businesses built around information security.

HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

The federal government passed HIPAA in 1996 to set national standards for protecting patients’ data from unauthorized exposure.  

On paper, HIPAA compliance does not require penetration testing, however, the regulations around risk analysis imply its necessity. In order to conduct a successful risk analysis, you need to review the security controls, configurations, patches, and whatnot. A penetration test is your best bet for rooting out all inconsistencies and risk factors.

Healthcare institutes traditionally do not have much in the way of cybersecurity. Hence a compliance regulation like HIPAA plays an extremely vital role. Penetration testing does not only help healthcare facilities comply with HIPAA but offer a great deal of reassurance in terms of data security.

PCI-DSS: Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard

The PCI-DSS was formed in 2004 to secure payment card transactions. It is a comprehensive security standard with some high-strung regulations. PCI-DSS compliance shows reliability and inspires trust. It is one of the most sought compliances.

Depending on the number of real-world transactions handled, a company can fall under one of 4 levels of PCI-DSS. Level one applies to companies handling more than six million transactions while level 4 applies to companies that deal with less than 20 thousand transactions. 

While PCI-DSS compliance does not require penetration testing, a business applying for this compliance must undergo a PCI scan. For the companies that fall under level 1, an internal audit and a security scan by an approved scan vendor are required. You need to be sure that there are zero vulnerabilities before you apply for PCI-DSS compliance, hence a penetration test is always on the cards.

RBI-ISMS: Reserve Bank of India – Information Security Management System

The Reserve Bank of India has an exhaustive checklist for banks and NBFCs in India to follow and comply with the RBI-ISMS regulations. The checklist is fashioned to target even the smallest of assets and find every security loophole.

Conducting regular pentesting is a surefire way of staying compliant with the RBI-ISMS.

Read also: Everything About Website Security Audit & Testing in India

SOC 2: Service Organization Control 2

SOC2 was formulated by American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to regulate five organizational control issues – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

The SOC2 applies to nearly all SaaS companies and any company that deals with data in the way of providing a service.

Some of the activities required for compliance with SOC 2 include regular audits, monitoring network assets, setting up alerts for anomalies, and actionable forensics.

Penetration Testing is an essential part of the SOC 2 compliance scheme as the latter focuses deeply on vulnerability analysis and mitigation.

The benefits of ISO 27001 Penetration Testing

We have already discussed the necessity of ISO 27001 penetration testing. Let us now understand what is in it for you.

  1. By conducting a penetration test and fixing the vulnerabilities you nail one of the most difficult part of ISO 27001 compliance audit.
  2. An ISO 27001 certification would help you build trust. It has been seen to have a direct impact on revenue.
  3. You get rid of dangerous vulnerabilities in the way of preparing for the compliance audit, it is a win win situation for you.

One small security loophole vs your entire web application. The risk is high!

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How can Astra Security Help You with Penetration Testing Compliance?

Astra Pentest helps you target the issues required for certain compliance, be it HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, or OWASP. They also help you gain end-to-end compliance with SOC2, PCI DSS, and HIPAA with the help of vetted auditors.

Astra’s Pentest has come up with a new pentest compliance feature that allows you real-time visibility of the compliance requirements you pass or fail according to the vulnerability scans from within a pentest dashboard. This feature makes compliance reporting way simpler for you.

ISO 27001 penetration testing with pentest compliance
Image: Pentest Compliance Reporting with Astra’s Pentest

That aside, Astra Pentest ensures that you get the best out of your ISO 27001 penetration testing with 3000+ tests, scan behind logged-in pages, thorough remediation guidance, and support from security experts.

Conclusion

While compliance with security standards is not legally mandated in most cases, it is something you would want to do for the reliability, resilience, and longevity of your organization. Not only does getting an ISO 27001 compliance give you global recognition as a secure company, but it also ensures that you have treated every security loophole in your systems to achieve a healthier security posture.

Have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to talk to us anytime!

We are also available on weekends 😊

FAQs

1. What is the cost of penetration testing?

A penetration test for web apps costs $99 to $399 per month. The cost of pentesting for cloud or mobile applications varies depending upon the scope of the pentest. Read to find more

2. How much time does it take to complete a pentest?

It takes 4-10 days to complete the process of penetration testing.

3. Is ISO 27001 penetration testing enough to gain compliance?

No, penetration testing is a part of the larger process of gaining ISO 27001 compliance.

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Kanishk Tagade

Kanishk Tagade is a B2B SaaS marketer. He is also corporate contributor at many technology magazines. Editor-in-Chief at "QuickCyber.news", his work is published in more than 50+ news platforms. Also, he is a social micro-influencer for the latest cybersecurity, digital transformation, AI/ML and IoT products.
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