Security Audit

Third-Party Penetration Testing Service – Why, Process & Key Providers

Updated on: July 12, 2024

Third-Party Penetration Testing Service – Why, Process & Key Providers

Third-party penetration testing is the process of hiring an external penetration testing company for carrying out a thorough hacker-style evaluation of one’s security systems in place. This aids in finding any hidden vulnerabilities before malicious attackers can exploit them for data theft or deletion. 

Compared to internal vulnerability assessments and scans, a third-party pentest and VAPT aim to provide an unbiased opinion on your security posture while helping you strengthen trust with potential customers and partners. But why should you choose a third-party pentest, especially when you have an internal penetration testing team? Let’s find out!

Why Choose Third-Party Pentesting?

Why Do You Need Third-Party Pentesting?

Review Security from a Truly Offensive View

Internal security teams often become accustomed to your systems and may miss blind spots. Third-party penetration testers act like malicious hackers, using innovative tactics to uncover new and existing vulnerabilities. This gives you a more realistic picture of your security posture.

Build Trust Among Potential Customers & Partners

Third-party penetration testing builds trust with potential customers and partners in two key ways. First, it demonstrates a proactive security posture. 

Moreover, fixing the vulnerabilities identified during the external penetration test showcases your commitment to protecting sensitive data, a primary concern for potential partners, vendors, and customers.

Maintain Compliance with SOC2, ISO27001, HIPAA, etc.

While some compliance frameworks, like PCI DSS and HIPAA, have specific pen testing requirements, others, like SOC 2, GDPR, and ISO 27001, mandate them. Pen test reports serve as valuable documentation during audits, as evidence of your commitment to ongoing security assessments and continuous improvement.

Achieve Third Party Pentesting Certificate

Once the remediation patches have been deployed, third-party penetration testing providers run rescans to verify them. Upon successful verification, some vendors issue a publicly verifiable Safe-to-Host pentest certificate that can help you strengthen trust with all your stakeholders.

Improve Threat Responsiveness

While not all pen tests offer this, some third-party vendors can assess your incident response plan during the pen test. This helps identify weaknesses in your ability to detect and respond to actual attacks.

Why Astra is the best in Third-Party Pentesting?

  • We’re the only company that combines automated & manual pentest to create a one-of-a-kind PTaaS platform with SOC 2 vulnerability tags.
  • Vetted scans ensure zero false positives to avoid delays
  • Our intelligent vulnerability scanner emulates hacker behavior with 9300+ tests to help achieve continuous compliance
  • Astra’s scanner helps you simplify remediation by integrating with your CI/CD
  • Our platform helps you uncover, manage & fix vulnerabilities in one place
  • We offer 2 rescans to help you verify ptaches and generate a clean report
  • Trusted by the brands you trust like Agora, Spicejet, Muthoot, Dream11, etc.

In-House Pentest vs.Third-Party Pentest

Although penetration tests can be conducted from two perspectives, internally by your own security team or externally by a third-party provider, the utility differs significantly, as discussed below.

FeatureIn-House PentestThird-Party Pentest
TypeGrey-Box or White-Box due to internal access and knowledgeBlack-box or Grey-box testing with limited knowledge of the target system
Scope & TimelineLooser scope and flexible timelines due to familiarity with systemsInvolves a pre-defined scope and a fixed timeline agreed upon with the provider
CertificateNo industry-recognized certificate is available upon completionCertificate generated upon completion, recognized by auditors
CostLower upfront cost, necessitates internal expertiseHigher upfront cost, minimizes the need for internal expertise
PerspectiveMay miss blind spots due to familiarityA fresh perspective identifies potential attacker strategies
ObjectivityCarries potential for biasIndependent and objective assessment

Essential Features in Third-Party Penetration Testing Company

1. Credibility of Pentesting Company

Focus on third-party penetration testing companies with proven reputations and glowing customer recommendations. To avoid costly pitfalls, look beyond the website and verify it with non-biased reviewers such as G2 and Trust Pilot.

2. Quality of Pentesters

Prioritize penetration testing companies that offer mature vulnerability scanners and employ security analysts and experts with at least 3+ years of experience in pentesting your asset type, OSCP certifications, and CVEs to their name in your industry.

3. Acceptance of Pentest Reports by Compliance Auditors

Prioritize third-party pentesters with experience in compliance audits. This expertise translates to a deeper understanding of the audit process and industry best practices, ensuring the pentesting methodology’s alliance with compliance criteria, leading to a smoother audit.

4. Vulnerability Management Capabilities

Look for third-party pen testing companies that offer extensive bug management capabilities, such as CXO-friendly dashboards, exhaustive reports, simple user management, seamless integrations with the CI/CD pipeline, and round-the-clock access to AI and human support.

5. Continuous Pentesting

Focus on third-party penetration testing companies that offer scheduled, regression, and ad-hoc automated penetration testing capabilities instead of traditional one-off pentests. This helps you strengthen your security posture across the SDLC to maintain compliance throughout the year.

Astra Pentest is built by the team of experts that has helped secure Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, and Buffer

What is The Process for a Third-Party Penetration Test?

Third-Party Penetration Testing Process

Step 1: Detailed Scoping

In this stage, the 3rd party penetration testing company collaborates with your team to define the scope of the pentest, including the target systems, testing methodology, pentesters’ authorization levels, and clearly outlining any out-of-scope assets. 

Pro Tip: This detailed scoping with clear deliverables ensures the testing aligns with your security goals, focuses on the right areas, and avoids unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Step 2: Reconnaissance (Identification of Assets)

In the reconnaissance phase, the external pentesting team starts gathering intel on your systems and network through network mapping, security scans, and even open-source intelligence (OSINT) searches for publicly available information that could aid in attack planning. 

Pro Tip: Some pentest teams also use DNS enumeration and social engineering attacks to build a comprehensive picture of your systems and lay the groundwork for exploitation.

Step 3: Exploitation

In the exploitation stage, the third-party pentesters test their reconnaissance findings by attempting to exploit discovered vulnerabilities. Their arsenal includes techniques like password spraying, SQL injections, privilege escalation attacks, and even zero-day exploits.

Pro Tip: To maximize exploits and run a holistic security test, some modern third-party penetration testing companies enhance this stage with tailor-fitted AI test cases for your asset type, industry, and business model.

Step 4: Reporting

Following the exploitation phase, pentesters meticulously document their findings in a comprehensive report. This report serves as a roadmap for executive decisions and improving your security posture.

It typically includes an Executive Summary highlighting critical vulnerabilities, detailed technical breakdowns of exploited weaknesses with their potential impact, clear recommendations for remediation, and a severity classification system to prioritize fixes. 

How Astra Pentest Can Help with a Third Party Pentest?

Astra Third Party Pentest dashboard

Astra’s CXO-friendly PTaaS platform combines automated, AI, and manual capabilities to offer a unique blend of holistic third-party penetration testing services. Our continuous vulnerability scanner runs 9,300+ security tests and compliance checks on your applications.

Moreover, our different scanning modes and regression tests help you run quick 10-minute scans or trigger in-depth 36-hour-long automated external pentest on a regular and ad-hoc basis. 

With zero false positives, seamless tech stack integrations, and real-time expert support, we make pentests simple, effective, and hassle-free. Our intuitive CI/CD integrations and exhaustive reports help empower you to breeze through all industrial compliance audits.

Why Astra is the best 3rd party pentest tool for you?

How To Select The Right Third-Party Penetration Testing Provider For You?

1. Put Yourself First

While evaluating the various pentesters, getting lost in all the exclusive benefits and technical jargon is easy. As such, before starting, answer these 3 essential questions: 

  • Why do you need a third-party penetration test? 
  • What’s your financial budget and timeline cutoff?
  • Are there any specific compliances you need to test for?

The above answers act as your compass to help you outline your ideal external third-party security testing partner without sacrificing non-negotiables.

2. Prioritize Communication and Transparency

Choose a third-party penetration testing provider who prioritizes clear communication throughout the process. Ensure they offer regular updates and deliver a comprehensive report with detailed findings and actionable remediation steps.

Pro Tip: Look for an active customer support team to avoid unnecessary delays and bottlenecks due to technical issues.

3. Leverage Experience and Reputation

Look for a third-party penetration tester with a proven track record in your industry and experience with similar assets and infrastructure. Verify their testing methodology, expertise, effectiveness, and reputation as a vendor through review sites such as G2, Gartner, and Trustpilot.

Pro Tip: Focus on companies with security analysts boasting at least 3+ years of experience in pentesting your specific asset type. Certifications like OSCP are also quality indicators of their expertise.

4. Build Shared Responsibility Models

Focus on tools that offer integrated reports, real-time testing in staging environments, and automated workflows to foster a shared security responsibility model, bridging the gap between engineering and development teams.

VAPT Process

5. Ensure Secure Data Handling

While evaluating third-party penetration testing providers, remember to verify their data handling practices. Some critical essentials include clear contracts outlining confidentiality, limitations on data access, and secure disposal methods for any test data generated.

Pro Tip: To ensure robust security, verify secure storage, access controls, and clear communication protocols for handling discovered vulnerabilities.  

Final Thoughts

In essence, third-party penetration testing is a powerful security audit that helps uncover vulnerabilities your internal team might miss. By proactively identifying such vulnerabilities, you can improve your security posture, ensure year-round compliance, and build trust with key stakeholders.

However, with a multitude of vendors available, choosing the right partner is critical. Focus on pentesters whose services align with your specific needs, prioritize clear communication, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency.

Consider PtaaS platforms that go beyond basic testing, offering a holistic solution that fosters a security-first culture, such as Astra.

It is one small security loophole v/s your entire website or web application

Get your web app audited with Astra’s Continuous Pentest Solution

FAQs

What are the three penetration testing methodologies?

There are three main penetration testing methodologies based on information given to the tester:
1. Black Box: Limited info, simulates an external attacker.
2. Gray Box: Some internal details provided, like user roles.
3. White Box: Full access to system details for deep testing.

What is an internal pentest?

An internal penetration test, or internal pen test, simulates an attack by someone already inside your network. It checks for vulnerabilities an attacker can exploit to reach sensitive data, escalate privileges, or cause damage.

What is an external pentest?

An external pentest is carried out remotely by professionals who are hired professionally to rake out the vulnerabilities within a security system if any have been missed during an internal pentest.

Why trust third-party penetration testing?

Third-party pen testers act like ethical hackers, exposing weaknesses a real attacker might find. Their fresh perspective and expertise can uncover security holes your internal team might miss, keeping you a step ahead.

Shikhil Sharma

Shikhil Sharma is the founder & CEO of Astra Security. Being involved with cybersecurity for over six years now, his vision is to make cyber security a 5-minute affair. Shikhil plays on the line between security and marketing. When not thinking about how to make Astra super simple, Shikhil can be found enjoying alternative rock or a game of football. Astra Security has been rewarded at Global Conference on Cyber Security by PM of India Mr. Narendra Modi. French President Mr. François Hollande also rewarded Astra under the La French Tech program. Astra Security is also a NASSCOM Emerge 50 company.
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