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Automated penetration testing software

Automated penetration testing can dramatically speed up the process of securing web applications. That benefits everyone - including penetration testers themselves. Find out more about what it could do for you.

Can you automate penetration testing?

Penetration testing (or pentesting) is the act of trying to break into a system to test its security. If a system has been recently appraised by good testers, and hardened accordingly, then a real attacker will find it much more difficult to compromise.

Pentesting uses traditional "hacking" techniques for good - to secure web apps. But it can find application far beyond this. An organization could have its entire IT infrastructure pentested. This might involve covert physical reconnaissance and sending "phishing" emails to staff. These things don't automate well.

On the other hand, some parts of a pentest are actually best done by an automated scanner. It's these parts we refer to when we say "automated pentesting". While it will never fully substitute the intuition and lateral thinking of a human tester, automation can bring many benefits.

A great example of this is "fuzzing". Here the tester deploys large numbers of payloads to search for vulnerabilities in their target. 99.9% of fuzzing tends to be useless, but the 0.1% that isn't can be extremely valuable. Why waste the time of an experienced tester doing this manually, when it can be automated by software?

What could automated pentesting software do for you?

Penetration testers

Clearly, penetration testers don't want to put themselves out of a job. And as makers of penetration testing software, neither do we. But automating certain aspects of the role can free up more time for others. These other parts tend not only to be more rewarding for the tester, but also more valuable for the client.

As PortSwigger's Director of Research, James Kettle once put it: "Imagine if you could conduct a pentest and only do the interesting bits". That's the power of having well-designed automated penetration testing tools. By leaving repetitive tasks for the software to carry out, you can spend more time doing what you do best.

Burp Suite Professional includes Burp Scanner. This software's flexibility has allowed it to become almost ubiquitous in the pentesting industry. While Burp Scanner interrogates your target for low-hanging fruit, you can perform advanced analysis using manual tools - all in one window.

Bug bounty hunters

Bug bounty hunting crowdsources the pentesting process to great effect. Here, white hat hackers from all over the world work to find vulnerabilities in web apps. Organizations invite this attention by posting a bug bounty program on a site like HackerOne or Bugcrowd. Successful bug hunters will then generally receive a reward.

Speed is frequently of the essence in bug bounty hunting. If you submit a potential vulnerability to an organization before your rivals can, then you'll be the one to get paid. Automated penetration testing tools are often the fastest way to find such vulnerabilities. In this way, the software can quickly pay for itself.

Burp Suite Professional is perfect for this type of application. Its state-of-the-art vulnerability scanner will not only find low-hanging fruit for you, but also allows you to expand its functionality by coding your own custom scan checks. This will help you to stay ahead of the competition - even if they're also running Burp Scanner.

Organizations with online assets to protect

Penetration testing is expensive in terms of both time and money. And there's really no way around doing it. Cybersecurity compliance standards often dictate that pentests take place periodically. Even where this isn't stated, skipping such a vital step risks a data breach - which could be extremely damaging. It's not a gamble anyone would want to take.

Automated pentesting software ensures that basic security levels are maintained across an online estate. Thanks to scalable solutions like Burp Suite Enterprise Edition, entire web portfolios can be scanned on an ongoing basis. Burp Suite Enterprise Edition is capable of scaling to protect an indefinite number of web apps in this way.

Of course, this doesn't remove the need for periodic manual security checks. There are some vulnerabilities that it simply takes an expert's intuition to detect. But by continually removing any easy-to-find vulnerabilities from their apps, users of automated testing can help to ensure they get the most from their manual pentesting time.

Web development teams

Most software development teams are not made up of security experts. And in the past, this has led to the release of insecure software. It's not an ideal situation - but it's one that automated pentesting can go a long way toward fixing.

Burp Suite Enterprise Edition integrates seamlessly with any CI/CD pipeline. This means that every time a new piece of code is committed, it's tested for security flaws. When the scanner finds a flaw, developers receive immediate feedback. Burp Suite Enterprise Edition then gives its users sound remediation advice based on the latest PortSwigger research.

This process has a dual benefit. Firstly, and most obviously, software will become more secure. But because the development team themselves are the ones fixing the bugs, they will learn how to avoid creating such holes in the future. So by educating developers, automated pentesting also ensures that any future software is built with security in mind.

Which automated pentesting solution is right for you?

As you can see, automated pentesting has a variety of different use cases. Different editions of Burp Suite package its scanner in different ways to take account of this.

Burp Suite Enterprise Edition is all about simplicity. Organizations and development teams love its integration potential and scalability.

At the other end of the spectrum, Burp Suite Professional lets its users see every last variable. This is a toolkit for pentesters and bug bounty hunters who want to take their work to the next level.

Customer quote

With Burp Suite Pro, I am able to much more efficiently perform web and mobile application pen testing, having almost every feature I need within one product, including automation with scanning, Intruder, etc. that other tools don't provide as well. Source: TechValidate survey of PortSwigger customers

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Tony DeLaGrange

Penetration Tester