Penetration testing is a critical part of any cybersecurity program. It involves simulating a cyber attack on an organization’s systems to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals. While automated tools and AI-based solutions have become increasingly popular for conducting penetration testing, they cannot replace the human element of manual penetration testing. In this article, we explore the reasons why automated tools and AI cannot replace manual penetration testing.
One of the significant limitations of automated tools and AI-based solutions is that they lack contextual understanding. They are only as good as the data they have been trained on and the algorithms used to process that data. Automated tools and AI cannot understand the business context, user behavior, and security policies of an organization. Manual penetration testers, on the other hand, can bring a deep understanding of an organization’s security posture and the nuances of its systems.
Understanding how AI works and what to use it for
Another limitation of automated tools and AI-based solutions is their inability to think creatively. While these tools can quickly identify known vulnerabilities, they cannot identify new and emerging threats. Manual penetration testers can think outside the box and come up with novel attack vectors that automated tools, and AI-based solutions may not have considered.
Manual penetration testers can interact with an organization’s employees and systems in a way that automated tools and AI-based solutions cannot. They can test the effectiveness of an organization’s security policies by attempting to social engineer employees. They can also simulate more complex and targeted attacks that require human interaction, such as phishing attacks.
False Positives and Negatives
Automated tools and AI-based solutions are not perfect and can generate false positives and false negatives. False positives can lead to wasted time and resources investigating non-existent vulnerabilities, while false negatives can result in critical vulnerabilities going undetected. Manual penetration testers can validate the findings of automated tools and AI-based solutions, minimizing the risk of false positives and false negatives.
Finally, many compliance frameworks and regulations require manual penetration testing as a part of their security assessment process. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires annual penetration testing by a qualified security assessor. While automated tools and AI-based solutions can be used to supplement manual penetration testing, they cannot replace it entirely.
Automated tools and AI-based solutions have their place in the penetration testing process. They can quickly identify known vulnerabilities and generate valuable data for manual penetration testers to analyze. However, they cannot replace the human element of manual penetration testing. Manual penetration testers bring contextual understanding, finesse, creative thinking, and the ability to interact with an organization’s systems and employees in a way that automated tools and AI-based solutions cannot. As such, manual penetration testing remains a critical part of any comprehensive cybersecurity program.