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The drawbacks of building an in-house penetration testing team

3rd January 2024

7 min read

Penetration testing is a critical defence mechanism in cybersecurity. It’s a process where experts mimic cyberattacks on your systems, networks or applications, identifying vulnerabilities before they can be exploited maliciously. This proactive approach is essential for fortifying your defences and ensuring compliance with various industry standards.

As you consider establishing an in-house penetration testing team, it’s vital to understand the implications, so you can decide whether it’s right for your business or if outsourcing is a better option.

Forming such a team is not just about hiring skilled individuals; it’s about committing to a continuous, evolving process of learning and adaptation in the face of ever-changing cyber threats. The team must be adept in current technologies and methodologies and prepared to stay abreast of emerging trends and threats in cybersecurity.

However, building an in-house team comes with its own set of challenges. Firstly, finding the right blend of skills and expertise can be daunting. Cybersecurity is a broad church, encompassing everything from network security to application vulnerabilities. Finding individuals proficient in these varied areas is a significant task.

Then there’s the matter of resources. Training and maintaining a skilled team requires a substantial investment. For many businesses, this can be a considerable strain on their budgets.

As you delve into this blog, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and advantages of forming an in-house penetration testing team, helping you make an informed decision for your business’s cybersecurity strategy.

Key considerations for in-house teams

Several vital considerations come to the fore when forming an in-house penetration testing team. First and foremost is identifying the necessary skills and expertise. Penetration testing is a multifaceted domain requiring a blend of technical prowess in areas like network security, application vulnerabilities and, often, an understanding of complex regulatory environments. Your team members need to possess these skills and be adept at thinking like potential attackers, anticipating their moves and motivations.

Allocating the budget and resources for team formation is another crucial aspect. Setting up an effective penetration testing team requires significant investment – not just in hiring the right talent but also in equipping them with the necessary tools and ongoing training. This includes software licences, testing environments and keeping up with the latest cybersecurity advances. It’s a long-term commitment, and the costs can accumulate over time, impacting your business’s overall budget.

Another factor is maintaining consistency in the quality of services your team provides. Consistency ensures your cybersecurity efforts aren’t just a one-off check but a continuous process, adapting and evolving with your business needs. This requires establishing standard operating procedures, ongoing training and regular audits of the team’s work to ensure they meet the required standards.

Finally, using an in-house penetration testing team will never provide the independent assurance that is expected (and often required) by customers and regulatory authorities.

Operational challenges of in-house penetration testing

Operating an in-house penetration testing team presents its own set of operational challenges. The primary challenge is staying current with the rapidly evolving landscape of cyber threats and technologies. Cyber threats aren’t static; they evolve constantly, becoming more sophisticated. Your team must stay aware of these developments and have the capability to adapt and respond quickly.

Balancing penetration testing duties with other IT responsibilities is another challenge. Penetration testing can be resource intensive. In businesses where IT teams already have a wide array of duties, adding penetration testing to the mix can stretch your resources thin. This might lead to overburdening your team or not giving penetration testing the required focus.

Finally, managing resources effectively within the IT department is crucial. This involves allocating human resources and ensuring the tools and technologies they use for penetration testing are up-to-date and effective. It requires a strategic approach to resource management, ensuring your team has what they need to do their jobs effectively without unnecessarily straining the department’s resources.

Training and development requirements

Establishing an in-house penetration testing team requires a commitment to ongoing training and development. The cybersecurity landscape is fluid and dynamic. Keeping your team’s skills current and relevant is crucial. It means regularly updating their knowledge on the latest threats, techniques and technologies. This presents challenges.

Firstly, there’s a need for continuous learning. Cybersecurity isn’t a field where you can rest on your laurels. Your team needs to be in a perpetual state of learning, adapting to new threats as they arise. This requires access to ongoing training programmes, ranging from online courses to attending industry conferences.

However, keeping your team’s skills up to date comes with significant cost and time implications. Training programmes can be expensive, and the time spent in training is time away from active testing. For many businesses, this can present a considerable strain on budgets and operational capacity. Balancing these factors – ensuring your team is well-trained without overspending or impacting operational efficiency – is a delicate act.

Outsourcing your penetration testing to a specialist provider

Outsourcing your penetration testing to a specialist provider is a viable option that offers numerous advantages, particularly for businesses facing resource or expertise constraints. Specialist providers like Sentrium bring a depth of knowledge and experience, honed through diverse engagements across various industries. This breadth of understanding means they’re well-equipped to identify and address a wide range of vulnerabilities and attack vectors, some of which an in-house team might overlook.

A key benefit of outsourcing is the ability to tap into advanced tools and methodologies. Specialist providers invest in cutting-edge technologies and continuously update their tactics to stay ahead of emerging threats. This investment is often beyond the reach of individual businesses, especially small to medium-sized enterprises, making outsourcing a more cost-effective solution.

Moreover, outsourcing offers scalability and flexibility. You can scale the services up or down based on your current needs and budget, ensuring that your cybersecurity strategy adapts to your business growth and evolving threat landscape. This flexibility is precious in today’s fast-paced business environment, where agility is crucial.

Outsourcing also allows you to focus on your core business activities without the distraction of managing an additional complex function like cybersecurity. It reduces the administrative burden of recruiting, training and managing a specialised team, freeing up your internal resources for other strategic initiatives.

In summary, outsourced penetration testing can effectively enhance your cybersecurity posture. It provides access to a higher level of expertise, advanced tools and a flexible approach, all essential in building a robust and responsive cybersecurity framework.

Benefits of outsourcing to a CREST-approved provider

Outsourcing penetration testing to a CREST-approved provider, like Sentrium, offers several distinct advantages. CREST, the Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers, is a globally recognised body that accredits companies providing cybersecurity services, ensuring they meet high professional standards.

One of the primary benefits of outsourcing to a CREST-approved provider is accessing specialised skills and advanced tools. These providers are staffed by experts who are up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies. They have access to state-of-the-art tools and methodologies, which might be prohibitively expensive or complex for an in-house team to procure and maintain.

Outsourcing can also be more cost-effective and efficient than building and maintaining an in-house team. It turns a fixed cost (such as salaries and ongoing training) into a variable cost, allowing for more flexibility in your cybersecurity budget. This can be particularly advantageous for smaller businesses or those without a core cybersecurity function.

Lastly, a CREST-approved provider like Sentrium is bound to maintain up-to-date methodologies and best practices. This ensures that the penetration testing they conduct on your behalf is comprehensive and adheres to the industry’s highest quality and ethics standards.

Assessing the return on investment

When considering forming an in-house penetration testing team or outsourcing, assessing the return on investment is crucial. The financial aspect of maintaining an in-house team can be significant. This includes the salaries of skilled professionals and ongoing costs related to training, software licences and equipment. It’s vital to analyse whether these investments will yield proportional benefits regarding enhanced security and compliance.

Evaluating the operational impact and efficiency is equally important. An in-house team requires management, integration into existing processes and coordination with other departments. This can lead to administrative overhead. Furthermore, if your in-house team can’t cover all aspects of cybersecurity due to resource or skill limitations, it might result in gaps in your security posture.

Comparing the ROI of an in-house team against the benefits of outsourcing is a crucial step. Outsourcing to a specialised provider, particularly a CREST-approved one like Sentrium, can offer more cost-effective solutions due to their economies of scale and access to a broader range of expertise and tools. The provider can also adapt quickly to emerging threats and technologies, ensuring your cybersecurity remains up-to-date without needing continuous large-scale investment in training and equipment.

How can Sentrium help?

Building an in-house penetration testing team presents several challenges, including the need for specialised skills, substantial financial investment and significant operational commitment. While having an in-house team offers direct control and potentially faster response times, you must weigh these benefits against the challenges and costs involved.

Outsourcing penetration testing, especially to a CREST-approved provider like Sentrium, emerges as a compelling alternative. It provides access to a range of specialised skills and tools, cost-effectiveness and alignment with the latest industry best practices.

As you make decisions about your cybersecurity strategy, it’s imperative to consider these factors carefully.

Evaluating in-house and outsourced options in the context of your specific business needs, budget and cybersecurity goals will guide you towards making an informed and strategic decision.

As a CREST-approved penetration testing provider, our expert security consultants have a deep understanding of how hackers and cyber attackers operate. We use this knowledge to help businesses mitigate risks to their IT systems and networks.

We want to help you improve your security strategy to protect your brand reputation, value and property. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help.

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