Why Continuous Security Testing Matters 

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Blog

As cyber threats rapidly scale in sophistication, comprehensive security testing has become essential for organizations to proactively identify and resolve vulnerabilities across their environments. Testing thoroughly validates that cyber security controls like patching actually remediated risks as intended, while uncovering potential gaps that could still allow attackers to exploit systems and access sensitive data. 

For businesses with a multi-layered security infrastructure plus a plethora of integrated incumbent systems, maintaining a rigorous testing protocol will ensure that any managed updates are validated, while ensuring that workflows are not disrupted. 

Robust testing regimens provide enhanced validation and peace of mind for security teams by combining methods like patch management, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, disaster recovery evaluations, compliance audits and more to rigorously bolster a business’s security defenses. It also exponentially reduces the attack surface of a multi-layered infrastructure, which is invaluable in this evolving threat landscape of today. With business needs, technology stacks and regulations constantly evolving, new exposures can emerge at any time, making persistent testing crucial. 

Patch validation: a cornerstone of ongoing security assessments 

While patches address known software vulnerabilities, methodical testing before and after patch deployment is vital to confirm updates truly fixed the flaws without causing availability, performance or functionality regressions. Modern IT environments can have unexpected downstream consequences, so changes like patches need extensive validation to minimize disruptions.  

Entrusting IT teams to patch systems manually can increase alert fatigue, however, by automating many parts of the process, and empowering teams to supervise and manage patch rollouts, infrastructure can remain operational without being as heavily disrupted. Ridge Security’s RidgeBot® is an automated pentest robot for risk-based vulnerability management. RidgeBot relentlessly locates exploits across an enterprise network and documents its findings. RidgeBot also continuously measures results and effectiveness and verifies vulnerabilities. 

Comprehensive patch testing – enrolled in line with a continuous security testing regimen –  provides assurance that updates fully address weaknesses without introducing new risks or opportunities for patching reversals. Testing also uncovers if patch deployments negatively impact system performance which could affect user productivity.  

Augment patching through additional testing approaches 

Untested or vulnerable estates are increasingly prone to exploitation, with threat actors often compromising sensitive data left dormant on old devices. Data erasure must therefore go hand-in-hand with continuous testing. Much like how retailers that buy, sell or trade used electronics implement strict testing and data erasure processes, the same should apply to any organization’s estate as it acquires new systems and software, or when they are updated. Comprehensively verifying backups and continuously monitoring production systems for malicious activity ensures organizations know patching meaningfully fortifies their estate. 

Organizations need to employ other assessment methods – alongside data erasure and patch validation – to fully verify and strengthen their security postures: 

  • Vulnerability scanning – Continuously scanning environments reveals unforeseen exposures like insecure system configurations that patching cannot address. Prioritizing scanning helps optimize remediation efforts and keeps networks of systems working to the same OS versions with optimum security defenses enabled. 
  • Penetration testing – Methodical and strategic ethical hacking simulations show where attackers might pivot internally after gaining initial access, highlighting risks like excessive user permissions, misconfigured integrations, or invalid security certificates like SSL or TLS on HTTP connections. This also prevents the lateral movement of security flaws, such as those seen following the Log4Shell breach that disrupted connected systems severely. 
  • Disaster recovery testing – Evaluates backup restoration effectiveness and system resilience to incidents to verify business continuity capabilities. Many organizations may deem themselves ‘bigger targets’ due to the level of data held on file, but no company is ever truly immune. Disaster recovery processes should be regimented whatever the size or scale of the business. 
  • Compliance audits – Ensure organizations adhere to strict security and privacy regulations which also illuminate areas to improve processes. Highly regulated industries mandate that organizations deploy updates in a timely manner to address security gaps and maintain compliance. Failing to do so results in hefty fines and, in many incidents, the complete erosion of customer or stakeholder trust. 

With cyber incidents costing companies $4.45 million on average per IBM’s 2023 Cost of Data Breach Report, continuous testing presents a viable loss prevention strategy. With negative media attention a huge shot in the arm for business integrity, not to mention the steep legal, regulatory and PR costs associated with high-profile incidents, businesses can rarely afford to treat security testing as anything other than a priority. 

The path to secure digital transformation begins with testing 

Combining testing regimens empowers organizations to cost-effectively identify and mitigate risks before adversaries can weaponize them. Avoiding security breaches and containing malicious actors is far more effectively achieved if an organization has implemented a testing procedure that validates its IT infrastructure’s stability and resilience. Organizations that can successfully manage this can remain productive and continue to innovate even in the face of rising and evolving threats. Persistent expansion of testing is just as crucial as patching to keep pace with evolving business demands, technology landscapes and criminal tactics. 

Testing thoroughly validates that core controls like patching function as intended on an ongoing basis, while illuminating where to prioritize new resources for optimal protection. In essence, testing accelerates resilience by revealing how truly secure organizations are as changes emerge, enabling them to transform digitally with confidence. 

About the Author 

Chester Avey is a Freelance Writer from the UK who specializes in IT, digital marketing, AI, cybersecurity, software, and trending tech topics.