What is automated penetration testing and how does it work?

Automated penetration testing refers to the process of software executing security tests on a computer system, network or web application by itself. This kind of testing can be both a black box (where the tester has no knowledge of how the system works) and a white box (where inside information is provided to help understand how it works). The process often mimics an automated attack, hence its name.

Many activities involved in penetration testing require repetitive tasks such as checking whether certain files or directories exist, trying different username-password combinations and so on. An automated approach speeds up these tasks considerably. By automating “reconnaissance” using scanning tools, there is far less chance of missing something significant. Following this activity, a form of exploit can then be unleashed by the automated penetration testing tool. This could be something like an attempt to gain admin privilege or just some other attack that can be carried out against the system.

How does automated penetration testing work?

Penetration testing is a systematic and the most ideal way to test how secure your network or application is. The automated penetration testing process, when done correctly, will systematically check all devices in the target environment and look for vulnerabilities and security weaknesses. This type of pentest can be carried out without human interaction and can provide results at much faster speeds than how it would be if you were to do manual penetration testing.

The most common complaint about automated penetration testing is how it can generate too many vulnerabilities and create unnecessary noise when they are presented to the system owner. The human ability to sift through this information and determine what is important and how serious a problem is necessary. It is up to the penetration tester (or their client) whether such security tests should be automated, although there are arguments for both sides.

Automated penetration testing focuses on how attackers work and how systems may be made vulnerable to them. Some automated tools try to open ports automatically or launch communication with remote servers without direction from the user so you don’t need any technical knowledge in most cases, but great care must be taken before using significant amounts of these kinds of tools because you could easily do something illegal if not careful.

There are various types of tools that automate how to carry out penetration testing, but all follow a similar methodology. They try to map how systems work so they know what the target looks like and how it is normally protected. Then they simulate known malicious behaviours against this map in order to identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities so they can exploit them and damage the system in some way. The more sophisticated these tools get, the more accurately they will understand how options within applications work – sometimes even allowing you to create your own exploits if required.

How automated pentesting tools help secure your system?

Automated Penetration Testing Tools are software applications that utilize existing vulnerability assessment tools. These tools scan hosts in an automatic manner without human intervention. The capabilities included with these automated platforms allow for simultaneous testing of multiple targets at one time by distributing work among several systems within a lab environment.

The automated penetration testing tools can be used for various tasks such as:

  • Identifying all open ports and services running on the target systems.
  • Enumerating the list of user accounts and password hashes to use in password cracking attacks.
  • Attempting to access restricted areas by trying to break through firewalls and find other network devices.
  • Checkout the linked guide on How to Perform a Server Security Audit

Penetration Testers may also create simple or complex scripts that automatically run vulnerability scanning tools against an entire subnet, complete with several hosts under different possible credentials. This way, it is possible to set up scripted attack runs that scan every device within the subnet without actually having to log into each one individually. Launch these scans from a central location, then see how its findings relate to the target’s overall security.

The results of how automated penetration testing tools work can be used in two different ways:

1) To provide reports to management on how well their networks are protected and how quickly they could expect an attack if one were to happen. By demonstrating how long it takes for vulnerabilities to be located, how many exist, how severe they are, how widespread they are and how difficult it is to protect against them, even the most sceptical stakeholders become convinced of how necessary it is to take security seriously.

2) To actually fix these problems by closing the loopholes that make systems vulnerable so they can no longer be exploited. This requires knowledge of how penetration testing tools work and how they identify vulnerabilities, then how to patch these up and further secure the system.

When it comes to how automated penetration testing is used by individual pentesters, the answer varies. Some use no automation at all other than standard vulnerability scanners, while others replace themselves with machines for most of what they do. As long as you have a valid reason behind how and why you choose to automate parts of your penetration testing process, then it’s perfectly fine. However, by following this route there is a risk that any errors or issues may be blamed on a lack of human understanding rather than how the tools work so test anything automated carefully before going ahead and using it in anger.


As the world becomes increasingly reliant on digital technologies, organizations need to take steps to protect their systems. One of these is automated penetration testing, which involves scanning for vulnerabilities and fixing them before they can be exploited by malicious actors. Automated penetration tests are an excellent way to ensure that your organization’s IT infrastructure is secure without needing a team of specialized engineers or outside consultants.

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