How to Choose the Right Pentester: A Comprehensive Guide

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Penetration testing is, perhaps, the most effective method to make your web and mobile app more resilient to attacks. No wonder penetration testing is expected to become a $4.5 billion industry by 2025.

While penetration testing is powerful, finding the right Pentester can be tiring. And if you end up hiring the wrong individual/company, you might risk your app's security even further. However, we got you covered.

This blog briefly explains who a Pentester is, why hiring one is essential, and, most importantly, how to choose the right one. This way, you can make a well-informed decision and enforce additional layers of security to your apps.

Who is a Pentester?

A Pentester or penetration tester is an ethical hacker who conducts simulated cyber-attacks on a company's mobile or web application. Penetration testers use the same tools, technologies, and methods to attack your application that a hacker would to determine if your system is robust enough. 

Top Three Reasons Why Hiring a Pentester is Important

A quality pentester could mean the critical difference between an application that is vulnerable to breaches and one that is secure. Investing in the right specialist may be your most important security measure. Here's why!

1) To Identify and Prioritize Security Risks

Pentesters help organizations evaluate their ability to protect their apps, networks, and endpoints and identify potential security risks. Organizations can then prioritize and mitigate those risks to make their systems more resilient to attacks.

P.S. Using penetration testing, you can uncover security gaps that often go unnoticed by in-house security teams and free, open-source tools.

2) To Ensure Compliance

Almost every country these days has its own set of data privacy guidelines that businesses need to comply with. And this is something penetration testing can help you with. A penetration tester can help you add more layers of security and make data more secure, which is crucial for compliance. This way, you won't have to deal with any financial or legal repercussions.

Also, regular 3rd party penetration tests prove to the auditors that your organization already has the required security best practices in place.

3) To Uphold Brand Reputation

Although most businesses know the importance of penetration testing, the majority of them still roll out their apps without enough testing. This eventually leads to data breaches which lead to the loss of customer data and, thus, poor brand reputation.

However, you can avoid this by hiring a penetration tester. A Pentester will thoroughly test your application for vulnerabilities that you can fix before actual hacker attacks. This way, you can secure your application, reduce the chances of data breaches and thus uphold your brand reputation. 

How Can You Choose the Right Penetration Tester?

Here's what you need to consider to choose the right penetration tester for your business: 

1. Identify Your Security Requirements

Before you jump right into finding a Pentester, lay down all your security requirements. Firstly, ask yourself what you need the Pentester for - mobile app testing, web app testing, infrastructure testing, etc. You need to be clear as the tools required and expertise also changes with the testing type.

Once you're done determining the testing type, you need to explicitly define how you want the test to be conducted, i.e.:

  • Black Box Tests
  • Grey Box Tests
  • White Box Tests


2. Evaluate Their Skills

Penetration testing is not something anyone can do. It requires years of training, certifications, and hands-on experience. Therefore, you need to evaluate the skills of the Pentesters you're planning to hire. Here's what you can do:

  • Examine the Expertise: To examine the expertise, you need to cross-check their degree, certifications (certified ethical hacker and similar,) and other credentials. This will help you ensure your candidate is qualified for the role.
  • Examine the Experience: When it comes to experience, more is better. So, check how experienced your Pentester is. Ideally, if you operate in the fintech domain, the Pentester must've worked with similar businesses in the past. While this may not be a necessity, experience in the same domain is always helpful.


3. Ask for References

Once the exciting story of their pentests has been heard, it's time to validate them. Ask your testers for 2-3 references and examples from other organizations they've conducted successful assessments for—let these real-world experiences be your guide!

You can then contact the respective organizations and ask them any or all of the following questions:

  • What did/didn't you like while working with the penetration tester?
  • Was the pentest conducted satisfactorily?
  • How would you evaluate the Pentester?
  • Was the pentest delivered on time?
  • Was there any hiccup during the process?
  • Did the Pentester provide you with a detailed report of discovered vulnerabilities and appropriate remediation steps?
  • Would you do business with this Pentester in the future?

4. Ensure Data Security with Them

Utilizing a 3rd party Pentester requires granting them access to confidential business and customer data, posing opportunities for potential leakage if the information is not managed securely. Ensure your contract stipulates that any sensitive details are handled with utmost discretion and integrity.

Additionally, here are some questions you can ask the Pentester:

  • How will your data be stored and erased?
  • How will your data be transmitted?
  • How long will the Pentester or pentesting company retain your records?
  • Have there been instances of a data breach in the past?


5. Ask for a Sample Penetration Test Report

There's only one deliverable of a penetration test: the test report. So, ask your Pentester to present a comprehensive account of all findings, such as:

  • Technical Review: It should describe the activities performed to identify vulnerabilities and the methodologies used.
  • List of Vulnerabilities: A detailed list of vulnerabilities should be sorted based on their criticality.
  • Remediation Steps: There should be actionable steps to deal with the identified vulnerabilities.

If the penetration test report is detailed and actionable, you can draw valuable insights and take appropriate action.


6. Identify the Methodologies They Follow

Another vital factor to consider before hiring a Pentester is their methodology. Ideally, your Pentesters must follow the industry's best pentesting methodologies and processes. To make sure, you can ask the Pentester to define the entire process of conducting the pentest, which should include the following:

  • Tools used.
  • How will the exploits be evaluated?
  • How will false positives be handled?

You can proceed to the next step of hiring if you're satisfied with their performance or way of working.

7. Check for Their Availability and Cost

When sourcing a Pentester from outside your organization, be aware that their capacity and flexibility are limited. Many of these professionals juggle multiple clients and projects simultaneously - so it's important to factor in availability when considering the cost.

To ensure the successful completion of your project, it is important to engage a Pentester who can be available for the duration needed. Investing in a dedicated professional may require a higher cost but will bring greater returns with fewer distractions and improved results.

8. Draft an Agreement

Once you're satisfied and have chosen the right candidate, draft an agreement. An agreement lays a solid foundation and ensures you get what you're promised. Ideally, an agreement should include the following:

  • The scope of the project and the objectives.
  • Clause for sensitive data protection
  • Expected deadline and compensation.
  • Legal protection for both parties
  • And more aspects based on what your organization considers necessary.

Appknox - Your Ultimate Pentesting Partner

Appknox offers an unparalleled level of security protection - the company's comprehensive penetration testing solution has successfully neutralized more than 100,000 digital threats. 

Not even the most sophisticated technology can compete with human ingenuity and expertise; Appknox provides access to leading-edge security researchers certified in numerous areas such as OSCP, OSWE, Red Team Professional, Certified Ethical Hacker Practical & HackTheBox Pro RASTALABS. Their proficiency is further demonstrated by certifications in exploit development (eCXD), CCRTA, and certification with iOS Application Pentester qualifications.

Our team of highly certified professionals specializes in pentesting Android, iOS, API, and Web applications. They have unearthed critical bugs such as injection attacks, admin-level account takeovers, authentication bypasses Authentication bypass, and Chaining of XSS and CSRF, leading to Account takeovers in multiple companies like Redbull, Licious, Akko, Rush, etc. Not only that – they have unearthed critical bugs in mobile apps from various industries, including banking (HDFC & HSBC), to government agencies such as Indian Railways.

Additionally, they've provided remediation for complex software vulnerabilities along with a thorough vulnerability assessment for our partners' programs.
Eager to explore Appknox’ Penetration Testing? Book a demo here.

Wrapping Up

Catching cyber-attacks before they happen is critical for any modern organization. With the right Pentester, you can ensure your mobile or web app has maximum security. Penetration testing experts bring specialized knowledge in identifying vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit - saving organizations time, money, and effort. 

To get the most out of this process, it's essential to employ someone who meets all criteria mentioned above and comes equipped with a proven track record; otherwise, you risk wasting resources investing into an ill-advised strategy.


Q1. Why Is It Important To Choose the Right Penetration Tester?

Penetration testing is a complex procedure and yields good results only if a certified professional conducts the test. An untrained Pentester could lead you down an expensive rabbit hole of false positives - wasting time, money, and resources. 

To ensure the best results, it is essential to perform adequate research beforehand to find a certified professional with extensive expertise in this area. Let us guide you through how you can make sure that happens!

Q2. What Should I Look for in a Pentester?

Here's what you should look for in a pentester:

  • Relevant Experience
  • Skills and Certification
  • Previous Client Experience 
  • Ability to Handle Confidential Data
  • Methodologies they Follow
  • Way of Operation
  • Availability and Cost

Evaluating the above key factors will help you identify reliable professionals who can provide valuable services.

Q3. What Does a Pentester Do?

Pentesters use specialized tools to analyze web or mobile apps thoroughly. Their purpose: rooting out potential vulnerabilities so companies can take action against them before any damage is done. By employing this methodology, organizations protect themselves from breaches while keeping competitive in the quickly changing landscape of technology-driven business practices.

Q4. Why Hire a Pentester?

A penetration tester simulates a cyber-attack just like an actual hacker to look for potential loopholes in your website, app, or infrastructure. This way, you can work on the loopholes/vulnerabilities before an actual hacker exploits them giving you an upper hand. This is something you cannot achieve using another testing method.

Q5. Should I Hire a Freelance Pentester or a Dedicated Penetration Testing Organization?

As with any project, when considering penetration testing, there are various elements to consider; your expertise level and the size of the endeavor are foremost among them. Engaging an independent pentester might be sufficient if you have a smaller task that demands moderate needs but is subject to tight budget restrictions.

On the other hand, if your undertaking is more complex or far-reaching, then enlisting a specialized firm like Appknox could prove beneficial for producing thorough results.

So, make sure to evaluate the individual factors and make a choice.


Published on Mar 14, 2023
Abhinav Vasisth
Written by Abhinav Vasisth
Abhinav Vasisth is a certified ethical hacker and the security research lead at Appknox, a mobile security suite that helps enterprises automate mobile security. Abhinav has been a critical member of Appknox for 5 years, reinventing the standards of mobile app security against evolving threats. He is highly regarded in the industry for his expertise, speaks at various security conferences like PHDays, and has collaborated with numerous enterprises to safeguard their digital assets.
When he's not outsmarting hackers, he listens to metal music or is lost in books.


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