Agile Pentesting — Part I :: Benefits

An Agile pen test is a new approach to pentesting that allows security professionals to adapt to changing needs and environments quickly. Unlike traditional methods, which are sometimes slow and rigid, this concept allows organizations to continuously assess risk in real-time, testing for potential vulnerabilities as part of their DevSecOps SDLC framework.

The takeaway from this is that organizations should benefit from staying ahead of the curve regarding security threats and effectively protecting their systems against a wide range of newly discovered attack vectors reported in the current threat landscape.

An "Agile" approach to penetration testing offers a business a tactical advantage when improving the overall security posture. Therefore, sometimes we will use 'Tactical' as an alternative to 'Agile.'

Dragos Stanescu - November 18, 2022
Agile Pentesting — Part I :: Benefits

Historical facts

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the “Agile” adjective was first used in the 14th Century. Since then, people have used this term in different circumstances. And that happened when they tried to picture something graceful yet powerful and efficient.

Let's spin the wheel of time and jump to 2000. At that time, several experienced software engineers decided to improve the waterfall software development process. And such the “Agile” concept came into the light. Initially, its scope was to:
  • Shortening the delay of benefits to users to resolve the product-market fit and development graveyard problems
  • Getting feedback from users quickly to confirm the usefulness of new software and continue to improve on it accordingly.
Today, after many iterations, the original idea evolved into a “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”. And it narrows down four fundamental values:
  • People are more important than processes and technologies
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

What is an Agile pentesting?

Agile pen testing is a method for iteratively conducting security testing. Instead of waiting until all testing efforts are completed to deliver results, the testing team can provide updates as they become available.

This makes finding security gaps more connected to the development process and allows quick fixes for security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, because penetration tests are done over time instead of all at once, organizations can keep improving their security posture while releasing new features and functionalities.

So, that is why an “Agile” approach is more efficient and aligned with modern DevOps automated methods, frameworks, and methodologies.

How does a “Tactical” penetration test work

Regular penetration testing is a must for organizations that prioritize the security of their digital systems. But traditional penetration testing methods can be slow and disruptive, making it difficult to fit into a busy schedule and causing interruptions in workflow. That's where so-called “tactical” pentests come in.

This approach incorporates shorter, frequent testing cycles, enabling comprehensive coverage without disruption. Not only does this, but it allows for proactively identifying and addressing security gaps sooner. It also helps to establish a continuous process of improvement and adaptation in an ever-changing digital landscape.

It's the modern way to protect your digital systems.

Benefits of an Agile Security testing approach

Agile security testing should offer numerous advantages for organizations, starting with its unique approach to cybersecurity. The traditional concept involves testing all system parts at once, which can result in a long and sometimes overwhelming process.

Focused pentesting breaks the testing process into smaller chunks, allowing for more frequent and targeted assessment of specific segments at a time. This reduces stress and confusion and allows for faster identification and resolution of potential vulnerabilities.

Additionally, this pentesting approach promotes ongoing communication and collaboration between the organization and the pentesters team, creating a dynamic and adaptable approach to maintaining network protection.

Ingredients of an Agile penetration testing program

When performing a successful offensive security test, having the right tools make all the difference. A “tactical” penetration test utilizes some of the same principles as agile software development—namely, being adaptable and iterative in approach.

From a high-level perspective, this means that instead of trying to cover every potential attack scenario or vulnerability at once, the security testing is broken down into smaller chunks and tackled one at a time. Moreover, setting specific, focused testing objectives for each phase and regularly checking in with stakeholders to ensure the findings align with their needs.

Many security services providers do offer this approach under the name of Pentest-as-a-Service. The PTaaS concept combines the human element with a SaaS platform, often called a unified pen testing management platform, where findings are sent nearly in real-time by the testers and (or) imported from automated scanning tools.

Challenges with Agile Security testing

However, the whole Pentest-as-a-Service concept if not a fit for every organization. Although this new concept is marketed as the alternative to the traditional pentesting, there are several weak points that we will outline in Part II of this miniseries.


Agile penetration testing can still offer significant benefits for organizations looking to stay ahead of potential security threats. With proper planning and communication, this approach can help uncover previously unknown vulnerabilities and improve overall cybersecurity defenses.

In part II, we will explore some of the challenges that a company might face when they decide to adopt the Agile pentest concept, often called Pentest-as-a-Service, PTaaS.

Be the adversary - attack first