MPG Proactive Security Services Top ways to prepare for a Pen Test

MPG Experts Suggest: Top Ways to Prepare for a Pen Test

Penetration testing, also known as pentesting, is a simulated cyberattack conducted on a computer system or network to assess its security. Pentesters use a variety of techniques to exploit vulnerabilities in the system, such as hacking, social engineering, and malware. For organizations new to the process, this test can be a nerve-wracking experience, filled with unknowns and anxieties. However, with proper preparation, you can turn this experience into a valuable learning and improvement opportunity. The goal of conducting a penetration test is to identify and fix security weaknesses before they can be exploited by real attackers.

Pen testing is an essential element of a comprehensive cybersecurity posture. By identifying and fixing vulnerabilities, pentesting can help organizations to reduce their risk of cyberattacks and safeguard their most valuable assets. Penetration testing can also help organizations to improve their overall security awareness and procedures. As a managed security service provider (MSSP) with extensive experience conducting penetration tests, we’ve compiled our top 9 ways to prepare your organization for success:

  1. Define your objectives and scope
    The first step is to clearly define your goals for the pentest. What are you hoping to achieve? Are you focusing on specific systems or applications? Is there a particular type of attacker you're trying to emulate? Are there compliance requirements, like FedRAMP, DOD LI4, or PCI-DSS, that you are trying to meet? Answering these questions will help you determine the scope of the test, including the depth, breadth, and methodologies used by the pentesters.
  2. Identify your assets
    Before you can start preparing for a penetration test, you need to know what assets you need to protect. This includes your networks, systems, applications, and data, the meat and potatoes of what your organization possesses.
  3. Document your security controls
    Once you know your assets, you need to document your security controls. This includes things like your firewall rules, access control lists, and password policies. Remember, this is the time to identify weaknesses—if you want to implement zero trust protocols, for example, you must know what access belongs to each user to begin with.
  4. Conduct internal vulnerability scans
    Before inviting external testers, run internal vulnerability scans to identify and address any low-hanging fruit vulnerabilities. If you are able to provide these scans to the pentesters, they can validate if the vulnerabilities can be exploited or not. Scans can also help prioritize the penetration test findings and avoid wasting time on known issues. One of the key goals of a penetration test is to perform optimal testing procedures within an agreed upon scheduled time window. In addition, it demonstrates a proactive approach to security, showcasing your commitment to mitigating risks.
  5. Secure critical data and backup your systems
    Pentests can involve simulating real-world attacks, which might inadvertently trigger security controls or expose sensitive data. (Better to find those gaps in a simulated attack than a real one!)  To minimize potential disruptions and data breaches, it's crucial to identify and isolate critical data beforehand. Additionally, backing up all systems involved in the penetration testing scope (established within the Rules of Engagement document) ensures a quick recovery in case of any unforeseen incidents.
  6. Gather your logs
    The penetration testers will need access to your logs so that they can track their progress and identify any vulnerabilities. Make sure that you have a process and personnel assigned to the task of gathering and storing your logs. The ability to trace information to its source is key to a healthy cybersecurity posture.
  7. Socialize the test and manage expectations
    Communicating the purpose and scope of the penetration test to all relevant stakeholders is essential. This not only reduces internal uncertainties and anxieties but also fosters collaboration and understanding. Inform employees about the security assessment timeframe, potential disruptions, and reporting procedures. Emphasize that the goal is to improve security and partner together in order to achieve the assessment goals.
  8. Establish clear communication channels
    Open and transparent communication is paramount throughout the pentesting process. Ensure clear communication channels exist between your organization, the penetration testing team, and any involved third parties. Define reporting protocols, escalation procedures, and response mechanisms for addressing identified vulnerabilities.
  9. Define contacts in your Rules of Engagement (ROE)
    The ROE specifies the scope of the engagement as well as who should be contacted and for what issues. For example, if there are 3 systems being tested, have the individual system owners (if multiple) for each of those systems as points of contacts, and define those roles and responsibilities in the ROE.
  10. Be prepared for business continuity and downtime
    It isn’t planned, but it is possible that the penetration testers will inadvertently cause some downtime during the test. Make sure that you are prepared for this and that you have a plan of continuing essential business operations in order to minimize the impact of the potential downtime for your employees as well as any customers or clients you may have.
  11. Prepare for remediation
    Allocate resources and establish a plan for addressing the vulnerabilities identified during the pentest. Prioritize findings based on severity and potential impact and develop a timeline for remediation activities. If high-risk findings can be remediated mid-testing there may be an opportunity for the security assessment team to immediately begin testing if the solution is working.

Bonus tips from MPG’s pentesting team:

Maintain good data hygiene

Be sure to have policies in place that encourage regularly reviewing and removing unnecessary user accounts, unused applications, and outdated data. Streamlining your environment reduces the attack surface and simplifies the testing process.

Document your environment

Provide the pentesting team with detailed documentation of your network architecture, system configurations, security policies, and access controls. This comprehensive information streamlines the testing process and allows for a more efficient assessment.

Engage with the pentesting team

Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification from the pentesting team throughout the process. Understanding their methodology and thought process can provide valuable insights into potential vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies.


A penetration test is not a pass/fail exam. It's a collaborative effort to identify and address weaknesses in your security posture. By following these tips and approaching the process with a proactive mindset, you can transform the pentesting engagement into a valuable learning experience that strengthens your organization's overall security posture.

A trusted partner matters. Choose an experienced and reputable Managed Security Service with a proven track record in conducting secure and effective pentests. Look for certifications, industry recognition, and clear communication regarding methodologies and reporting.

Penetration tests should be considered a regular exercise, not a one-time event. Regularly schedule pentests to stay ahead of evolving threats and continuously improve your security posture. The frequency of these types of security assessments will be dependent upon your product, environment, and there are also many regulations requiring annual testing, at a minimum.

By following these recommendations and fostering a collaborative approach, you can ensure a successful penetration test that provides valuable insights and empowers your organization to proactively manage its security risks.

Ready to find your penetration test provider? Check out the details about MindPoint Group’s penetration testing services and book a meeting to explore the right options for your organization.

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