Penetration Testing in 2023: Key Trends and Challenges

As enterprises start preparing to put the chaos of 2022 behind them and focus on 2023, It is imperative to understand one aspect that cannot be “put behind.” Penetration Testing remains a fundamental aspect that organisations should not overlook. Nobody can predict how cyber security will evolve since it is continuously changing, but some trends are becoming more apparent soon. Here are some new trends that are probably going to be more common in 2023.

Penetration Testing Trends

1. Remote and hybrid work culture

Remote work culture has enabled flexibility for the employees and organisations with a positive impact on productivity, however, it has increased the need for cyber security teams. Scanning all networks, including the company’s laptop and mobiles that are in different locations. This opens multiple entry points for the malicious threat, if they penetrate through one device; the whole network is compromised.

2. Penetration testing tools

The use of manual as well as automated tools in penetration testing has significantly increased recently. Every organisation uses at least one such tool. These tools can cover a broad range, including SQL injection, port scanning, password cracking, and more. You can carry out complete Web Application Pen testing with the help of pen testing tools. Most respondents who use these tools say that comprehensive reporting is the primary feature they would like to have in pen testing tools.

3. Penetration testing is becoming Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Centric

Artificial intelligence (AI) can counteract attacks or cybercrime by determining patterns of behaviour that indicate anything extraordinary or unusual may be taking place. Significantly, AI means this can be done in systems that require coping with hundreds of events taking place each second, which is usually where cyber criminals will try to strike. It is the predictive powers of AI that make it so constructive here, which is why more and more enterprises will be investing in these solutions as we move into 2023. These attackers are also using this technology to make their attacks more sophisticated and lethal for your IT system. It sometimes becomes difficult to identify such attacks, let alone mitigate them. You can counter this situation by adding enough AI algorithms to your penetration testing process which can help to determine critical cyber security risks.

4. Inclusion of machine learning

Machine learning can potentially make all cyber security processes more proactive, including Web Application Pen testing. It makes the process simpler, more effective, and less expensive. Integrating machine learning algorithms into the pen testing processes can help forecast and react to active attacks in real time. Implementation of ML techniques becomes easier every next time as it learns from the previous execution and will take less time in every consecutive test.

5. Rising ransomware threats through Crypto

Ransomware is increasing in frequency and has the potential to cause damage like never before. It involves cryptography techniques to seize data and online assets of the organisation until the ransom is paid. The ransom is in the form of untraceable cryptocurrency. Phishing is typically used to deploy ransomware to trick the victims. User awareness along with updated penetration testing techniques is what you need to mitigate these threats.

6. Cloud-Services Attacks

Both remote and on-site workplaces now lean heavily on every cloud service. Remote work has enhanced cloud security concerns, yet the threats transcend beyond the move to distributed employees. Threats count API vulnerabilities as well as traditional software issues. Flaws in the configuration as well as integration, counting authorization, and authentication, of one cloud service, can bring about broader issues. For instance, cyber attackers are leveraging vulnerable PaaS (Platform as a Service) products to extend the reach of their ransomware or malware. The rewards of the cloud are sometimes enough to outweigh the threats. Using a programmatic approach, a company can reduce the threats of increasing cloud operations and build a foundation for a safe and sound future.

7. The Rising Threat of Ransomware

The new research by PwC revealed that technology executives anticipate increasing ransomware attacks in the year 2023. Ransomware usually includes infecting gadgets with a virus that locks files away behind firm cryptography and threatens to demolish them unless a ransom is paid, generally in the shape of untraceable cryptocurrency. On the flip hand, the software virus may terrorize publishing the data publicly, leaving the company liable to massive fines.

Ransomware is naturally deployed via phishing attacks – where workers of an organisation are tricked into offering details or clicking a link that downloads the malware or ransomware software onto a system. But, currently, a direct infection via USB devices by folks who have physical access to gadgets is becoming ever more common. Education is a highly effective means of tackling this risk, with research revealing that employees who are aware of the threats of this kind of attack are nine times less likely to fall prey.

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Penetration Testing Challenges

Core Security, Penetration Testing Report shows significant challenges when asked about their top security concerns:

    • Phishing (80%)
    • Ransomware (68%)
    • Misconfigurations (57%).
    • Password quality (55%)

Ransomware: an urgent concern

A paramount concern in 2023 is ransomware, which has dramatically increased, as ransomware attacks were primarily initiated using phishing emails. According to research from the Malware Report, the average ransom from these attacks was $220,298 with the average cost for data recovery and malware removal due to a ransomware attack being $1.85 million globally.

The Impact of remote work

The last two years have dramatically impacted work dynamics, with companies worldwide announcing a permanent move to remote or hybrid models. Security professionals see new challenges and a shift in priorities, where IT departments cannot verify how users manage their home networks, potentially opening them up to outside threats. Cyber security professionals can identify and account for vulnerabilities by running more network security tests.

Use of penetration testing tools

The Penetration Testing Report saw all respondents use at least one tool or software to perform their tests, including SQL injection, port scanning, password cracking, and more. As such, security professionals tend to leverage various tools to ensure their needs are covered.

Most respondents (78%) use free and commercial pen testing tools with free open source tools only 11%, showing that organisations have devoted a budget to necessary software to keep their data and networks safe.

Penetration Testing is integral

Penetration testing remains a crucial aspect of organisation’s security strategy, where businesses have increased their security budget, recognising and responding to the increase in threats. Leveraging the right tools along with regular and thorough penetration testing is the best way to ensure a reduction in security risks for organisations and their end-users.


Nobody knows what the future holds for cyber security, and several verticals are still working out how to safeguard their networks amid the pandemic’s uncertainty and confusion. But these recent trends and challenges give us a sight of what we might be expecting in the upcoming years. IT security administrators, software developers and penetration testers will be in heavy demand for decades to come.