Pentesting Engagement Reflection – Validating Nessus Findings and Manual Testing

The realm of cybersecurity is vast and multifaceted, and as a pentester, I’ve often been intrigued by how automated tools and manual expertise complement each other. Recently, during a client engagement, I delved into the fascinating journey of validating vulnerabilities highlighted by Nessus, followed by manual penetration testing using Kali Linux tools. This experience not only honed my skills but also gave me a glimpse into a more advanced role in the cybersecurity field.

The Confluence of Nessus and Kali Linux
Nessus, as many in the cybersecurity industry would acknowledge, is a robust vulnerability scanner. However, while it can identify a multitude of vulnerabilities, validation is the key. This is where Kali Linux, with its vast arsenal of tools, came into play. By leveraging these tools, I was able to validate and, in some cases, delve deeper into the intricacies of the vulnerabilities that Nessus had flagged. This layered approach ensures a more holistic understanding of a client’s network and its potential weak points.

Selecting Hosts for Manual Pentesting
One essential aspect of penetration testing is knowing where to look. While automated tools provide a broader perspective, manual pentesting requires a strategic approach. I took on the responsibility of cherry-picking specific hosts that seemed promising for a deeper dive. This manual exploration often revealed vulnerabilities that might have been overlooked by automated scanners, showcasing the importance of human intuition and expertise in the cybersecurity domain.

Collaboration and Guidance
A significant highlight of this engagement was the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from the Acceleration Centers at PwC. Guiding some of them through the nuances of the process was particularly enriching. It felt like a moment of role reversal, where I stepped into the shoes of a mentor, envisioning what life might be like at the senior associate level. This collaboration not only fostered team spirit but also augmented our collective knowledge base.

Progression and the Road Ahead
This engagement stands as a testament to the progression in my career as a pentester. While the technical aspects were undoubtedly enlightening, the soft skills – collaboration, guidance, and strategic planning – were equally invaluable. It reaffirmed my belief that in the world of cybersecurity, continuous learning and adaptability are paramount.

In conclusion, the blend of automation and manual expertise, when coupled with teamwork and continuous learning, can yield profound insights into a network’s security posture. As I continue on this journey, engagements like these serve as milestones, reminding me of both the challenges overcome and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.