With an average of 2,244 hacking attacks happening per day, you are likely to fall prey to cyber criminals unless you improve your cybersecurity measures.

By taking a preventive cybersecurity approach through penetration testing using the cyber kill chain model, you can strengthen your defense measures against these types of threats.

Using pen testing in your cyber kill chain model helps you detect vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit during the phases of an attack and establish steps to prevent hackers from succeeding. 

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With this kind of approach, you can establish the right way of layering your security controls, disrupt attacks in-progress or prevent them entirely, and minimize the impacts of potential data breaches. 

In this post, we’ll go over the role of penetration testing in the cyber kill chain model and how this strategy can help bulletproof your security measures. 

The difference between pen testing and the cyber kill chain model

While the phases of performing penetration testing might seem similar to the cyber kill chain, the two are quite different. 

The primary goal of a pen test is to expose vulnerabilities in your system infrastructure, assess policy compliance, test your employees’ awareness and skills for handling security incidents, and recommend solutions to prevent attacks such as a data breach. 

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 On the other hand, the cyber kill chain aims to trace the common stages of an attack — from the hackers’ reconnaissance stage down to the phase where they achieve their goal (like delivering malware or stealing your highly-sensitive data.

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Penetration testing helps you identify your system vulnerabilities that hackers can easily exploit.

The cyber kill chain shows you the stage a potential threat is at for you to properly assess the potential danger.

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By using penetration testing in your cyber kill chain model, you’ll get more comprehensive insights into your system’s weak spots and the stages that attackers can go through to exploit those vulnerabilities.  

How effective is the cyber kill chain model?

Modern-day threats are still posing significant danger because hackers are finding advanced, innovative, and complex methods of delivering their attacks. 

To set up a stronger security system, you’ll need to understand the different types of attacks that could potentially damage your infrastructure and steal your data.  

With the cyber kill chain model, you can execute a step-by-step analysis of threats and identify attack structures that can be hard to detect through basic security scans alone. 

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By analyzing current threats through the cyber kill chain model, you can identify dangers that can remain undetected for a long time and protect your assets against them. 

But how does pen testing play into the cyber kill chain model?

For instance, conducting regular network pen testing to prevent attacks helps you determine potential routes attackers will exploit. 

After identifying these routes, you can then shut down these paths to protect your entire network before an attack can happen.  

Another example would be performing pen testing to identify attack vectors – such as the lack of encryption – when using online backup services for saving data in the cloud. 

By conducting penetration tests to your network, you’ll get an independent analysis of your existing security defenses at each stage in the cyber kill chain. 

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Taking preventive measures 

Penetration testing plays a crucial role during the exploitation stage of the cyber kill chain model since this is the phase where you conduct systematic detection of security flaws in your network or system.

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The goal of this stage is to look for vulnerabilities in the targeted network or system of your company, and the malicious actor angles an attack strategy that aims to compromise your technical components.

Some of the most attractive and vulnerable attack vectors are employees who lack the right security awareness and training to respond to security threats correctly. 

Careless employee practices such as clicking on email attachments from unknown sources, for example, can result in phishing attacks that compromise your sensitive information — like customer data.

If your customer data gets breached, it could negatively affect your reputation — which makes taking preventive security measures through pen testing vital for the credibility of your company.

Letting your customers know you’re protecting their data will also benefit you since you can include it in your reputational marketing strategies and help uphold the integrity of your brand.   

A defense strategy you can take is to focus on vulnerabilities and attack vectors that can come to the software, apps, and other technology your company uses or personal information. 

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By using penetration testing in the exploitation stage of your cyber kill chain approach, you can uncover your potential system weak points and establish preventive measures before attackers can exploit them. 

Developing new parameters to detect vulnerabilities and counter modern attacks

Malicious actors won’t always use a single method to carry out an attack. Attacks can also come in phases and continue until they find your exploitable vulnerabilities and achieve their goals. 

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Plus, modern-day hackers can find many possible paths and avenues to get to your data — not to mention the servers, endpoints, and the services that your company uses but doesn’t own that they can easily exploit.

Remember that attacks don’t always follow the same pattern — which means you should take the cyber kill chain model (while comprehensive) as a guide and not an absolute rule.

By using penetration testing in your cyber kill chain model to find exploitable weaknesses in your hardware and software, you can then establish a strategy to dismantle an attack at a specific phase. 

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For example, a pen test will help you create a vulnerability management program — including managing your patches and vulnerability scanning to address the privileged credentials security issues uncovered in the exploitation stage.

Penetration testing is also an excellent way of proactively identifying your risks as hackers would and help close gaps in your security — which reduces the attack surface of your company. 


Penetration testing is a vital aspect of the cyber kill chain model as it helps you assess the weak spots in your system that hackers can easily exploit and serve as entry points for delivering attacks.

With pen testing, you can assess your potential risks more accurately and bolster the security strategies that you uncover from using the cyber kill chain model – protecting your data and reinforcing your defenses. 

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