Tax office outlines penetration testing strategy - AusCERT 2011

Good penetration testing results attributed to well-developed client strategy

ATO penetration testing and vunerability management director, Len Kleinman.

ATO penetration testing and vunerability management director, Len Kleinman.

Getting customers to recognise penetration testing as legitimate mitigation against potential hacks has proved vital for the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) vulnerability management unit.

Branch director, Len Kleinman, told delegates of the AusCERT 2011 conference on the Gold Coast this week that the unit's biggest tasks was convincing its clients - the wider government department - that of its need to exist.

Kleinman said the office had developed a procedure manual on how it initiates penetration testing procedures, which includes a client consensus statement that determines ongoing steps to reduce risks once a vulnerability has been found.

“Part of that document will address if something unusual happens, penetration testing is a hostile activity on the system and the last thing we want to do is bring down a system," he said.

“That’s so we can manage their expectations."

On each occasion, the unit would file a review of the test with the relevant branch of the ATO, requiring a final sign-off from the client that passed acceptance and responsibility of the vunerability to them.

Kleinman advised other penetration testers to outline the benefits for the customer in an easy to understand manner.

“You need to articulate those [testing] activties in a manner that says we are helping you to achieve this,” he said. "We always try to help the client understand that we are doing this to help them out.”

He said that companies have used the results of testing as part of an assurance of the overall health of the corporate environment.

“There’s also no reason why that penetration testing can’t be one component of a compliance programme that could be undertaken right now.”

Kleinman added that penetration testers who are new to the game should “start small and expand slowly".

“When we first started testing we did it at the application layer and we’ve now expanded to the network level.”

Solid customer procedures were also useful when testing began.

The ATO was honoured by AusCERT with an award for the best security initiative at this year’s gala dinner.

Hamish Barwick travelled to AusCERT 2011 as a guest of AusCERT

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Penetration testingAustralian Taxation OfficeLen Kleinmanauscert 2011hacking

More about Australian Taxation OfficeCERT Australiaetwork

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Hamish Barwick

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts