We hired an outside company to perform a vulnerability test on one of our sites. Within a few hours, we had problems. Entire tables wiped clean. Entire tables deleted. Hundreds of records in other tables gone. Some table data had been modified. This is all in a db running a LIVE, production site.

We have used the company in previous years with no issues. Obviously, the site has massive security holes. But, aside from that, my question/concern is this:

  1. How common is this? I get that no pentester can guarantee they won't jack something up, but I haven't heard of an automated scan actually deleting/modifying data in the database.
  2. Should I be concerned that the automated software used could actually be malicious (ironically)?

I'm just looking for a little guidance/thoughts/other's experiences on the situation.

  • 2
    It's entirely possible that any software used is malicious, but it's also possible that it hit routines within the site which were misconfigured severely - I've seen sites affected by similar issues from someone missing a rule to keep search engine bots out of "dangerous" pages.
    – Matthew
    Nov 4, 2016 at 13:34
  • 1
    Sorry to hear about your problems. Hope you had backups.
    – Mindwin
    Nov 4, 2016 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


1 This is quite uncommon. And when it happens, it is highly undesirable. I know pentesters who've lost customers for a LOT less serious screw ups.

2 yes, definitely. The evidence is there; dropping a table is something you have to be very explicit about.

I would look into the pentest agreement you signed. Any pentest contract should have a clear scope defined, excluding production environments from actions that could impact them.

  • 2
    To add to point 2; it could be that just hitting a URL wrong could trigger that, then a simple web crawler could set that off. But then you have other problems.
    – J.A.K.
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:52

Yes, you can and will get sued, and lose, due to case law, such as -- http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2007/03/can_a_spider_en.htm

Every consulting company should have tech insurance with E&O (errors and omissions) that will cover your attorney and court fees when you do get sued for deleting production data during a pen test.

Ensure quality, safety, privacy, and security in your processes!

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