Penetration Testing, or Pen Testing as it’s often called, is a proactive approach to discovering exploitable vulnerabilities in your web applications, computer systems, and networks. It’s an overall test of your organization’s security.
A Pen Tester, or Ethical Hacker, will conduct a series of tests to make sure your cybersecurity posture is strong enough to withstand the potential threats you would face as a business. That is a simplified explanation, but the process as a whole is much more involved and important to the protection of your company in the long run. We’re going to explain what a Pen Tester is typically looking for, and why this process is a critical step in building up your cybersecurity program!
Benefits of Pen Testing
Before investing time and money into any project, you want to make sure it’s worth it for your business and the goals you have for the future. With Pen Testing, you have to ask yourself if you are 100% confident the security measures you have in place across the enterprise are suitable for the kinds of threats you may face. Through this process you can discover these vulnerabilities and begin to remediate the issues before an attacker is able to interrupt your business operations.
With a Pen Test, you’ll also be able to identify which threats need to be addressed more urgently. Cybersecurity risks are often considered at different levels. If the risk is high and would create significant issues for your company, it’s something you need to address quickly. Not knowing where threats are, or if they even exist within your company, could leave you open to more potential problems down the road.
Some breaches can be executed and used by attackers for years before anyone even knows they’ve occurred. A Pen Test can help identify gaps in your security process and trace any threats that may come up later or already exist within your network.
Not only is Penetration Testing a benefit for your company, it may also be a requirement within the industry you serve. Pen Testing is regulated and required within healthcare, government systems, and financial services. Someone who is certified in Penetration Testing should be able to help you reach the requirements and standards your company needs to meet. Even if the industry of your business is not required to do Pen Testing, it can still be a beneficial step in your cybersecurity process.
Three key reasons you need to be Pen Testing your organization:
- Secure Storage – Being able to secure your data and the systems you have in place is crucial to the success of any business. In many cases, client data is stored on a computer system of some sort. No matter where it is within the network, it could be vulnerable to an attack.
- Interruption Analysis – If an attack were to happen and you were not familiar with the security processes in place, that could cause a significant interruption in your business operations.
- Reputation Protection – Explaining a data breach to clients is the last thing any business wants to address. Not only does it hurt existing relationships, it damages brand image and can deter future business deals.
Phases of Testing
Now that you have a better understanding of why Penetration Testing is so important, let’s look at what the process entails.
1. Scoping & Pre-Engagement – Defining what the success criteria are.
2. Reconnaissance – Gathering information.
3. Discover & Vulnerability Assessment – Testing authentication, data validation, and management.
4. Exploitation – Verifying vulnerabilities, and false positive and false negative elimination.
5. Analysis & Reporting – Consolidate and overview findings to report vulnerabilities.
Pen Testing addresses the overall security of a company. The tester looks at processes in place to protect your business against threats, how they react, and the reaction time. During this process the Pen Tester looks at a few different components of the security process; devices and people.
Think of all the devices used within your organization that may be connected to your internal network. Even seemingly harmless devices like printers and telephones could actually be a threat to your security if they’re not properly monitored and protected.
Any device that may be connected to your business network or internet connection can be used as a portal for threat actors to gain access to your system. That’s why Pen Testers take the time to evaluate the devices used in your organization to find where there may be gaps in security.
While software and electronics may seem like the obvious threat to a cybersecurity program, the biggest issues typically come from humans. People are the most vulnerable aspect of a security system. Not only do employees have access to highly sensitive data, they also are subject to possible scams that a device would not fall victim to.
While testing the human aspect of your security network, a Pen Tester will evaluate which employees have access to sensitive data, and if that access is necessary. Many times, employees will have access to data, or channels to data, that is not required for them to do their job. A Pen Tester will be able to spot those potential threats.