A penetration test looks to assess an organisation’s cybersecurity by safely exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems, services and applications, and can be due to incorrect setups, or risky end-user behaviour. Here, we discuss how pen testing works, its importance to your organisation’s cybersecurity program, the different types of pen testing, and the pros and cons of using penetration tests.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is a security exercise in which a cybersecurity expert simulates the tactics of cyber attackers and searches for exploitable security flaws in a computer system. The goal of this simulated attack is to find any weak points in the system’s defences that attackers could use to launch an attack. The findings of a penetration test can then be used to strengthen the organisation’s security as they fix each vulnerability.
Who Performs Pen Testing?
Pen tests should be done by someone who has little to no advance knowledge of how the system is protected, as the aim is to emulate the circumstances under which attackers operate and uncover blind spots overlooked by the developers who developed the system.
As a result, outside contractors are usually hired to conduct penetration tests. Because they are hired to hack into a system with authorisation and for the objective of boosting security, these penetration testers may also be called “ethical hackers”.
How Often Should You Perform Pen Testing?
There is no hard rule for how often an organisation should perform penetration testing. However, the general guidelines are to carry out penetration tests at least annually, or when there are significant changes to the infrastructure or system.
Why Is Pen Testing Important?
Pen testing assesses an organisation’s ability to safeguard its systems, apps, endpoints, and users against external or internal attempts to undermine security measures and obtain unauthorised or advantaged access to secured assets.
Just some of the reasons why pen testing is important for boosting an organisation’s cybersecurity are:
- Penetration tests allow the organisation to find and prioritise security threats.
- Penetration tests are a foundation for managing vulnerabilities intelligently.
- Penetration tests are a proactive security strategy – they allow organisations to discover and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.
- They act as evidence of the effectiveness of the security strategy.
- They enable the organisation to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements.
What Are the Different Types of Penetration Testing?
Based on the organisation’s objective from penetration testing, one of the following penetrating testing strategies is used to perform the vulnerability assessment.
Attacks on the firm’s network perimeter are carried out using processes executed from outside of the organisation’s systems, such as the Extranet and Internet.
This test is conducted from within the firm’s environment and aims to understand what might happen if the network perimeter was breached or what an authorised person could do to gain access to specific data sources within the firm’s network.
Here, the tester attempts to mimic the actions of a genuine hacker. The testing team has little or no knowledge of the company and must depend on publicly available data (such as the company website, web address registry, and so on) to collect information about the target and perform penetration tests.
Only a few people within the company are notified of the testing. Because IT and security personnel are not made aware or informed in advance, they are “blind” to the scheduled testing activities. Double-blind testing will assess the organisation’s security tracking and incident identification procedures, as well as its response and escalation methods.
Targeted testing is performed collaboratively by the IT and penetration testing teams. Required tasks and details regarding the target and the network configuration are known going in. Targeted tests take less time and energy than blind tests, but they don’t always provide as complete an assessment of a firm’s security flaws and response measures as the other testing techniques.
Pros and Cons of Pen Testing
There are both advantages and disadvantages to pen testing for an organisation’s system.
- Identify potential security flaws before an attacker can exploit them
- Identify potential flaws in a computer program or network
- Provide information that can assist security teams in mitigating vulnerabilities and developing an attack control mechanism.
- If the pen test is improperly designed or performed, it could potentially lead to critical service interruptions and cause more harm to the company as a whole.
- Difficulty performing pen tests on old systems, which are frequently critical to businesses.
- It can be difficult to find a trained resource who can provide the necessary levels of competence cost-effectively.
Confidently Perform Pen Testing For Your Organization with Managed Cybersecurity Services
Transputec collaborates with pen testing specialists who perform vulnerability assessments and pen testing for our client’s critical applications and systems. When coupled with our in-house expertise in cybersecurity, pen-testing allows us to provide a complete vulnerability assessment service to our clients, making their systems hack-proof in the process.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your penetration testing needs.