The Importance of Penetration Testing
A data breach is one of the most expensive attacks on an organization. According to a study from IBM, the cost of a data breach rose from $3.86 million to $4.24 million, marking a 17-year record high. Moreover, the risk and expense of a cyberattack are getting higher due to the transition of most businesses to the cloud and other online services.
So, how can you stay safe in an increasingly risky tech environment?
Do so by investing in penetration testing as one of your many cybersecurity initiatives. Penetration testing helps unearth vulnerabilities in your systems or IT infrastructure, ensure regulatory compliance, support crisis response in case of an attack, and protect your brand’s reputation in the future.
Let’s dive more into this subject.
What is Penetration Testing?
A penetration test is a simulated attack performed on an IT system, a range of IP addresses, or individual applications to identify weak points in its defense.
Penetration testing gives cybersecurity professionals crucial information about hackers’ various techniques to infiltrate a system and gain access to private and sensitive information about a business or its users.
Thorough penetration tests determine the degree to which an attacker can gain access to your system and the amount of damage they can inflict on your data and systems.
How a Penetration Test is Performed
Penetration testing is performed using software applications and manual methods. The first step is surveillance, where the testers gather as much information as possible about your business and its potential to be a hacker’s target.
The testers then identify vulnerabilities that expose potential entry points for hackers. Then, they attempt to break into the system using these vulnerabilities and report their success.
These attacks are often called “white-hat” attacks, where ethical hackers seek to establish a system’s vulnerability.
There are five main types of penetration testing. These include:
- Targeted testing
- Internal testing
- External testing
- Blind testing
- Double-blind testing
Each type gives the simulated attacker a different level of access to the system and applications.
- Targeted testing: In targeted testing, the penetration testers work with your IT team to conduct experiments on your IT systems and analyze the results.
- External testing: During external testing, attacks are performed on visible IT systems such as web servers, domain name servers, and email servers. The goal is to determine whether these systems are vulnerable to external attacks and how deeply the attack can access the compromised system.
- Internal testing: This test finds gaps behind your firewall. Testers are given the same authorization and access as the organization’s employees and test whether an internal actor can gain unauthorized access to data.
- Blind testing: Blind testing uses minimal information about the company to attempt a successful cyber attack on its IT systems. For instance, the penetration testers may be given only the company’s name and proceed from there. The more information they can unearth about the company and its IT infrastructure, the greater the security risks.
- Double-blind testing: This is a more exhaustive penetration test. Only one or two individuals within the organization are aware of a planned penetration test. This test assesses security awareness and response protocols and gives the most unbiased results.
When Do You Need Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing should not be a one-time event. Instead, you should have a regular penetration testing schedule that assesses your organization’s cyber security preparedness.
Typically, you’ll perform a penetration test if:
- You install new infrastructure or web applications to your organization’s network
- You physically move your business’s network site or add a new one
- You apply security patches
- New regulatory compliance and IT governance standards require it
What’s the Importance of Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing packs a ton of benefits for your organization. These include:
1. Helps Uncover and Fix Vulnerabilities
Bugs and vulnerabilities are inevitable when developing and implementing a system or network that covers an entire organization. Hackers exploit these gaps and vulnerabilities to access your systems and sensitive data.
Penetration testing uncovers these vulnerabilities before hackers do and provide insights into how you can fix them.
2. Ensures Regulatory Compliance
Different industries have to comply with specific regulatory standards to do business legally. For instance, your organization must be PCI-compliant to process customer payments via a credit or debit card system.
To be PCI compliant, you must conduct penetration tests annually. Other regulatory standards that require penetration testing to be compliant include HIPAA and SOC 2.
3. Enables Crisis Training
Penetration testing helps prepare your team against cyberattacks by training them to react immediately and overcome security breaches and other cybersecurity crises. Your network can be vulnerable to different types of cyberattacks requiring different mitigation responses.
You can gauge your team’s preparedness through penetration testing and allow for finetuning of systems and responses.
4. Reduces Developer Errors
Developers can use penetration testing reports to reduce errors while writing applications or setting up an organization’s IT infrastructure. By understanding how a hacker infiltrates their system, they can dedicate more time to learning about security and how they can patch such vulnerabilities.
Besides reducing the number of mistakes made while developing software, applications, or IT infrastructure, the developers can also learn healthy cybersecurity practices with a regular schedule of penetration tests to ensure system security.
5. Protects Your Brand’s Future Reputation
Your brand’s reputation can suffer immensely if a successful cyberattack occurs and is publicly announced. Moreover, according to research, profits can slump heavily, followed by expensive legal suits from disgruntled clients or system users.
Penetration testing helps you discover vulnerabilities early, patch them, and reduce the risk of a cyberattack that will have damaging effects on your brand’s reputation.
Get Penetration Testing Services from Experts Only
Penetration testing is a complex exercise with tremendous rewards. A thorough penetration test will expose your organization’s vulnerabilities early, giving you time to secure your systems before an attack cripples them.
However, penetration testing can expose your system to worse attacks with more damaging consequences if not done right. Therefore, contact a cybersecurity professional today to get expert penetration testing services to protect your organization from future attacks.