What is Penetration Testing?
A Penetration Test is a test performed by ethical hackers also known as white hats attempting to breach your organization’s security. The purpose of this Testing method is to identify exploitable vulnerabilities in a system’s defense that can be utilized by hackers and even gauge the level of breach possible with the exploit. This could range from in-person attempts to social engineering attacks, to remote network attacks and other methods of hacking.
Expert third-party service providers like VISTA InfoSec are generally brought in to perform these tests as Penetrations Tests performed by someone with minimal or no prior knowledge of the system can lead to an unbiased approximation of a real attack, and even missing out on the blind spots in systems. Today we will be covering the importance of Penetration Testing as it is an essential tool for fortifying an organization’s cybersecurity.
When is a Penetration Test needed?
Before we deep dive into why a Penetration Test is important, we need to understand when a Pen Test should be performed. Penetration Testing is not a one-time activity and should be conducted regularly. It is also recommended to conduct a Penetration Test any time the following occurs:
- When new infrastructure or web applications are installed to your organization’s network.
- When your business physically moves or adds another site to its network.
- When you apply security patches.
- When IT Governance and regulatory compliance standards require them.
It is imperative for both high-profile companies and smaller organizations to conduct Pen Tests regularly as they can be targeted by cyber-attacks of different severity at any time. The above points are in no way meant to be exhaustive as they are simply a recommendation that goes a long way in building healthy cybersecurity practices. Why you need these security measures and the different occasions when you might require them are covered more in-depth below.
Reasons why Penetration Test is needed:
1.To Uncover and Fix Vulnerabilities
While developing and implementing an organization-wide system or network, it is common for bugs and vulnerabilities to appear. These bugs can be exploited by hackers who stay on the cutting edge of technology and rely on their experience in exploiting known vulnerabilities found in these systems.
Fortunately, you can hire technical experts like us (VISTA InfoSec) to perform a thorough Pen Test on your system and uncover vulnerabilities. The test conducted would mean identifying vulnerable systems that could potentially allow a full takeover of your network, or bypassing security mechanisms to access administrative features in your application.
These proficient technicians will give your team the perspective of a hacker and help discover the vulnerabilities that could be targeted by hackers. They also instill an optimized process in place to fix the vulnerabilities while continuing with daily operations.
2.To comply with various Regulatory Standards
Different industries have different regulatory standards that organizations are expected to comply with for legal and business purposes. For example, if you wish to process customer payments through a credit or debit card system, you must be PCI compliant, which requires a Penetration Test to be conducted annually.
If you are a SaaS provider, your clients or providers might require a Penetration Test of your SaaS application. This helps identify potential vulnerabilities and protects your customers and assets while also allowing you to remain compliant. Maintaining compliance means that you can continue conducting business and developing new partnerships to grow your business without accruing fines or running into trouble with the law.
3.To Save Remediation Cost and reduce Network downtime
Recovering from a security breach can be a time-consuming and costly process as it constantly costs you money while your business might not even be functional. According to a study conducted by IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 is $3.86 million and the average time to identify a breach is 207 days.
On the other hand a Penetration Test is proactive by nature and identifies high risk exploitable vulnerabilities in your system. To ensure business continuity, it is recommended that organizations conduct regular Penetration Tests at least once or twice a year.
4.To Develop Efficient Security Measures
A Penetration Test arms your organization with insightful information about identified security gaps and their current and potential impact on the functionality and performance of the system. An experienced Penetration Tester will present you with a list of recommendations letting you know the severity of the issue, by when it should be fixed and also help you develop a reliable information security system to objectively prioritize your future cybersecurity investments.
Be sure to choose an experienced and reliable organization for your Penetration Tests, because even though it may involve the use of automated tools, the focus is still on the manual skills, which means that the professional knowledge and experience of Penetration Testers is still the most valuable asset.
5.To help new business acquisitions and create a road map of improvements
Penetration Test Facilitates an efficient process of acquiring new businesses. Acquiring a new business means acquiring a new IT network which means adopting several potential vulnerabilities. Any bugs in the other business’ security just became bugs in your system.
In such a scenario it is advisable to conduct a Pen Test before the merging of systems and transfer of data takes place to identify and track what needs to be addressed. Some vulnerabilities you might be able to fix right away, while others might take time. With the information you gain from the Pen Test you can make an informed decision and build a roadmap with clear timelines for when the vulnerability will be fixed and which technicians will work on it. This allows the demanding process of merging two organizations to become a bit more seamless.
Also Read:- Types of Penetration Testing
6.To protect your business from Cyberattacks and keep management informed
According to a study conducted by Proofpoint, 88% of organizations worldwide experienced spear-phishing attempts in 2019. This report by RiskBased Security proves that data breaches exposed 36 Billion records in the first half of 2020.
With countless new ways for attackers to target and breach organizations being discovered each day, even large companies with well-established cybersecurity teams and hygiene practices are growing wary of the risks. Penetration Tests identify vulnerabilities that hackers are most likely to exploit and their potential impact.
Even if your IT team understands these vulnerabilities, they may lack the experience or knowledge to communicate them effectively to upper-level management–or management may fail to take that information into account. Because of this, they might not allocate the necessary resources to implement corrective measures or to make the changes to secure your vulnerable systems and applications.
A Pen Test on the other hand has you working with professionals whose job is to understand cybersecurity risks and their impact on your business. At the end of the test, management receives a detailed report documenting each vulnerability and the consequences the organization will face if they are exploited.
It also provides an executive summary, explaining the risks and vulnerabilities in a clear and concise language adapted to non-technical stakeholders. As a result, management will be better equipped to understand and put into practice effective cybersecurity measures.
How often should Pen Testing be done?
As we have already discussed, Pen Testing is not a one-time task, nor is it a process where a one-size-fits-all approach is acceptable. Some organizations are exposed to greater risks, whether due to the nature of their work or the scale of their online presence.
For these organizations a regular Pen Test is a much better fit, perhaps annually or bi-annually. Business size, industry, budget and regulatory requirements all play a role in how often a Penetration Test should be conducted. Ethical hacking conducted via Pen Test allows you to gain complete insight into how an attacker might exploit your organization’s vulnerabilities, where your weaknesses lie and what you need to do to improve security.
For all these reasons we experts recommend regular and timely Penetration Tests for any modern-day organization to stay safe and secure.