It would be an understatement to say that cyber risks are increasing at an alarming rate today. Data breaches of all types and sizes from DDoS attacks, phishing, and Ransomware to full-scale hacking attacks have become more frequent now than ever before. It is no surprise why most businesses continue to bolster their IT security infrastructures with the best technologies and tools. One of the most effective tools used by both large and small organizations to strengthen their information security defenses is penetration testing.
What is Penetration Testing?
A penetration test is a comprehensive approach to identifying an organization’s vulnerability to determine how a hacker can compromise your security system and whether the hacking attempt can be successful. In a penetration test, an expert cybersecurity professional uses the same skills and techniques a hacker would use to compromise your security system and gain access to your company’s data. Some of the methods used in penetration testing include malware injection, password cracking, social engineering, and other attempts to break into your IT infrastructure. The results of a penetration test are used to update your security system to prevent future attacks from real hackers.
The goal of a penetration test is to check your network, devices, and applications for possible vulnerabilities that can be successfully exploited by a criminal hacker. The test is a simulation of a real-world attack to find out how your defenses can withstand a hacking attempt and the impact a successful attack would have on your business.
A penetration test covers multiple areas in your security system including the following:
- A network penetration test identifies flaws in the system and network levels such as misconfigurations, wireless network vulnerabilities, weak passwords, and product-specific flaws among others.
- Applications: an application penetration test checks for flaws in application layers such as Injection Flaws, Insecure Direct Object References, and Cross Site Scripting among others.
- Physical intrusion. Physical penetration testing seeks to identify opportunities that can be exploited to physically gain access to company information, such as break-ins and illegal surveillance.
- Penetration tests on IoT devices. This form of penetration testing aims to discover flaws in hardware and software used in the Internet of Things devices. Vulnerabilities in IoT devices include weak passwords, APIs, misconfigurations, and insecure communication channels.
Reasons for Penetration Testing
Here are some of the reasons why every business should run penetration tests:
Find out your weakness before criminal hackers do
This is one of the key reasons for doing a penetration test. It helps to expose vulnerabilities and flaws in your security system, so you can plug the loopholes before the real criminals exploit them. A penetration test puts your security system under the same scrutiny and stress as a real hacking attempt. It exposes all the weaknesses in your security system. Rather than learn from a costly real-life attack, use a penetration test to right the errors before a real attack happens.
Determine which security areas need to be addressed urgently
Cybersecurity is a diverse and ever-evolving field. It is often difficult to know which area of security in your system presents the highest level of risk. With a penetration test, you’ll determine which area of your security needs an upgrade and possibly further investment. The test reveals your weakest defense points that need to be protected. You’ll know then where to spend money to bolster your security.
Penetration tests give you a second opinion about your security
An outsider perspective on the actual strength and integrity of your IT security system is important too. Most organizations tend to rely on their in-house cybersecurity professionals to keep their systems secure. While this is often seen as a cost-effective option, it should not be forgotten that hackers are always upgrading their game on an almost daily basis. Technology breeds more sophisticated hacking methods every day. It is therefore important to get an expert second opinion about your security system by running penetration tests.
Penetration tests will save your business money
When you spend money to do a penetration test, you’ll actually be saving significantly excessive costs you’d have suffered after a successful hacking attempt on your IT security system. Financial losses due to hacking and the resultant recovery costs can be quite high.
A penetration test, furthermore, identifies areas of greatest weakness in your security system and shows you where to focus more of your security budget. Without the test, you could end up spending money across different areas of your security system, some of which will already be secure. You’ll be allocating funds to areas that need no more funding and possibly neglecting areas that require more investment. After a penetration test, you’ll have a well-defined security budget allocation blueprint.
Keep in mind that if your business fails to protect its customers’ data, you’ll be penalized by information security regulating bodies such as the PCI/DSS and GDPR after a breach has happened. The fines can be quite high. Use a penetration test to identify and fix flaws in your security system to avoid paying fines.
Compliance with security standards and regulations
You need to do a penetration test to achieve compliance with industry standards and regulations such as ISO 27001, HIPAA, NIST, FISMA, PCI/DSS, and GDPR. Most of these regulatory bodies require annual or on-going penetration tests by expert security companies such as Venkon to determine the security level of your company. By doing regular penetration tests, your organization demonstrates due diligence in information security and will avoid heavy fines that can result from non-compliance.
Cybersecurity threats abound in today’s business environment, which is why every business regardless of its size should invest in penetration tests. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated by the day and as a security-conscious business owner, you cannot afford to be complacent with cybersecurity threats. If you consider the implications of a successful hacking attempt on your company, you’ll definitely see the benefits of doing regular penetration tests to check the strength and integrity of your IT security system. A penetration test not only identifies vulnerabilities in your system but also ensures that you comply with the requirements of industry regulatory bodies. When it comes to penetration testing, it is not a question of when to do it but how often you should be doing it.