Penetration tests are an important piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. We like to begin with the end in mind and understand your goals before we recommend any assessments, gap analyses, or pen tests. Read more to find out why you should consider a penetration test.
What is a Penetration Test?
A penetration test, also called a pen test, is a common test that is done to find out if there are issues with an organizations’ network or cybersecurity system.
The test is performed to identify both weaknesses or vulnerabilities, including the potential for unauthorized parties to gain access to the system’s features and data, as well as strengths, enabling a full risk assessment to be completed. [Source]
It may also be referred to as a form of cyber attack due to the procedure that is followed when making the test. However, it is not an illegal attack as it requires authorization from the owner of the systems the test is being carried. This test helps to evaluate if there are any potential loopholes in your security system which may be exploited by cybercriminals.
How a Penetration Test Works
When a penetration test is launched, the aim is to carry out a risk assessment on your organizations’ security system and controls. This is done by evaluating and picking out the parts of your security firewall that may be targeted by attackers. These parts are then subjected to an attack through a penetration test. When vulnerabilities in the security system are detected, the individual or company may then find out ways to eliminate the potential risk that may arise from these loopholes. This may be done by either getting rid of the defective systems or strengthening them to ensure that they are not exploited.
7 Reasons to Carry Out a Penetration Test
1. Discover the Vulnerabilities Hidden in Your System Early
It is imperative to identify and uncover the vulnerabilities in your system before the people who pose a threat to you actually do. In this regard, you have to dig deep into the threat and establish exactly what the kind of information could be brought out in the event that it is discovered. By revealing whether or not an organization is susceptible to cyber attacks and making recommendations on ways to secure your system, you protect yourself. It is important to understand the extent to which your organization is vulnerable to hackers.
2. Avoid Remediation Expenses and Reduces Overall Network Downtime
It is very costly to recover from a system attack following a security breach. These costs could be regulatory penalties, loss of business operability and even protecting your employees. By identifying the areas of weakness in your system, you not only shield your organization from massive financial losses but also spare it from reputational prejudices. Through your qualified security analysts, you can get clues on ways through which you can take steps towards, and even make investments that will establish a more secure atmosphere for your organization.
3. Establish Thorough and Reliable Security Measures
From what you discover after the penetration test, you will be able to develop necessary measures to ensure the security of your information technology systems. The results can serve as pointers to security loopholes, how real they and the degree to which they can affect the performance and functioning of your systems. The test will also make the proper recommendations for their timely precautionary measures while at the same time enable you to set up a security system that you can rely upon with the aim of making the safety of your IT systems a priority.
4. Enable Compliance with Security Regulations
Practicing the habit of conducting occasional penetration tests can help you stay in accordance with the security regulations as laid out by the security standards in authority. Some of these standards include the HIPAA, PCI and the ISO 27001. This will be instrumental in helping you stay safe from the heavy fines which are normally common when compliance guidelines are not adhered to. To remain compliant to such standards, system managers ought to carry out frequent penetration tests alongside security audits as guided by the qualified security analysts. The outcome or the results of the penetration tests prompt can even e presented to the assessors of the organization as a symbol of due diligence.
5. Protect Company Image and Customer Trust
When your systems fall victim of cyber attacks, the company image becomes tarnished in that the way the public used to view the company takes a negative hit. Consequently, customers begin to develop a concern about the security of their information in the hands of the company. The outcome of this may be a consideration on their part to seek the services of an alternative company for the same services you were offering them. Penetration testing will, therefore, help you avoid putting your company in such a position and by so doing, protect the company image as well as maintain the loyalty and the trust of your employees.
6. Prioritize and Tackle Risks Based on their Exploitability and Impact
Penetration testing will identify the areas that are vulnerable for cyber attacks and using such results, you may be able to prioritize the potential risks and come up with a counter plan on how you are going to shield the company from the named risks. Your list of priorities could base itself on the degree to which individual risks are susceptible to exploitation by the prospective hackers. You may also choose to attack the risk with priority put upon the risk that would make for a graver impact on the company. By so doing, you will be cushioning the company against heftier hits in the event of a cyber attack crisis and by so doing deal with the risks that can easily be contained or whose impact is less harmful.
7. Keep Executive Management Informed about Your Organization’s Risk Level
Any properly working executive management of a company would always want to be kept in the loop whenever the company is at risk. More importantly, they also want to know of the level of protection the company operates in at any given time from potential cyber attackers.
Penetration tests are evidently of utmost relevance to the successful running of a company and should, therefore, be integrated into the maintenance procedures of a company. They can put you in a better position to identify the areas in your system that is vulnerable to cyber attacks, help you design a list of priority in terms of your precautions, enhance compliance measures and make everything legitimate for the good of all stakeholders of the company in their various capacities, including the customers.
A Penetration Test is a Piece of the Cybersecurity Puzzle
Penetration Tests and Vulnerability Assessments are two key tools utilized to improve and harden an organization’s security program. Penetration Tests are used to identify key weaknesses in specific systems or applications and provide feedback on the most at-risk routes into the target. These tests are designed to achieve a specific, attacker-simulated goal.
Alternatively, Vulnerability Assessments are designed to identify and affirm where key gaps are in your overall security program and yield a prioritized list of vulnerabilities which can be addressed to strengthen the environment.
We like to begin with the end in mind and understand your goals before we recommend any assessments, gap analyses, or pen tests.
Cybriant’s security professionals can assist in selecting the right approach to achieve your objective. We won’t just tell you that you have a problem; we will show you how to fix it, or we can perform the services on your behalf.
Penetration Test vs. Vulnerability Scan
No matter your size, all organizations should regularly check their network and systems for vulnerabilities that can allow outsiders to have access to your critical data.
There are two methodologies to do this – Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing. A common error in the cybersecurity world is to confuse these services or to use them interchangeably. Most cybersecurity experts will agree that both services are important and they should be used together to have a comprehensive security program.