Penetration testing, sometimes referred to as ethical hacking, is a proactive approach to better understanding your company’s cybersecurity weaknesses. But how do you ethically hack your company’s network, and is that even safe?
Adding a tool like a penetration test to your cybersecurity tool kit can help make your company more secure while protecting the brand reputation you’ve worked hard to build.
In today’s post, we’ll explore what pen testing is, why it’s essential, and how to complete a test. Plus, we’ll talk about what to do after you’ve completed a pen test and how often testing is needed.
What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing, or Pen Test for short, is an authorized attack on a computer system to evaluate security. Yes, you read that right. An authorized attack is known as ‘Ethical Hacking.’ You can think of it as cyber CSI.
Ethical hacking is a proactive approach your business should take to address cybersecurity threats. And you shouldn’t just do it once. It would be best if you were doing penetration testing frequently.
Ethical hackers or Pen Testers will use the same tools as hackers to find weaknesses in your company’s IT environment. Testing is conducted across the network, including computers, any web-based applications, firewalls, and more. But why?
Importance of Penetration Testing for Security
When considering the importance of penetration testing for security, remember these three words: Comprehensive, Recommended, and Compliance. Let’s elaborate.
Pen testing can be pricy, so businesses may opt only to run vulnerability scans. There is nothing wrong with vulnerability scans, but they’re just that, recurring automated scans. Pen tests go a step further to understand how an actual hacker would try to exploit your business. In truth, you should use vulnerability scans and pen testing together.
Pen testing is a bold approach to cybersecurity, so cybersecurity experts recommend companies use penetration testing. Plus, pen testing supports and proves regulatory compliance like HIPPA, GDPR, and other mandated data security controls. Running a penetration test is broken down into easy-to-follow stages.
Penetration Testing Stages
When considering a pen test for your company, you’ll want to know what the ethical hackers will be doing and what sort of access they’ll have to data.
First, let’s look at the six stages of penetration testing.
Stage 1: Reconnaissance. In this first stage, pen testers gather as much information about your business as possible from public and private sources, internet searches, domain registration information retrieval, and social engineering.
Stage 2: Scanning. Next, the testers use tools to examine target websites or systems.
Stage 3: Gaining Access. Then, testers determine the best tools to use to emulate a hacker’s motivation to steal, change or delete data, move funds, or damage your company’s reputation.
Stage 4: Maintaining Access. For a successful pen test, ethical hackers must maintain a long enough connection to exfiltrate data, modify it, or damage functionality.
Stage 5: Analysis. Upon test completion, the pen testers will use the results to configure web app firewall settings before the next test. They will also provide you with their results.
Stage 6: Cleanup and Remediation. Finally, the testers should remove any tools to prevent an actual hack, and you should begin remediating any security vulnerabilities!
Types of Pen Testing
We discussed the stages. But what about access to data? Testers are given varying degrees of information about accessing the target system. There are typically three types of approaches testers can use when it comes to the target system.
The three approaches are:
- Black Box = This is where testers know nothing about the internal structure, just like a real-life hacker.
- Gray Box = testers have limited knowledge or one or more sets of credentials; testers may know the target’s internal data structures, code, and algorithms.
- White Box = the testers have complete access to systems. This type of test provides the highest level of assurance in the least amount of time.
Your company, budget, and time will ultimately decide the sort of pen tests you perform.
What Happens After a Penetration Test?
Once the testing has concluded, the testers or ethical hackers will share their findings with you and your team. Typically, these findings will be presented in priority from high to low. High-priority items are given precedence during the remediation process.
When you receive the test results, you and your team should create a remediation plan with deadlines. Begin with the high-priority items first and work your way down the list. Also, remember that just because you ran penetration testing doesn’t mean you’re in the clear and free from danger. Since technology evolves quickly, you should consider running pen tests at least once a year.
Pros and Cons of Pen Testing
You might think that once-a-year pen testing is too much, which would be one of the cons. Pen testing can be resource-intensive and is not a fix-all for bugs and flaws. However, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Here’s a short list of pros:
- Find Security Gaps Quickly
- Find Known and Unknown Software Flaws and Security Vulnerabilities
- Attack Any System to Mimic how a Hacker in Real-life Would Behave
- Develop Strong Security Awareness
- Protect Company Reputation
- Quickly and Easily Prove Data Security Compliance
Pen Test Takeaway
The best way to look at penetration testing is to imagine it as a tool in your company’s arsenal of weapons against cyber criminals. When conducting a pen test, you get an inside look at the cybercriminal mind and how they would approach an attack on your company systems.
You come away from the test with a better understanding of increasing your company’s cybersecurity before someone can create real damage.
In essence, you’re creating a profile of the cybercriminal and a game plan on how to stop that cybercriminal from penetrating your company’s most important data. Even though you might not get a dedicated TV series on your cybersecurity CSI skills, your business and, more importantly, your customers will be safe.
Penetration Testing from ONE 2 ONE
If you’re looking for a cost-saving pen test solution without skimping on the benefits, contact ONE 2 ONE today. We’ll connect you with a sales expert who can help you through the process and get your company cybersecurity compliant!