Imagine if there was a way to know if your company's cybersecurity defenses would stand up to a real cyber attack.
A way your company could beat a cyber criminal to the punch, before any sensitive data, important systems, or company secrets are compromised.
Well, there is—it's called penetration testing, and it's an essential part of any good cybersecurity strategy.
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, is the process of simulating a real-world cyber attack on a company's IT infrastructure in order to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
What is Penetration Testing?
A penetration test is a cybersecurity measure used to test the security of a computer system or network. A pen tester attempts to find weaknesses in a system by simulating an attack from a real-world attacker.
Think of pen testing as breaking into your own house to find out if all your doors and windows are locked.
Penetration tests are carried out by a cybersecurity professional or pentester, and use the same methods as a real attacker, such as trying to guess passwords or exploit vulnerabilities, but with the permission of the company being tested.
Pen testers will search for every possible cybersecurity weak spot, no matter how big or small, including design and development errors, weak passwords, insecure communications, misconfigurations, and out-of-date systems and software.
They will also test the company's response to a cybersecurity breach, such as their incident response plan.
Penetration testing is important because it can help defeat cyber criminals before they have a chance to exploit vulnerabilities and wreak havoc on your company. It will also help you assess the effectiveness of your cybersecurity defenses and identify areas that need improvement.
How often should penetration testing take place?
The frequency of penetration testing will depend on the size and complexity of your company's IT infrastructure, as well as the amount of sensitive data it holds.
As a general rule, small businesses should conduct a penetration test at least once a year, while larger businesses should conduct a test every quarter or at least every six months.
What is the role of a Pen Tester?
A pen tester is a cybersecurity professional who specializes in penetration testing. A pen tester's job is to find weaknesses in a system and help the company fix them before they can be exploited by a real attacker. They use the same techniques as real-world attackers, but with the permission of the system owner.
Pen testers use a variety of tools and techniques to find vulnerabilities, including network mapping, vulnerability scanners, and social engineering.
They will also use their creative thinking and instincts to discover weaknesses that might not be detectable by automated tools.
Penetration testers are ethical hackers who use their skills to find vulnerabilities in systems before attackers do. They use the same tools and techniques as real-world attackers, but with the permission of the system owner. This type of testing is important because it can help defeat cyber criminals before they have a chance to exploit vulnerabilities.
How are Pen Tests run?
Penetration tests can be run in a variety of ways, depending on the goals of the test and the size and complexity of the system being tested.
Manual penetration tests are carried out by a human tester or group of testers working simultaneously who will try to find vulnerabilities and exploit them. This allows testers to use their own creative thinking and instincts to discover weaknesses.
Automated penetration tests are carried out by using software to scan for vulnerabilities. This type of test is much quicker and can be run more frequently.
In most cases, a combination of both manual and automated testing is used.
Automated tests are usually conducted first to identify potential vulnerabilities, which are then verified and exploited manually by the pen tester.
What are the five stages of a pen test?
Planning and reconnaissance
The Pen Testers start by gathering intelligence about the security system, communication systems, software, etc. used by your company. They create a plan that defines the goals of the test and areas of the system to attack.
The tester then conducts a scan. The scan tells the testers how the systems will respond when they are attacked. The pen tester knows where to look to find weaknesses.
To gain access, pen testers use web application attacks. Types of attacks include SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and backdoors, to uncover a target’s vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities are then attacked.
If a cyber criminal can spend a prolonged period of time in your system they have a chance to gain in-depth access.
After the penetration test is complete the cybersecurity professionals evaluate the results. They will document all of their findings and provide recommendations on how to fix the vulnerabilities.
Pen test findings will include exploited vulnerabilities, potential vulnerabilities, data exfiltration paths, social engineering opportunities, and details on how the attack was conducted.
How to categorize pen test vulnerabilities?
Vulnerabilities are then separated into 3 main categories—low, medium, and high risk.
Low-risk vulnerabilities are not likely to be exploited by attackers. They may require a high level of knowledge or skill to exploit.
Medium-risk vulnerabilities are more likely to be exploited by attackers. They may not require a high level of knowledge or skill to exploit.
High-risk vulnerabilities are very likely to be exploited by attackers. They usually do not require a high level of knowledge or skill to exploit.
The most common vulnerabilities include:
Unpatched software, insecure passwords, lack of multi-factor authentication, SQL injection flaws, cross-site scripting flaws, insecure communications, lack of access control, insufficient logging and monitoring, lack of encryption, and more.
What are the benefits of Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing can help your company in several ways, including:
- Finding vulnerabilities in your systems before they are exploited by real attackers
- Helping your business create stronger cybersecurity defenses
- Testing the effectiveness of your current cybersecurity measures
- Providing insights into the latest cybersecurity threats
- Improving your incident response plans
Penetration testing is an important part of cybersecurity for any business. By regularly testing your systems, you are more likely to limit the damage caused by cyber attacks and help prevent future attacks.
Conclusion: Penetration Testing 101
Cybersecurity can be complex and ever-changing, but understanding the basics of how to protect your business is a good place to start. Cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, so it's important to stay one step ahead of them...
Penetration testing is one way to do that.
- Penetration testing is important for all businesses in order to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats.
- A penetration test simulates an attack on your system in order to find vulnerabilities.
- Pen tests should be run as much as possible, but at the very least, annually.
- A pen tester is a cybersecurity professional who specializes in penetration testing.
- Pen testers use the same techniques as real-world attackers, but with the permission of the system owner.
- Pen tests are usually conducted in five steps: planning and reconnaissance, scanning, gaining access, maintaining access, and analysis.
- After a pen test is complete, the cybersecurity professionals will document all findings and provide recommendations on how to fix vulnerabilities.
If you'd like to stay ahead of the cyber criminals and the latest cybersecurity threats, contact us today to schedule a penetration test for your business.