In business today, big and small alike, we all rely heavily on technology to conduct our day-to-day operations. You don't need me to tell you that as a result, cybersecurity has become a top of the pile for many companies. More and more we are getting asked if we conduct penetration testing. It's a good question, and as I explained to a prospect recently, (and in my honest yet humble opinion) an IT Support company conducting their own penetration testing is like a professional chef reviewing their own restaurant (would you be surprised if they got 5 stars? AND 2 hats?). It is an important part of ensuring your business stays air-tight when it comes to security and involves simulating a real-world attack on a company's network or systems to identify potential vulnerabilities. In this blog, I will shed some light on what penetration testing is, when it is needed, and what to consider when getting it done.
What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, is a simulated cyber-attack that is carried out to identify weaknesses in a company's computer systems, network, or web applications. Slightly different to its sinister alternative, the aim of this testing is to identify any vulnerabilities in a system before a real attacker can exploit them. By doing so, businesses can proactively address and patch up security issues before they become major problems. Think of it as getting ahead of the game.
Penetration testing is crucial for businesses, especially those that handle sensitive data, such as customer information, financial records, and trade secrets. A successful cyber attack can cause severe financial losses, reputation damage, and legal consequences. It is, therefore, essential for businesses to identify vulnerabilities and take proactive steps to address them. Penetration testing can be a great way to do this!
When is Penetration Testing Needed?
Another question we get a lot is, do I need a penetration test? Smart question that I like to hear as it shows a worthy consideration towards the cyber posture of your organisation of which I can only applaud! The likely reality is, you probably have a budget when it comes to IT (...and if you don't, call me, you're my kind of customer). Jokes aside, in these cases it's about where you spend your dollar for maximal benefit and return. It is entirely possible your dollar may be better spent in elevating your security posture as an organisation instead of testing an already low one. However, if you have invested significantly in your security and the business risk of a breach justifies the expenditure, a penetration test is a great way of knowing where you stand today. Below are some of the circumstances you may want to consider investing in one.
Before Launching a New Application or System
Whenever a new system or application is launched, it is important to identify any vulnerabilities that may exist. Penetration testing can identify any security gaps in the new system or application, allowing businesses to address them before the launch.
When Changing the Network Infrastructure
Any changes to a company's network infrastructure, such as adding new servers, routers, or switches, can create new vulnerabilities. Penetration testing can help identify these vulnerabilities and provide recommendations on how to address them.
During Regular Security Assessments
Regular security assessments, including penetration testing, can help businesses identify new threats and vulnerabilities that may have emerged since the last assessment. This allows companies to take proactive steps to address these issues before they become major problems.
To Comply with Regulatory Requirements
Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, have strict regulatory requirements for data privacy and security. Penetration testing is often required to ensure compliance with these regulations.
What to Consider When Getting Penetration Testing Done
When looking to get penetration testing done, there are several factors to consider. It is important to select a reputable and experienced testing firm with a proven track record of success. The testing firm should be able to provide references from past clients and demonstrate a deep understanding of the latest security threats and vulnerabilities. As I said above, we do not do penetration testing ourselves but we have some great partners who do. We'd be glad to recommend you on should you be considering a test yourself.
Second, it is important to define the scope of the testing. This includes determining which systems or applications will be tested, what type of testing will be performed (e.g., black-box or white-box testing), and the duration of the testing.
Communication is essential for any successful engagement and it is no different with your pen testing firm. This includes setting expectations for the testing process, discussing any concerns or constraints, and agreeing on a timeline for delivering the final report.
Finally, it is important to ensure that the testing firm provides a comprehensive report that includes detailed findings, recommendations, and remediation steps. The report should also include a summary of the testing methodology, the tools used, and any limitations or constraints encountered during the testing process.
Protect Your Business with Proactive Penetration Testing
Penetration testing can form an essential component of any comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. By identifying potential vulnerabilities in a company's network or systems, businesses can take proactive steps to address these issues before they become major problems. When getting penetration testing done, it is important to select a reputable and experienced testing firm, define the scope of the testing, establish clear communication, and ensure that the testing firm provides a comprehensive report with detailed findings and recommendations. By doing so, businesses can ensure that their data and systems remain secure and protected from cyber threats.