Cybersecurity measures are an integral part of every modern business. With high-profile data breaches in the news every other week and reputations at stake, there’s never been a better time to protect your network. Digital security requires robust architecture, effective management, and regular testing. While setting up a secure network is a great first step, ongoing tests are needed to mitigate risk and ensure compliance.
What is penetration testing?
Also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, penetration testing is an essential component in every security solution. Penetration testing looks for specific vulnerabilities in computer networks to address the overall security posture of an organization. From security services and policies to staff awareness and disaster response plans, it’s important to understand why penetration testing matters to your business.
Penetration testing highlights specific risk factors
Cybersecurity is a large and growing field that includes everything from antivirus applications to firewalls, authentication standards, and data encryption. The sheer size and scope of the data security industry make it difficult to identify specific risk factors and potential exploitation points. Penetration testing is the perfect way to find the gaps in your current system, with testers trained to think like hackers and stay ahead of the game.
Penetration testing enables a continuous security stance
Computer networks are always changing, with services and locations added, new applications introduced, and updates applied as an organization grows and evolves. While it’s important to set up a secure network architecture from the outset, it’s equally important to approach security as an ongoing process that adapts and responds as needed. Penetration testing is not a one-time solution – rather, annual testing is advised and additional tests are needed whenever significant changes are made.
Penetration testing ensures a good reputation
Maintaining the integrity of your data is the responsibility of every modern business. Whether you run a small family business or a large multinational corporation, you are both ethically and legally responsible for the privacy and security of sensitive customer and employee information. Data breaches have an undeniable influence on professional reputation, with large companies often suffering for years after a major breach and many smaller organizations having to fall on their swords. According to research conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60 percent of hacked SMBs go out of business after six months.
Penetration testing provides you with valuable insights
All professional testing procedures conclude with a report, including details on possible and potential breaches, specific vulnerabilities, and recommended remediation action. The end goal of every penetration test is to improve your security posture by updating services and applications, investing in new hardware solutions, and training your staff to manage risk.
Uncovering potential exploits in critical business systems is the best way to gain actionable insights and implement efficient security strategies. For example, according to the 2019 Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, Living off the Land (LotL) attacks increased by 78 percent in 2018. These attacks allow hackers to hide inside legitimate processes, and this insight helps security teams to develop effective new strategies.
Penetration testing ensures regulatory compliance
While being compliant doesn’t make an organization secure, carrying out regular pen tests is a necessary part of many compliance standards. Data protection standards are often determined by external regulatory bodies, with pen testing mandated by many technical, financial, and healthcare industries, just to name a few. Penetration testing can also help with general policies regarding information security, many of which are prescribed in industry regulatory standards.
Penetration testing helps with training implementations
Penetration testing is concerned with what can be compromised, not just what is already vulnerable. Along with testing systems and applications, pen testing is also interested in the people who control the technology. Comprehensive testing includes both external and internal procedures, with external threats coming through the Internet and internal threats coming from employees. In both cases, people are usually the path of least resistance for attackers, which is why training is such an important tool. Pen testing uncovers gaps in communication and training systems and helps to implement appropriate support and education strategies.