Penetration testing is an attempt to test the security of a given organization by using the same tactics, techniques, and tools that hackers use. As a penetration tester or ethical hacker, you must have a solid understanding of how cybercriminals access systems and how they can carry out cyber-attacks. A Pen Tester must think like a hacker to be good at what they do.
Pen Testing’s importance in the overall security posture of an organization cannot be understated, and the value it adds to a business’ security controls, ensuring that they are working effectively, and they are strong enough to thwart cybersecurity threats and attacks, are significant if not critical.
Pen Testing let’s companies regularly check the effectiveness of their cybersecurity program, making sure that hackers, whether they are black, grey, or white, are kept at bay. If not already integrated into a company’s cybersecurity strategy, Pen Testing should be seriously considered if you’re to call yourself a secure organization.
Discover Potential Vulnerabilities
A vulnerability is a security weakness, error, or flaw found within a system that has the potential to be leveraged by a hacker to gain access and execute on his/her malicious goal. The vulnerability can be a bug in the operating system or software installed, a previously unknown flaw in the hardware’s firmware, or a misconfiguration of an asset such as a firewall, switch or other device or controls. Examples of vulnerabilities include weak passwords, buffer overflow or an oversight in access control of routing, to name a few.
A well-planned and executed penetration testing campaign, alongside a vulnerability scan can help businesses better align their security posture and cope with the biggest risks first. Once potential vulnerabilities are discovered and mitigated, the organization is no longer at risk. The results of the pen test can also help businesses to:
- Prioritize remediation
- Apply appropriate security controls such as patches and refining access rights
- Allocate security resources
Protecting assets is one of the primary goals of security professionals in a Security Operations Center (SOC). Critical assets must not be corrupted, damaged, altered, infected, hijacked, or stolen by cybercriminals. Assets can be categorized by various industries, including:
- Military and government
- Financial Services
- Credit card industry
As laws such as California’s CCPA, New York’s’ SHIELD, GDPR, LGPD, New York’s 23 NYCRR 500, and the list goes on, expand the list of industries and businesses to every organization and any industry, to protect these critical assets, the need to conduct regular pen testing to discover vulnerabilities that can be fixed or monitored is now codified.
Leverage a Proactive Cybersecurity Strategy
Traditional cybersecurity tools such as antivirus and antimalware programs, firewalls, Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems, or Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools are, in whole or in part reactive; requiring setup and configuration based on what you know. But hackers build tools based on what is not yet known.
Reactive security systems are exactly what they sound like. An attacker exploits the vulnerability to gain access, an occurs and a security team reacts or responds to the data breach. The main problem of the reactive approach is that the attacker has already gotten past the gatekeeper, potential losses have occurred, and the costly and the time-consuming clean-up operation must take place.
Employing regular pen testing is a proactive cybersecurity defense. Pen testing uncovers vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a timely manner and, therefore, remediation is quick, easy and much less expensive than cleaning up after a successful attack.
Meet Regulatory Standards
Most organizations take debit or credit cards as a form of payment methods, collect PII (personally identifiable information) or CUI (controlled unclassified information), or are otherwise stewards of information that they are obligated to protect. In the past, it was moral or social obligation that drove businesses to protect this information. Today, ensuring that a customers’ data is secure if mandated by law and regulation.
As previously mentioned, laws and regulations abound, mandating that the confidentiality and integrity of data must not be compromised. These regulatory standards include what you must do, what you must protect and how you must react when your controls are not enough, and a breach has occurred. And if business fail to meet the standards set by these laws and regulations, they face serious consequences in terms of huge penalties, fines, or legal action.
Many of these, such as PCI-DSS and 23 NYCRR 500, to name some requires that organizations periodically pen test their systems and network, including their websites to discover potential weaknesses. Since attack strategies evolve and grow, regular pen testing ensures that businesses can stay one step ahead by finding and addressing security vulnerabilities before they become a big nightmare.