Your security policies are only effective until someone finds and takes advantage of your vulnerabilities. While it’s normal for companies to have some vulnerabilities, it’s recommended to continually run penetration tests to discover and resolve those vulnerabilities.
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, will help you identify weaknesses in your security policies and systems. If you don’t already perform regular penetration testing, keep reading to learn about why it’s an essential part of your security policy.
Penetration tests fall under five broad categories:
- Targeted testing
- Internal testing
- External testing
- Blind testing
- Double-blind testing
Many tests are performed under each of these categories to identify an organization’s weaknesses in its policies, systems, and applications. Here are some examples of what pen testers do to assess a system:
A pen test team is given an organization’s physical address and told to attempt to get into the company’s system. The team will need to be creative to make this work. For example, they often start with common social engineering techniques, which aim to trick employees into handing over login information or other sensitive data. The testers will basically do exactly what a scammer would do. They might email staff fake court notices to appear, pretend to be the IRS, or use employee information taken from job sites to orchestrate a sophisticated phishing attack. Another common technique is sending emails with links that lead to fake web pages designed to capture login information.
Often used with phishing attacks, penetration testers might use social engineering techniques to get targets to download attachments that will give them access to the company’s system. They might get staff to download these attachments by making them look like they’re important work files that came from a coworker.
A pen testing team might also distribute ransomware this way, although access to all files will be promptly restored when the testing has been completed. When it comes from a professional pen testing team, downloaded attachments won’t actually harm your organization’s system, but will provide the pen team with access to your system, simulating a malicious attack.
Pen testing teams will use brute force attacks to see if they can gain entry into your system. If successful, these attacks will help you identify a weak encryption system, weak passwords, and poor web security if your hidden web pages are easily found.
Penetration testing is important because it will show exactly where your cybersecurity weaknesses are so that you can close those vulnerabilities. Without testing, the only way you’ll know you have a vulnerability is after it’s too late and your perimeter has been breached.
With penetration testing, you strengthen your cybersecurity before any harm is done. For example, tests that use social engineering techniques will show you where employees are being too trusting or not following your company’s cybersecurity policies.
You can take this information to your cybersecurity team and have them come with a solution to help employees understand the importance of being vigilant with emails and not downloading unexpected files. Perhaps you might change your company policies to make certain security violations, like sharing passwords, fireable offenses. You may even want to host regular cybersecurity meetings every month or two just to keep security in your staff’s awareness. You can also use this information to implement tighter security where you didn’t have any before and implement more reliable security software.
An effective penetration test has three components. First, an effective test is one that finds a vulnerability. The second component of an effective penetration test is identifying the useful information from that test.
For instance, if a pen testing team uses social engineering to gain access to your company’s network, knowing exactly how they gained access is how you’ll pinpoint the exact issue. For example, say the pen team emailed an employee asking to borrow login credentials, making it look like the email came from a coworker. If the target replied to the email with login credentials, you’ll know you have either a training or disciplinary issue regarding sharing login credentials.
However, a successful test isn’t useful unless you act on the results. Acting on what you find is the third component. If you don’t patch the vulnerabilities, or change your policies, a penetration test won’t help your company.
Are you looking for a penetration testing company? Contact BL King to schedule a cybersecurity risk assessment, and our experts can help you understand if penetration testing makes sense for your network.