New types of malwares are written, created and distributed every single day. Regardless of the strength of antivirus and anti-malware software; hackers’ manoeuvre a way to penetrate the strongest security defences with the intent of steal your data; siphoning funds or causing service disruptions. Unless you have the latest security measures in place; and the means to identify potential vulnerabilities in your network; you are never completely safe from these hacktivists.
Penetration testing or pen-testing is a process of ethical hacking where a team of IT specialists with the organisation’s permission; try to gain access to the company’s network and systems by exploiting the software and hardware vulnerabilities. Businesses can either use their in-house IT specialists to perform pen-testing or outsource to an external service provider; either way it is advisable to conduct a pen-test at least once a year to proactively find and fix security loopholes.
Elements of Penetration Testing
There are two major types of penetration testing – black box testing and white box testing. External testers engaged for black box testing are not provided with any prior information about the target network/system. The testers have to investigate and analyse the conditions that occur in the real-hacking environment to find security access points and weaknesses.
In case of white-box testing however; testers are provided with information about system applications, IP addresses, network infrastructure model and more to pinpoint existing vulnerabilities in the existing network configuration. Irrespective of the type of pen-test; organisation must order one after a significant altercation to your company’s IT infrastructure or else at least once a year. The different elements of a pen-test include:
- Online Exploration: The pen-testers have to; search media, social accounts and other online resources to understand; how much information about the organisation and/or employees is readily obtainable from these avenues.
- Open Access Points: Once they have identified and collated information about your company / staff; testers will try to discover open network ports and accesses points.
- Vulnerability Exploitation: If they are unable to find any open ports or weak access points; testers will use specialist software applications and perform rigorous tests to exploit network vulnerabilities. They also try social engineering practices such as email and call phishing ploys; to get your employees grant them access by clicking on baiting links.
- Network Infiltration: Testers need to attempt gaining login access to network computers by hacking user credentials and passwords. Once they gain access they will take control of your systems to search for sensitive and critical information that is of value.
- Evidence Collection & Reporting: Upon completing the various elements of their penetration testing; testers need to collect evidence by extracting sensitive/confidential information from your organisation to prove the vulnerability of your security systems. Once all the corroborating evidence is obtained; a detailed report should be presented to your organisation recording all the tests taken along with the outcomes.
- Remediation Recommendation: The final step of the pen-test is providing recommendations based on the test outcome and ways to fix the discovered system weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Benefits of a Pen-Test
Penetration testing exposes all the system vulnerabilities and enables organisations to take prompt proactive measures to safeguard their data. Some of the key benefits of organising and conducting a penetration test include:
- Uncover Network Weaknesses: The issues with your organisation’s systems and network infrastructure is exposed along with the awareness within the company staff about various social engineering and phishing malpractices. In addition to painting picture of your company’s likelihood to being attacked; this test also enables management to fix things before a data breach or ransomware attack occurs.
- Ensuring business continuity: With the help of the penetration testing; businesses successfully identify and fix the system vulnerabilities and loopholes; thereby preventing potential downtime.
- Maintaining Trust: Falling victim to data theft or ransomware attack not just causes loss in terms of downtime; companies also lose the trust of their clients, suppliers, vendors and customers. On the whole, penetration testing prepares your organisation to stay protected from the likelihood of a data breach; enhancing your standing in the market.
Overall, a pen-test can determine the level of your security systems; and provide you and your vendors and suppliers the assurance; that your networks and systems are well protected against the latest malware that is being currently authored. Furthermore, this test equips businesses with the right data to train employees; develop theft intelligence plans and draft stronger security policies. Contact the Empower IT team and get a free network audit to analyse how vulnerable your IT infrastructure really is and the measures needed to fix them.