With cyber security becoming increasingly important, businesses and organizations want to ensure their systems and networks are protected from the activities of hackers and phishers looking to steal confidential information. Thanks to penetration tests, which are a form of ethical hacking, businesses and organizations have an amazing tool that can help protect them from the many cyber security threats out there. Now the million-dollar question is, are penetration tests right for every business? Well, depending on the size of your business and requirements, penetration services can be an amazing fit for companies who care about controlling risk in the ever-changing cyberspace.
What is a penetration test?
To put things in retrospect, penetration tests can be referred to as a form of ethical hacking and is meant to probe for weaknesses within systems and networks. While this can be conducted internally or from the internet, you can hire the services of cyber security experts known as ethical hackers or white hat hackers. With these professionals, you can rest assured that your systems and network are exhaustively examined using both automated tools and the latest manual techniques.
Now that you understand what a penetration test is and why you need to employ the services of white hat hackers, the big question is, how do you know when to bring in white hat hackers? When it comes to the information security space, maturity isn’t measured by age. Rather, maturity encapsulates the thought process and sweat that has gone into building a cyber defense (refer to maturity model). Let's look at it this way, at some point in a company's growth, they must have hired (or outsourced) an IT staff and have adopted an information security framework such as CIS or NIST, all of which help to align a company's business objectives with a defensive strategy. Some of the standard practices implemented for defense were regular updates, user management, anti-virus protection, backups, incident response plan and logging. The organization is now looking for a 3rd party independent assessor to help improve the defenses further or achieve compliance.
Reasons for testing
Today, there are a number of reasons why companies hire 3rd party testers to probe their systems and network, but we will focus on the two most important ones. The first is that, the security team wants to level up; therefore, they need some talented good guys playing bad guys to break in and help point out weaknesses. To be honest with you, having a good team test and work collaboratively with the defense, will increase the security posture of an organization to a whole different level. Sometimes all it takes is another expert outside of the organization with a different perspective to see glaring issues, overlooked for years.
Secondly, a 3rd party may be brought in to ensure regulatory compliance. Most well-known regulations, such as HIPAA and PCI, require 3rd party assessments which include both vulnerability scans and penetration tests. After the thorough examinations, attestation and report documents are delivered to key stakeholders (and with any luck, the IT staff are given promotions for doing an impressive job).
In addition to a requirement in some industries, penetration tests are fantastic exercises to develop a cyber security team forged in the fires of real-life adversarial tactics. Mature organizations know, without properly testing the response of a team or the security measures in place, an organization will never know if their program is as hardened as they think.
Find a great team of white hat hackers and let them help you grow organizational security capabilities. If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to reach out to our team for more information.