Employing new digital technology to streamline and automate your processes — and facilitate remote working — is a great way to keep your costs down and service levels up.
But new technologies bring new vulnerabilities. Regular penetration testing can help ensure your systems are strengthened against threats and your data is secure.
Did You Know? 16% of security vulnerabilities in tested applications are a medium, high or critical risk.
Online criminals employ a wide variety of techniques to gain unauthorized access to your network. Many employ intelligent and complex automated tools that can seek out and exploit security vulnerabilities with a machine’s speed and patience. Your system and data need to be secured against these intrusions.
Do You Need Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing (or “pen” testing) is the best way to uncover your vulnerabilities and determine whether or not they can be exploited. Regular penetration testing can help ensure compliance with government and industry regulations and certification frameworks. It can also help protect you from litigation after an incident and should be part of any information security program.
Penetration Testing vs. Vulnerability Scanning
“But our organization already scans for vulnerabilities. Why do we need pen testing as well?”
The key difference between penetration testing and simple vulnerability scanning is the determination of exploitability. Identifying vulnerabilities is important, but knowing if they can actually be used against you can help determine how much money and time you should dedicate to remediating the issue.
Pen testing can expose a variety of security issues, including:
- Encryption problems — a single unsecured database left 425GB of data exposed in 2019
- Weak passwords — 65% of users use the same password for multiple accounts
- Outdated or unpatched operating systems
- Risky user behaviors — insider threats have increased by 47% since 2018
- Application flaws
- Improper network configurations — a poorly configured network exposed 8TB of user data on a French news outlet
Cybercrime has spiked dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. United Nations security officials have reported a 600% increase in malicious email attacks since the outbreak began. If you haven’t already made pen testing a regular part of your risk assessment strategy, there’s no time like the present — especially if any or all of your staff are working remotely.
Did You Know? It’s crucial to test security from both inside and outside your network. Different vulnerabilities will exist outside your firewalls than exist inside, so be sure to include both in your penetration testing plans.
Implementing a Pen Testing Strategy
So how do you implement a penetration testing strategy? The first thing is to schedule regular pen tests. Penetration testing is not a “one and done” solution. A system that is secure today doesn’t guarantee impermeability against new threats next week, next month, or next year.
Studies have shown that 86% of vulnerabilities can be patched within 24 hours, so regular testing can definitely improve your information security.
Stages of Pen Testing
Your penetration strategy can be broken down into five main stages.
- Planning: Identifying tools to be used and gathering intelligence on systems to be tested
- Scanning: Examining system code in both static and dynamic states
- Simulated Attacks: Staging system attacks to see where vulnerabilities exist and can be exploited
- Maintaining Access: Seeing if vulnerabilities permit persistent access — long enough for damage to occur
- Analysis: Detailing vulnerabilities discovered, data accessed, and duration of the breach
Types of Penetration Testing
Just as there are different ways for bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities in your systems, there are different types of penetration tests you should conduct.
- Internal: Internal vulnerabilities can come from disgruntled staff or compromised credentials
- External: External vulnerabilities can appear in websites, applications, email, and DNS
- White Box: Hacker has some information about security measures beforehand
- Black Box: Hacker has no information about security measures beforehand
- Covert: Organization officials are unaware that testing is being conducted
Need Help with Pen Testing?
Many organizations can handle limited penetration testing with their internal IT teams, but relatively few have the capability to do regular in-depth testing of current vulnerabilities. Adding an information security officer to your team or working with expert cybersecurity partners can help fill gaps in your planning and testing. If you have questions about pen testing or need help implementing a penetration testing program, contact the experts at AISN today.