Cyber attacks can cripple a company’s systems, land it with heavy fines and damage its reputation. Yet cyber attacks are inexpensive to conduct: botnets can be hired cheaply, hacking software is readily available, and even those without technical or practical knowledge can purchase attacks as a service. Because cyber attacks only require a low level of investment, no organization is immune from being targeted.
What is penetration testing ?
Penetration testing (also called pen testing) is the practice of testing a computer system, network or application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit. Penetration testing (‘pen testing’) is an effective method of determining the security of your networks and applications, enabling your organization to identify the best way of protecting your assets. Understanding the vulnerabilities you face enables you to focus your efforts, rather than employing broad methods that may require heavy investment without a guarantee that the specific vulnerabilities in your systems have been addressed. A penetration test tells whether the existing defensive measures employed on the system are strong enough to prevent any security breaches. Penetration test reports also suggest the countermeasures that can be taken to reduce the risk of the system being hacked.
Why conduct a penetration test ?
Networks are evolving at an unprecedented rate, physical and virtual environments, private and public clouds, and a growing array of IoT and endpoint devices are all dramatically expanding the potential attack surface. Protecting highly elastic network environments present cyber security leaders with a complex array of security challenges. In part, this is because cyber threats continue to grow in both scope and severity in order to exploit the growing number of new attack vectors. As a result, the number of recurring high profile breaches, including ransomware attacks and other cyber incidents, continue to grow at a mind numbing pace in spite of billions of dollars being spent on cyber security resources. So conducting penetration test is a must for any organization’s security.
Importance of penetration testing
Security breaches and service interruptions are costly
Security breaches and any related interruptions in the performance of services or applications, can result in direct financial losses, threaten organizations’ reputations, erode customer loyalties, attract negative press, and trigger significant fines and penalties. A recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute (2014 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis) reported the average cost of a data breach for the affected company is now $3.5 million. Costs associated with the Target data breach that occurred in 2013 reached $148 million by the second quarter of 2014.
It is impossible to safeguard all information, all the time
Organizations have traditionally sought to prevent breaches by installing and maintaining layers of defensive security mechanisms, including user access controls, cryptography, IPS, IDS and firewalls. However, the continued adoption of new technologies, including some of these security systems, and the resulting complexity introduced, has made it even harder to find and eliminate all of an organizations’ vulnerabilities and protect against many types of potential security incidents. New vulnerabilities are discovered each day, and attacks constantly evolve in terms of their technical and social sophistication, as well as in their overall automation.
Penetration testing identifies and prioritizes security risks
Penetration testing evaluates an organization’s ability to protect its networks, applications, endpoints and users from external or internal attempts to circumvent its security controls to gain unauthorized or privileged access to protected assets. Test results validate the risk posed by specific security vulnerabilities or flawed processes, enabling IT management and security professionals to prioritize remediation efforts. By embracing more frequent and comprehensive penetration testing, organization scan more effectively anticipate emerging security risks and prevent unauthorized access to critical systems and valuable information.