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Let's Talk Penetration Testing

06.04.21

A penetration or pen test is a simulated cyberattack against a computer system. They are designed to test the effectiveness of a system's defenses and adherence to best practices. Read more to learn each area the test focuses on.

Let's Talk Penetration Testing

June 4, 2021

A penetration or pen test is a simulated cyberattack against a computer system.  These tests look for vulnerabilities that can be exploited, such as operating system weaknesses, misconfigurations, or end-user actions. They are designed to test the effectiveness of a system's defenses and adherence to best practices.  Each test focuses on a different area of vulnerability. For example, 

  • Network.  This testing exercises the physical structure of a system to identify risks as a result of vulnerabilities.

  • Application. Pen testing encompasses web, mobile, and software applications. It looks for weaknesses in the application's design as well as its real-time performance.

  • APIs. With the increase in system integration, API testing has become essential to cybersecurity. Pen tests identify vulnerabilities in these interfaces that could lead to a system breach. Not every cyberattack is a direct assault against a system.

  • IoTs. More smart devices are being deployed at the edge of an organization's network. Each device is a potential access point for a hacker to exploit. Testing the security at the edge is the only way to ensure the safety of the entire network.

Penetration tests attempt to take advantage of vulnerabilities, much like bad actors who try to compromise a network, resulting in operational disruption, loss of data, or financial loss.

Why is Penetration Testing Important?

Many people still envision hackers as loosely organized groups that cruise cyberspace looking for possible targets.  Because of this vision, many do not take cybersecurity as seriously as they should.  For example, 60% of breaches resulted from exploited vulnerabilities for which a patch was available but not installed.  And 94% of malware was delivered by email.  With proper security hygiene, these could have been prevented.

According to the International Monetary Fund, cybercrime has become an industry worth over $1 trillion. Over the last ten years, cybercriminals have banded together to form competing organizations, looking for the most profitable targets.  They have become a criminal enterprise where a return on investment is the motivating factor.  It's not about the size of the enterprise; it's about low-risk targets with high-value potential.  

The move to organized crime means businesses need to look at cybersecurity just as they do physical security.  Companies install alarm systems and put locks on doors to reduce the chance of a crime of opportunity.  They also test those systems to make sure they work.  Organizations need to perform the same level of security testing in cyberspace.  They need to look at penetration testing as a way to test their cyber defenses.

What Are the Benefits of Pen Testing?

The five most important benefits of penetration testing include:

  • Improving Security Infrastructure. Pen testing captures an organization's ability to defend its network, applications, users, and endpoints from unauthorized access.   The results provide an independent view of a company's cybersecurity capabilities.

  • Mitigating Financial Loss. Proactive penetration testing helps identify vulnerabilities throughout an organization, making it possible for security personnel to harden defenses, saving a company millions of dollars.

  • Protecting Clients and Partners. Security breaches also impact relationships with other businesses.  If companies throughout a supply chain do not maintain secure infrastructures, hackers can breach one provider and gain access to the entire chain.  When a breach happens, trust is lost and may be difficult to regain.

  • Protecting Reputation. Making sure infrastructure, applications, and devices are secure is essential to protecting a brand's reputation. Companies suffering a security breach can lose up to 25% of their customer base.

  • Maintaining Compliance. For regulated industries, security violations come with financial penalties. For example, VISA and MasterCard have financial penalties ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 per month for each month an organization is out of compliance.  

Cybersecurity may be the focus of pen testing, but the benefits go far beyond defending against a cyberattack.  Penetration testing mitigates the financial risks associated with data breaches and minimizes the long-term damage to an organization's reputation and business relationships. Watch the video below to learn more about how Synergy Infosec can help you, and if you want to learn more about securing your digital assets, contact Synergy Infosec consultants or utilize our tools by signing up for a free trial. 


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