Penetration Testing, also known as “pen testing,” is an exercise in testing an organizations cyber security posture. While not the only step in securing an organization, it is a critical one that should not be overlooked. Penetration Testing is used to validate vulnerabilities in an exploited network, system, or web application. The results of a penetration test can help security officers make educated decisions about cybersecurity budget, location, and outcomes.
Conducting a Penetration Test can provide invaluable insight about where an organization is most vulnerable and provide technical steps to remediate the discovered vulnerabilities. A trained expert can help an organization determine how large their attack surface is and provide insight into critical vulnerabilities which warrant immediate attention. Penetration Testing should be scheduled routinely and following any large-scale infrastructure changes. Consistent testing can help to discover vulnerabilities early and provide actionable remediation paths for internal changes which can affect organizational security.
Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessments
A common misconception is that a penetration test and vulnerability assessment are one in the same. The goal with vulnerability assessments is to identify, analyze, and prioritize the vulnerabilities through a risk assessment process. On the other hand, a Penetration Test takes it one step further and validates the vulnerabilities utilizing the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) utilized by real world threat actors, to exploit and discover weak points in a network, system, or application.
It is important to understand the differences between the two. In today’s security space it’s all too common for firms to offer “penetration testing services” when they are only offering vulnerability assessments through automated vulnerability scans. A common sales technique used by these firms is to underbid the competition for Penetration Tests so that organizations think they are saving money when all they receive is a vulnerability scan. Understanding the differences in tests and evaluating a security firm’s offerings is a good way to ensure your organization does not overpay for a vulnerability scan disguised as a penetration test.
The Value of a Penetration Test
Penetration tests are a crucial part of an effective security program. The value in which they provide an organization should not be understated. Conducting penetration testing helps organizations efficiently determine where their security budget should be focused on. Targeted security budgeting can provide a great deal of value to dollars and a much more risk focused approach to threat identification and remediation. With data breaches being a far to common and costly occurrence these days the value of penetration testing is front and center. The ability to mitigate risk before a breach happens is key. When looking for a security testing partner it’s important to find one that shares the same security interests as your organization to maximize the value of testing.
Choosing a partner that is trustworthy and can effectively communicate throughout the testing process will help assure an organization that they have made the right choice.
How to Find an “Expert”
True experts in any industry can be difficult to find, especially when many companies claim to have them. Professional and experienced penetration testers should be able to convey what they are doing, where they are doing it, and what activities will be included. Creating a plan based on factors specific to a company’s goals is a crucial step when choosing an expert. A penetration test statement of work (SOW) protects both parties when it comes to the expectations of testing. It can also ensure testing outcomes meet company goals.
After an agreement is reached, and the test is completed, a report is generated that will give an overview of findings. This overview will include what vulnerabilities were found, which exploits were successful, what the risk implications are, and, and how the risks can be remediated. Remember, cybersecurity is cyclical in nature. Threat actors generally have unlimited time and only need to find one exploitable vulnerability to be successful.
Looking for a penetration testing professional? Visit www.nuharborsecurity.com for more information about penetration testing and how we can help you secure your organization.
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