What do you think about Penetration Testing? These days millions of applications are downloaded daily by users all over the world. All of this activity leaves sensitive data—including contact details, bank and credit card information—vulnerable to hackers, cybercriminals and foreign governments.
High profile security breaches regularly dominate the headlines, and hackers keep developing ever more complex and sophisticated ways of intercepting data.
It’s clear that anti-virus software, firewalls, and a hopeful attitude no longer cut it in today’s environment. So what can your business do to protect sensitive information and avoid the kinds of data breaches that compromised the personal information of close to 29 million Facebook users last year?
Regular Proactive Testing of Your System is a Must
Penetration tests, sometimes called ‘pen tests’, provide businesses with insight about where security gaps exist in their systems and allow for the accurate assessment of your IT security levels.
A pen test is a bit like a ‘friendly’ hacking experience done under safe, controlled circumstances and will allow you to discover where your system’s vulnerabilities are before the hackers do. It simulates attacks and exposes vulnerabilities caused by bugs in your software, insecure settings, code mistakes, configuration errors and other common weaknesses.
Conducting penetration tests at least once or twice a year is a great insurance against data breaches under the best of circumstances but you will additionally want to conduct them if:
- A similar business has experienced a security breach
- You need to ensure compliance with regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
- You are using new applications or have made substantial changes to business protocols
- You have increased your use of outsourced services
Types of Penetration Testing
There are three types of pen tests your organization may opt to carry out:
Black-box Testing: This option is the least pricey and is also closest to the experience of an actual hacker since the analyst receives no background information. A black box pen test gives you an idea of what vulnerabilities can be exploited from outside your network but leaves internal service vulnerabilities undiscovered.
Gray-Box Testing: This type of testing is done at a user level with the analyst receiving more information than a hacker—or an analyst running black-box tests—and having elevated privileges within a system. With a gray box test, the testers usually know something about a network’s internal workings, including information about design and architecture documentation.
White-Box Testing: Also sometimes referred to as clear-box or open-box, white-box testing is the most pricey but the most comprehensive and accurate of the three. The white-box pen test allows analysts extensive administrator/root level information about source code architecture before testing.
The glut of information available to white-box testers is what makes this type of testing the most labor-intensive since analysts must sift through massive amounts of data to identify points of weakness.
The black box option, being the least comprehensive will be not only the least expensive but the quickest option. Which you choose depends on what your specific needs are as an organization but a key point to keep in mind is that the white box is the most thorough while the black box most resembles a real attack.
Penetration Tests Protect Your Finances and Your Reputation
Whichever level of testing you choose, the costs of recovering from a data breach are enormous in comparison to even the most comprehensive of penetration tests.
After a breach, businesses must put enhanced customer protections in place and pay huge regulatory fines. There is also a substantial financial loss for the simple reason that the business will inevitably be inoperable—or at least less operable—during and directly after a breach. In fact, it can often take weeks to fully recover.
According to a study by IBM Security, the average cost of a data breach in 2018 was 3.86 million. That’s an increase of 6.4% over 2017 costs. And these millions don’t even take into consideration the cost of a breach to your organization’s reputation.
When data is compromised on a large scale, consumer confidence plummets and it takes time and resources—both financial and energetic—to restore trust.
Pen Tests Facilitate Compliance With Security Regulations
Conducting pen tests on a regular basis is a must for businesses wishing to keep ahead of compliance regulations.
For businesses operating in the EU and the UK, penetration tests will need to be done regularly to ensure that systems are GDPR compliant, just as an example.
Fines for non-compliance are steep. In order to avoid civil monetary penalties, it’s important to select a penetration testing company that uses multiple test types to discover vulnerabilities and insecure functionality in web applications and mobile applications as well as in your network and infrastructure.
Your Pen Test Results Provide a Roadmap for Maximizing System Security
Penetration tests will provide your organization with valuable information and insights about security gaps and their potential impact on your system. After the tests, your penetration tester will make recommendations for remediation and guide you in developing a reliable information security system as well as a roadmap to keep growing your cybersecurity plan as your business evolves in the future.
It’s always a good idea to regularly revisit your remediation plan to ensure that you’re on track and your cybersecurity system is still working for you.
Fewer Security Breaches Increase Consumer Confidence
We’ve already touched on the fact that your reputation rests upon the amount of trust that customers have in your organization.
Security attacks that compromise sensitive personal data also compromise your reputation and lose business for your company.
Once your organization decides to take a proactive approach to security via regular and rigorous pen tests, you ensure the safety of your customers’ precious personal data by making your business far more resistant to cyber-attacks.