Organizations that have successfully reduced their exposure to all manner of cyberthreats focus on three key areas:
This article provides an in-depth look at one of the key preventative measures used to reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack: penetration testing.
After the testers have exposed all potential weaknesses, their findings are delivered to IT staff who will drive the effort to close identified security gaps through measures that include –
In addition to intelligently managing the highest security priorities, periodic pen testing offers other benefits including:
The skill shortage in cybersecurity is well documented. It can take years to develop the knowledge organically. For that reason, many organizations are turning to third-party pen testing providers to ensure their IT environments are protected because:
1. Planning & Scope.
What are you testing against, and why? Identify the goals and limits of the test so both tester and client can be prepared and properly measure outcomes. Testing for every threat at once is not possible.
This information gathering stage is when testers attempt to learn as much as possible about the target system and its users without actually penetrating the environment and setting off alarms.
Armed with information about the target system and users, testers now attempt to find and breach security weaknesses and see how deep they can penetrate network resources.
This post-mortem stage documents the steps of the test, the identified weaknesses, attack path details including the tools used to defeat current defenses, the information that was compromised, and recommendations for remediation.
After testing is complete, testers should examine all penetrated systems and remove any evidence of their presence, as any artifacts or cookies inadvertently left behind could be leveraged by a real attacker in the future.
Make sure all the recommended remediations are working by periodically testing for new as well as the same vulnerabilities again. Cyberattack methods are constantly evolving, so it does not mean the pen test was a failure if new weaknesses are found.
1. Web Application Tests
Examine the overall security of web applications and attempt to uncover flaws such as coding errors, firewall vulnerabilities, broken links, and other potential bugs. Typically performed before a web application is live.
2. Network Security Tests
Focus on network defenses by searching for and exploiting vulnerabilities in different types of network operating systems, and through network devices like routers and switches, and hosts.
Testers look for things like weak passwords or misconfigured assets in order to gain access to other devices on the network, and even other networks.
3. Cloud Security Tests
The cloud is a new attack front, and many clients mistakenly assume their cloud service provider maintains the necessary protections. Cloud environments must be tested equally as on-premises resources.
Pen testers work with cloud providers to validate the security of a cloud deployment and its applications, and how it integrates with on-premises elements of IT infrastructure to ensure attackers cannot access critical systems through the cloud.
4. IoT Security Tests
IoT devices can be almost anything from a TV to a thermostat. While connected to the network and “smart”, IoT devices are not usually equipped with malware defenses, making each one a potential entry point for a cyberattack.
Pen testers analyze each IoT device and the interaction between them, looking to breach the network through unsecured devices with weak passwords, misconfigurations, or outdated firmware. Vulnerable devices can be identified and removed from the network.
5. Social Engineering Tests
These attacks target people to access technology through deception. Often called phishing, a target receives an email that looks like it came from a trusted source asking to share credentials or containing an attachment with malware.
Pen testers emulate phishing campaigns to identify susceptible employees. Further education and training can then be provided to recognize phishing scams and prevent users from inadvertently unleashing an attack on the network.
Rather than manually searching through endless lines of code probing for weaknesses, pen testers use tools like:
Penetration testing tools offer features such as: