Hacking and data breach is now part of daily news. It is understandable because people and businesses are more reliant on the internet these days. They transact, shop, and do banking through mobile applications. For these activities to be possible, people share very important information about them to the companies in charge.
These pieces of information are stored in a cloud or a server and they are exposed to the possibility of being stolen. That is a terrifying thought.
That is the reason why companies must invest in building secure websites. However, there is another way to secure your website from hackers and data breaches; it is called penetration testing or pen testing.
What is penetration testing?
Simply put, penetration testing is an authorized attack on a particular system or network. Companies hire auditors or system analysts to try and hack their system or network to identify vulnerabilities and correct them. There is no harm done in information stored by the target systems, the whole point for this activity is to simply evaluate the security of the system to find the strengths and weaknesses, and find space for improvement.
The penetration test targets can also be categorized into three, depending on the information provided to the auditors about the system that they have to audit.
#1 Black Box: If there is no information given other than the name of the target or the company.
#2 White Box: When the company provides information regarding the system and additional pertaining details.
#3 Gray box: When there are other information shared other than the company name, but the information is limited.
5 Stages of PenTest
In this stage, the analysts find the pertinent information on their target system which they can use to find a better way of attacking the target’s network.
After reconnaissance, Nmap is used to scan the target’s network to gain a better understanding and more information regarding the target.
- Gaining access
After obtaining the information necessary, it is now time to send a payload like Metasploit to take advantage of the known vulnerabilities of the target network.
- Maintaining access
This is when steps must be done to make sure that after gaining access, you are still inside the system to get more information.
- Covering tracks
Like any professional hacker, they take measures to cover their tracks while doing their activity and you remain anonymous and undetected.
What are the pros of penetration testing?
#1 Identify the network’s vulnerabilities.
Businesses, big or small, are equally exposed to cyber threats that can be the cause of their demise. Penetration testing can help eliminate these threats by identifying the vulnerabilities. Vulnerability assessment in penetration tests also factors in human error.
Although hackers usually attack network systems through SQL injections and other forms of attack, they can also enter a system through human error. For example, a phishing email can trick a user to enter important information to a mock website. This information may then be used by the hacker to gain access to the website.
Report gives specific advice.
The whole point of pen testing is to find room for improvement in the security of the network. In the final stages of the penetration test, the report on the risks and specific advice on how to resolve the risks found are addressed. Risks are also categorized into low, medium and, high. It will also include how the potential damage can affect the organization and how the company can lessen the damage.
What are the cons of pen testing?
A) Can cause damage.
Penetration tests are supposed to be done like how an adversary threat would when trying to access the network. What they are not supposed to do is crash the network, or worse, cause a data breach in the process. If the hired auditors or network analyst execute an ill-planned pen test, they can do both and cause irreparable damage to the network and the company.
B) Must trust your auditor.
Because pen tests require a company to show their weakness to the auditor, the auditor itself must be trustworthy. An untrustworthy auditor can be a bigger problem than an actual vulnerability in your system. It can also be the cause of your business’ fall.
C) Should have a realistic condition to get real results.
Just like when a student has to take an exam, the student must study and work harder to pass; when employees know that you will conduct pen test, they may become extra alert. This must not be the case. No one alerts you when your network gets hacked, so the same must be the case when a penetration test in done to get a real result.
According to the Verizon Data Breach Report in 2018, data breach is more common for small businesses even though they are not often reported by the media. So, whether your business is small or big cybersecurity must be your priority.