What is Penetration Testing and Why is it Important?

What is Penetration Testing and Why is it Important?

With the arsenal of tactics that hackers have today, we must fight back and protect our data with an arsenal of prevention tactics, including testing. Penetration testing is an important step towards safer applications and organizations. Penetration testing (A.K.A. pentesting, or security testing) is the process of testing your applications for vulnerabilities and put yourself in the hacker’s shoes. To do so, we start by answering a simple question: “What could a hacker do to harm my application, or organization, out in the real world?”

To ensure that a penetration test is effective, it must involve experts in all things IT. This includes a skilled hacker or a team of skilled hackers. Don’t worry though, it is the good kind of hackers, the ones that are on your team.

To start, we purposefully ensure that the hacker(s) don’t have access to any source code, and then try to gain access to your systems and applications. Penetration tests can be implemented IP address ranges, individual applications, or even as little information as a company name. The tests can vary depending on specific needs. The level of access you give an attacker depends on what you are trying to test. Here are some examples of penetration tests:

  • To test if an application is well secured, a penetration tester could be given access to a version of a web application you haven’t actually started using yet. They will then be told to try and gain access or cause damage by any means possible. The penetration tester will then employ a variety of different attacks against various parts of the application in an attempt to break in. If they succeed, then we will try another or implement security measures.
  • Hackers can even gain access by simply having your business address. The team of penetration testers will be given your company’s office address, and tell them to try and gain access to their systems. The team could employ a wide range of various techniques to try and break into the organization, ranging from social engineering to complex application specific attacks.  

The purpose of a penetration test is to identify key weaknesses in your systems and applications, to determine how to best allocate resources to improve the security of your application, or organization as a whole. This is the time to find weaknesses in your systems, rather than a bad hacker finding them. This is your chance to fully secure your organization. Nevada IT Solutions is here to help.

Why Are Penetration Tests Important?

  • It’s a great way to educate your employees and security personnel on real experience in dealing with an intrusion. A penetration test should be carried out without informing staff, like a fire drill, to allow an organization to test whether its security policies are truly effective and studied. This test should be taken just as seriously as a fire drill.
  • Penetration testing reports can be used to help train developers to make fewer mistakes. These tests highlight faults in the security systems, which is a very good thing. If developers can see how an outside attacker broke into an application or part of an application they helped develop, they will be more motivated to improve their security education and avoid making similar errors in the future.
  • They provide feedback on the most at risk routes into your company or application. Penetration testers think as a real world attacker would. They think outside of the box, and will try to get into your system by any means possible, just like the actual situation would play out. This could reveal lots of major vulnerabilities your security or development team never considered.
  • It can uncover aspects of security policy that are lacking. For example, many security policies give a lot of focus to preventing and detecting an attack on an organization’s systems but neglect the process of handling an actual attacker. You may uncover during a penetration test that whilst your organization detected attacks, the security personnel could not effectively remove the attacker from the system in an efficient way before they caused damage.

If your company has not carried out a penetration test, it is absolutely time to do so. Time is of the essence because hackers will carry out their attacks without warning. Are you prepared? Your first few penetration tests will probably deliver some shocking results, and highlight that your organization is much more vulnerable to attack than you ever predicted. Nevada IT Solutions is your partner in preventing future attacks through the use of penetration testing. Don’t be caught off guard. We will help you be prepared for anything.