A network infrastructure is only as secure as its weakest link. To assess vulnerabilities across a complex network environment, sophisticated tools are required. A network penetration test is an important part of any comprehensive security assessment, as it’s one that can identify vulnerabilities such as application flaws, poorly configured devices and risky user behavior. From there, your IT team can take proactive steps to mitigate risk and improve its overall security posture.
How Does Penetration Testing Work?
Penetration testing is often confused with other types of network security assessments, such as vulnerability scanning or compliance auditing. What differentiates penetration testing from these services is that, rather than being purely theoretical, it actively tests your network to determine where weaknesses lie and what happens when they are exploited. As a result, a pen test can have far greater real world value than other forms of security assessment.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of penetration testing for businesses: external and internal. External penetration testing is the more traditional form, in which a malicious outside attack is simulated. This allows you determine the specific risks posed by your network configuration, such as an exposed server or a compromised database. Internal penetration testing, on the other hand, focuses on the potential for an insider attack. It helps assess the resilience of your systems as well as your ability to respond when a breach occurs.
Specific Technologies That Penetration Testing Targets
Whether an internal or external person performs penetration testing, the primary goal is to test for if your company meets the appropriate compliance requirements. Here are a few technologies that penetration tests look at specifically within your company technology setup:
- Network Technology: Network technologies include items like routers, firewalls and switches.
- Platform Technology: Platform technologies installed to work with your computers are your servers. If cybercriminals can get into the servers of your company, they can have access to many files or much smaller vulnerabilities that can lead them deeper into your network, giving them access to more.
- Application Technology: Application technologies are the web applications installed on your computers. Examples of applications include content management systems for a website, online banking portals, shopping carts, credit card portal systems and many more.
- Wireless Technology: Wireless technologies are tested because cybercriminals can attack your company through Wi-Fi connections. Examples of wireless technologies that could expose your business to an attack are devices with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi networks.
- Phishing Technology: Professionals will test this technology because cybercriminals can “phish” your staff by sending bad links through email, social media or their smartphones.
Types Of Penetration Testing And Vulnerability Assessments
Cybercriminals can attack your company’s network infrastructure in many different ways. To avoid attacks, you can invest in a vulnerability assessment and penetration tests. Vulnerability assessments are an evaluation to find weaknesses, whereas a penetration test uses methods similar to an attacker to prove the flaws are present. The difference between a penetration test and actual attack is that the penetration test shouldn’t interfere with business operations.
Below are different types of penetration tests that look for vulnerabilities criminals can take advantage of:
- Network Testing: Network penetration tests carry out a similar attack to what a cybercriminal would do to attack a network, it’s applications, devices and the website. It’s essential that hackers do not get access to a system since the network is a pathway to all of the business technology connected to it.
- Website Application Testing: Website application tests are used to find vulnerabilities in code behind software that your applications use.
- Wireless Testing: Wireless penetration testing discovers the strength of your wireless technology. It determines how difficult it would be for a hacker to get into your organization’s wireless network.
- Physical Testing: Physical penetration tests investigate how easy it would be for a hacker to physically enter your company building and steal data. The analysis looks at fences, door locks, alarms, access to a server room and more.
- Social Engineering Testing: Social engineering pen tests conclude how employees adhere to security policies defined by the company. An example of social engineering is phishing, where an attacker that sends a short email with a link to an employee or text. This pen test will see how the employee reacts to a suspicious email or other social engineering acts.
- Cloud Testing: Many applications are cloud-based for companies to use, whether the request is for data storage or services. Cloud pen tests determine vulnerabilities in a cloud application and the virtual environment in which the cloud application exists.
What Are the Benefits of Penetration Testing?
Both types of penetration testing solutions are designed to identify the combination of hardware, software and procedural weaknesses that put your sensitive data at risk. As a result, they allow you to:
- Stay compliant with industry regulations, such as SEC, PCI-DSS, FISMA and other standards. This reduces the risk of fines, reputational damage and loss of consumer confidence that comes with non-compliance.
- Take proactive steps to manage risk in a cost-effective manner, whether it’s by increasing employee training, closing security loopholes or upgrading existing hardware.
- Avoid unanticipated downtime and streamline the recovery process when your security is compromised. With the average cost of a data breach rising across all industries, penetration testing is an investment in the future of your business.
- Give your in-house IT team tools to work more effectively. The insights gained through penetration testing can reduce your staffing requirements, saving you money and freeing up key team members to work on longer term projects.
Who Needs Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing can benefit any business, whether they have an in-house IT team or not. Rather than being a one-size-fits-all solution, penetration testing services are customized to the specifics of your network and your industry. As such, it can be as extensive or as focused as it needs to be.
Any business that handles sensitive information — whether it’s credit card transactions, health records, intellectual property or anything else that is covered by privacy regulations — can benefit from regular pen testing. While pen testing should be part of your routine IT security maintenance protocol, there are certain situations in which an increased awareness of internal and external risks is required. These include:
- Following upgrades or modifications to your security infrastructure.
- During periods of growth when new workstations or locations are added.
- After new internal policies (such as, for example, wireless BYOD policies) are adopted.
If any of the above criteria apply to you or if you’re at all worried about the safety of your critical data, contact Vigilant Compliance today. We’re a penetration testing provider specializing in comprehensive network and wireless penetration testing solutions for businesses of all sizes. Let our experts develop a comprehensive, multi-vector plan that exposes the weaknesses that can potentially cost you money.
To get started, contact our office and speak with one of our network security experts today.