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How penetration testing fits into your IT security strategy

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penetration testingIT security has become a top concern for all businesses. Any type of security breach can have wide reaching implications, including downtime, data loss and reputational damage.

Businesses are becoming increasingly proactive in trying to identify and resolve vulnerabilities in order to prevent an attack. This is where penetration testing can help.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing is the systematic process of probing for vulnerabilities in your applications and networks. In essence, it is a simulated cyber-attack whereby a penetration testing expert mimics the techniques used by hackers to identify security weaknesses that criminals could exploit. The information gleaned from these tests can then be used to make strategic decisions and prioritise remediation efforts.

The aim is to find and fix any vulnerabilities before criminals do. It has therefore become an important part of a business’ overall IT security strategy.

Practical examples of penetration testing

PCR recently helped 2 clients arrange penetration tests of their networks. Testing was carried out remotely, with no impact to business continuity. In fact, employees were not even aware tests were taking place. For both clients, we completed the tests in a few days and followed up with a detailed report. This identified potential vulnerabilities to websites and recommended improvements to remote access for better security against attacks. The tests also revealed that business data, including passwords, was available in various places for accounts that had been hacked in previous years.

Different types of penetration testing

There are several different types of penetration tests, each with a different angle and objective. It is therefore important for businesses to understand the differences. We address two of the most popular;

External penetration testing:

This is what people most commonly think of when they refer to penetration testing. It is undertaken remotely and targets the assets of a company that are visible externally on the internet. This includes the company website, email servers, domain name servers and firewalls. The objective is to find out if an outside attacker can get into your system and how far they can get in once they’ve gained access.

Internal penetration testing:

This mimics an inside attack behind the firewall by either a hacker that has gained access to the network or an authorized user with standard access privileges. The objective is to see whether they can elevate themselves to admin access. This kind of test is useful for estimating how much damage a disgruntled employee could cause. It also sheds light on if a remote worker’s device is compromised and whether a hacker could use this to gain full access to the company’s IT systems.

The above list is by no means exclusive. There are various penetration tests that can be performed based on your business needs and operations. These include web application tests, wireless network tests and phishing / social engineering tests.

Final Thoughts

As hackers become more skilled and sophisticated, businesses need to elevate their IT security to protect against these growing threats. Penetration testing is quickly becoming one of the most important tools that companies can use to defend themselves.

For more information on any of the above or to discuss which approach would suit your business best, please get in touch.


 

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