Exercise strengthens every aspect of our lives, whether it’s physically, mentally, or creatively. Our approach to cybersecurity should be no different.
More than $600 billion is lost to cyberattacks every year. Whether they know it or not, all businesses have digital weaknesses, and the only way to identify many deeply rooted vulnerabilities, other than an actual cyberattack, is to conduct a security assessment.
Data breach prevention tests take many forms. But below, we’ll break down the most important one: penetration testing.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Data breaches, malware, SQL injections, phishing, and other forms of digital crime are rising. Typically, internal security assessments test only for specific vulnerabilities, such as code integrity or cloud storage security. However, penetration tests are more expansive, discovering security weaknesses across the entire digital infrastructure.
In essence, penetration testing is a vulnerability assessment that simulates a real world attack. That’s right: We recommend that businesses invest in hacking themselves.
Penetration tests are a popular form of ethical hacking because they thoroughly analyze networks, IP addresses, mobile apps, servers, cloud storage services, and other potential points of entry through the lens of someone looking to commit real harm.
Here’s how it works: A team of faux attackers, known as a “Red Team,” seeks out vulnerabilities, just as any dedicated cyberattacker would. This idea might cause uneasiness. It is odd to think someone will know all of your business’s weaknesses. To assuage these fears, the third-party hackers sign legal documents stating exactly what the tests will include and guarantee they won’t hold onto any compromising information.
Once the test is complete, the assessors share their insights, and the business can create a plan of action to patch its security risks.
Different Types of Penetration Testing
Businesses constantly incorporate new forms of technology to improve their operations. These include mobile apps, cloud data services, and Internet of Things devices, all storing vital information, including medical and financial details. Often, businesses use hundreds of application programming interfaces (APIs), network tools, and devices to organize their systems and handle internal and external operations.
Due to this complexity, penetration testing takes multiple forms. Some tests are thorough; others are more specialized.
Black-box testing is the most complicated and lengthy penetration-testing method, but it’s also the most worthwhile.
Here, the penetration tester, or “pen tester,” scours a company’s entire digital attack surface from the outside in. Attack surface is shorthand for all possible avenues a real attacker could use to exploit your systems.
The testers start off completely blind to the business’s security measures and protocols, with no credentials, no road map, and no information concerning the digital footprint. Because of this, the process requires serious digging as they work to enter and exploit areas considered to be secure.
Ultimately, black-box testing is the most true-to-life way to understand your weaknesses. However, given its comprehensive nature, it can take months to complete the test, depending on the size of the attack surface. It’s also the most expensive, as it can’t be fully automated, and it should be done by an independent party without pre-existing knowledge of the business’s network.
Despite its costly and time-consuming nature, black-box testing is absolutely necessary to protect critical networks, mobile apps, APIs, and other key systems and data warehouses. Yes, it’s a long process, but it’s also the most powerful way to understand your weaknesses and reach a firm sense of digital security.
White-box testing, while similar in principle, is the opposite of black-box testing. Here, the pen tester receives full or specific documentation of the environment, meaning they have a guide to use to spot weaknesses. They also receive certain credentials to access things like source code and guidance on where to look within the digital architecture.
The purpose of white-box testing is to narrow the scope of research down to a few prized assets, which could include:
- Cloud storage centers
- Coding repositories
- Mobile app deployments
- Conditional loop functionality
White-box testing has appeal because it’s cheaper and takes less time to complete.
Finally, there’s gray-box testing, which combines the black and white methodologies. Here, the pen tester receives partial insight into the company’s security infrastructure. For example, a gray-box test may provide white-hat hackers with certain log-in credentials and have them run tests to simulate a scenario in which threat actors get a hold of them.
Gray-box testing is useful because it helps businesses theorize potential real-life outcomes for specific scenarios while reducing the cost and time consumption of black-box system penetration testing.
Benefits of Penetration Testing
Depending on the depth and complexity, pen testing may cost anywhere from $500 to $50,000. Especially for black-box tests, pen testing comes with a hefty price tag. But it’s often worth the cost, and we’ll show you why.
1. Security Posture Improvement
Realistic threat simulation is often the only way to discover deeply rooted vulnerabilities. Through these tests, you get actionable recommendations that are more than just speculative. After completing an assessment, the business can immediately devise a plan to tweak its security controls, practices, and habits to secure the areas with the greatest risk.
2. Avoiding Financial Damages and Preventing Downtime
Penetration-testing costs are steep. But they pale in comparison to the average cost of a data breach, which in 2022 was $4.35 million.
While penetration tests don’t guarantee attack prevention, they are the most holistic way to threat-test your existing network from every angle. This helps you avoid the potential cost of a ransomware attack and the lost revenue resulting from downtime or system failure.
3. Protecting Partnerships
A reputation for poor security is a surefire way to lose existing partnerships and spoil potential ones. Also, studies show that the costliest data breaches come via third-party hacking, in which hackers enter through the less secure networks of business partners, vendors, and suppliers.
Penetration tests evaluate businesses’ links to partners, helping avoid these types of hacks and creating a more secure partnership.
4. Preserving and Enhancing the Company’s Reputation
A single data breach can completely tarnish a company’s reputation. Remember the 2017 Equifax data breach? This breach left the credit reporting agency reeling for years. Now, the brand may be forever associated with a devastating security lapse, and don’t forget the $495 million settlement.
Penetration-testing services help secure your reputation, showing customers and potential clients that your business actually follows best practices and is willing to invest in securing sensitive data.
5. Regulatory Compliance
At this point, a handful of regulatory measures dictate that companies within specific industries must carry out penetration tests. These regulations include:
- HIPAA Evaluation Standard § 164.308(a)(8)
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
- AICPA-developed SOC 2
- FINRA’s Securities Exchange Act (17 CFR § 240.17a-4(f))
As cyber threats increase, businesses should expect more penetration-testing mandates. To avoid infractions, a proactive approach ensures your business stays on the right side of these regulations and avoids noncompliance fines.
Invest in the Best Penetration-Testing Services
As cybercrime skyrockets and threats evolve, businesses can’t afford to put off penetration tests. Ideally, businesses should run these tests whenever they incorporate significant new infrastructure or make major changes to their environment.
However, finding a trusted, affordable penetration-testing service is challenging, and internal penetration testing is not ideal. This is why you should consider ISOutsource’s penetration-testing services for your next security exercise.
Our services are some of the most comprehensive and affordable on the market, offering continuous insights into how you can secure your most pertinent digital vulnerabilities. Visit our product page today and learn about how our penetration testing can help you avoid downtime, gain control over your vulnerabilities, and prevent the dreadful fallout of data breaches.