Cybercriminals are collaborating, attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and phishing campaigns are targeting everyone from CEOs, the board of directors, and other executive leaders. Many companies are unaware of the cyber threats that their organization faces, resulting in being caught off guard when a security incident occurs.
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is one of the best security practices that you can take.
This article is provided to help you understand what penetration testing is and why it is a necessity for your organization.
What Is A Penetration Test?
Penetration testing is a type of security testing that identifies vulnerabilities, threats, and risks in networks, systems, and applications. While vulnerability scanning attempts to identify known vulnerabilities, penetration tests are intended to exploit the weaknesses to gain full situational awareness when it comes to cybersecurity including organizational risk, threats, vulnerabilities, and potential business impact.
Why Do I Need A Penetration Test?
Penetration testing can evaluate your security controls and provide you with recommendations to enhance your overall security posture. Penetration testing can include real-world security tests using advanced hacking methods to help you identify your weaknesses and improve your security posture. Advanced penetration tests can also simulate attacks on your network using similar techniques as malicious attackers to see if you can identify active attacks!
Penetration Testing Is Required for Regulatory & Compliance Standards
Penetration testing is required for regulatory and compliance standards. These include Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), HITRUST, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and many others.
Penetration testers should be familiar with a variety of security frameworks including Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), PTES, Information Systems Security Assessment Framework (ISSAF), Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM), etc.
Should I Just Focus On A Good Defense Strategy?
Have you ever heard of the saying “The best defense is a good offense”? Looking at your organization’s security though an offensive perspective can improve its defenses and its overall secure posture. Running antivirus software, having firewalls, and hoping that your business is secure is not enough. You need to uncover and fix vulnerabilities before the cybercriminals exploit them.
Why You Need Independent Security Testing
Organizations benefit from independent security testing. Not every business has their own internal team of security professionals, and even those that do, could benefit from a fresh set of eyes. Routine penetration tests can help identify your vulnerabilities, help determine the exploitability of vulnerabilities, help gauge the potential impact of vulnerabilities, help access organization risk, help prioritize your remediation efforts, help you meet regulatory and compliance standards, help you explain security concerns to technical engineers and application developers, and help you justify security-related initiatives to executive leadership.
How Often Do I Need Security Testing?
There is no magic number that fits every organization. Routine penetration testing should be performed to identify potential security vulnerabilities. Annual penetration tests are not enough. Monthly or quarterly penetration tests, along with weekly or monthly vulnerability scanning are much more effective at improving your overall security posture. Penetration testing should also be performed after network changes, application updates, and when new systems are brought onto the network.
Automated Vulnerability Scanning vs Manual Penetration Testing
While vulnerability scanning may be included in the initial phase of vulnerability identification, manual analysis and manual testing is a must. Vulnerability scanners alone can often miss vulnerabilities, report false positives, or not give accurate risk ratings. Manual penetration testing includes additional techniques to identify vulnerabilities along with human analysis to gauge the true severity, potential impact, and organizational risk.
Running a vulnerability scan and saying you may be vulnerable is completely different than actually exploiting vulnerabilities. If you hire a firm that relies on automatic vulnerabilities scanners, critical vulnerabilities could be missed. Central InfoSec team members have published custom tools to track manually found findings that scanners miss.
Should You Completely Avoid Automated Vulnerability Scanning?
Absolutely not! While automated security testing cannot replace manual penetration testing, there are some benefits to automated scanning. Automated scanning offers advantages such as speed and wider coverage. However, penetration testing cannot be completed with automated vulnerability scanning alone. Vulnerably scans often include a high rate of false positive findings which need manual validation. Automated scanning tools will not identify all vulnerabilities and cannot chain multiple vulnerabilities together to form complex attacks.
Areas That Should Receive Penetration Testing
The following areas at a minimum should receive routine penetration testing:
- External Network Penetration Testing
- Internal Network Penetration Testing
- Web Application Penetration Testing
- Mobile Application Penetration Testing
- Physical Penetration Testing
- Wireless Penetration Testing
- Social Engineering Penetration Testing
- Cloud Penetration Testing
Penetration Testing Reporting
Every penetration tester should be trained to provide detailed documentation of their findings. Reports should include an attack narrative, detailed findings, risk ratings, and remediation details to prevent future attacks against the organization. Organizations should be able to leverage the penetration testing report to make decisions, implement security controls, and remediate vulnerabilities.
Who Is Actually Performing Your Testing?
Ask questions about who is actually performing the testing. Stay clear of companies that can’t answer simple questions. Some questions you can ask include:
- Who will be performing the testing?
- How many years of experience does the tester have performing web application penetration testing?
- Does the tester have relevant professional security certifications and credentials?
- Has the tester created professional web application testing tools and plugins?
- Is the tester a fulltime employee or a contractor?
- Is this the first security role or first penetration testing role that the tester has ever been in?
Ensure the Security Professionals Have Relevant Certifications
Depending on the type of work being performed, security professionals should have relevant certifications including:
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
- Offensive Security Wireless Professional (OSWP)
- EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH)
- GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN)
- GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst (GMOB)
- CompTIA Network Vulnerability Assessment Professional (CNVP)
- CompTIA PenTest+
Professional Security Services Offered by Central InfoSec
Central InfoSec offers a variety of professional security services including:
- Red Teaming
- Attack simulation to test, measure, and improve your detection and response
- Penetration Testing
- Real-world security tests using advanced hacking methods to identify your weaknesses
- Vulnerability Assessments
- Identification of potential vulnerabilities in your network and applications
- Application & API Testing
- Testing of security controls and products to identify your gaps and weaknesses
- vCISO Services
- Virtual CISO (vCISO) services allowing immediate access to strategic security guidance
- Cyber Risk Management
- Cyber solutions to help address security threats and to help you reach your security initiatives
- Phishing Assessment
- Effective security awareness training through social engineering and phishing emails
- Managed Phishing
- Routine phishing campaigns to track and measure the security awareness of your employees
- Password Audit
- Detection of weak passwords to help you improve your password policies
- C2 & Pivot Testing
- Command and control (C2) communications, pivoting, and data exfiltration testing
- Purple Team Tabletop
- Targeted training exercises to measure people, processes, and technologies
- Security Training
- Fully customizable cyber security training and employee awareness support
Free Consultation with Central InfoSec
Central InfoSec specializes in a variety of professional security services to help you test, measure, and improve your overall security posture. Security services offered include red teaming, penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, web application testing, managed phishing, and other tailored security services to help you reduce risk to your organization.