How Do I Know If I Need Penetration Testing?

The worst way to find vulnerabilities in your organization’s network is via a breach, with cyber-criminals utilizing these weak points to access your systems and potentially wreak havoc.

What’s the best way to find out you have vulnerabilities in your network? By having an “ethical hacker” or “white hat hacker” test your systems’ security and report back any vulnerabilities. By using a trained security professional to “attack” your system — also known as penetration testing — you can fix problems before a real threat actor takes advantage of them.

Penetration testing is a proactive cybersecurity method that can be used to discover network and security weaknesses through simulated cyberattacks, across networks, systems, mobile and web apps.

Who uses Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing can benefit all organizations, regardless of size. Despite what you might think, nearly 43% of cyberattacks are targeted at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) so it’s essential that everyone takes cybersecurity seriously, not just enterprise corporations.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is a general cybersecurity strategy that uses ethical cybersecurity professionals as well as state-of-the-art automated tools to launch controlled attacks against an organization’s networks and data, with the object of discovering vulnerabilities that can subsequently be patched or corrected. Penetration testing is a safe and controlled method for uncovering deeper, company-wide data security vulnerabilities that might get overlooked.

Once testers have completed their efforts, you will receive a detailed report that showing exactly which weakness or “holes” in your systems were uncovered, as well as the relative impact and risk of each of these vulnerabilities. The report also includes remediation recommendations that are based on the findings of the white hat hackers.

What is Penetration Testing NOT?

Penetration testing is often confused with Vulnerability Scanning. You can learn the difference here, but the key distinction is that Penetration Testing employs human professionals, while vulnerability scanning is machine-led.

Types of Penetration Testing

There is no standard penetration test and there are many types of penetration testing. It’s best to hire a professional who has an industry credential such as the Certified Ethical Hacker or Penetration Testing certification rather than relying on automation alone–real people drive the highest quality results.

Types of penetration testing include:

  • External network penetration testing: External penetration testing looks for exploitable vulnerabilities in your external-facing (i.e. directly accessible from the internet) perimeter assets such as servers, applications, or devices (i.e. firewalls, switches, or routers).
  • Internal network penetration testing: Internal penetration testing originates from inside your network where concerted efforts are made to gain access to key assets, confidential information, and sensitive data through lateral movement, privilege escalation, and other advanced techniques. 
  • Web application testing (WAPT): Web application penetration testing takes aim at uncovering app security holes in your APIs, authentication methods, permissions/access levels, forms, session handling, configuration, and more.
  • Mobile application penetration testing (MAPT): Mobile application penetration testing emulates an attack on mobile applications (e.g. iOS or Android) with the goal of identifying vulnerabilities in the server and application layers, ranging from authentication to system and network access. 

When does Penetration Testing matter?

With cyber incidents, timing is everything. If you can get ahead of an attack, it can make an enormous difference in your organization’s bottom line. While certain cyber-threats are out of your control to a degree, how you prepare for them is not. Penetration testing is an excellent way to determine if your organization has any vulnerabilities that can be addresses before bad actors get their hands on them. Penetration testing is also a key tool in helping your company maintain a strong cybersecurity posture, which is imperative if you are preparing to do business with larger corporations as they expect your security to be top notch. Lastly, “pen testing” can be helpful in staying compliant with government, industry, vendor, and customer security regulations and mandates.

How often should my organization run a Penetration Test?

Security experts recommend that you run a penetration test to check the security of your networks at least once a year. You should also do this after any major organizational or technical changes made to your network.

Why is Penetration Testing Important?

With even more and more of our day-to-day activities and business transactions happen online, Penetration Testing is an easy, proactive way to stay ahead of potential cyberattacks. By having white hat hackers expose weakness in your networks, you can locate and fix potential security weaknesses that are found under the surface before cybercriminals can exploit them – improving your overall cyber security posture.

Ready to take a proactive cybersecurity stance? Learn more about Penetration Testing here.

Resources & insights

What’s the Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing?
What’s the Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing?
In the 1990 comedy Home Alone, Kevin McCallister defends his home from burglars after his family accidentally leaves him behind on their way to a Christmas vacation.
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Mythbusting: Penetration Testing Requirements for GDPR, HIPAA, and Other Regulations 
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In today's digital landscape, organizations of all sizes are vulnerable to cyberattacks. However, small to mid-sized organizations often face unique challenges that can make them more susceptible to these threats. In this blog post, we will explore 8 reasons why your organization might be vulnerable to a cyberattack and what you can do about it.

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