Penetration testing can be described as a legal and authorized try to find and successfully exploit operating systems for the goal of making those systems more secure. The method includes probing for vulnerabilities as well as giving proof of concept attacks to demonstrate the vulnerabilities are real.
Proper penetration testing regularly ends with specific suggestions for addressing and fixing the security issues that were found during the test. On the whole, this method is used to help secure computers and networks against future attacks. The general idea is to discover security issues by using the same tools and techniques as an attacker. These findings can then be mitigated before a real hacker exploits them.
Penetration testing is also known as Pen testing, PT, Hacking, Ethical hacking, White hat hacking, Offensive security and Red teaming.
It is necessary to spend a few minutes discussing the difference between penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. Many people and vendors in the security community incorrectly use these terms mutually.
A vulnerability assessment is a process of evaluating services and systems for possible security issues, whereas a penetration test actually performs exploitation and Proof of Concept (PoC) attacks to verify that a security issue exists. Penetration tests go a step beyond vulnerability assessments by simulating hacker activity and delivering live payloads.
If the security of your business data is paramount, you undoubtedly already have numerous safety measures in place. However, have you put them to the test? Penetration testing is key to understanding how secure your network is, what your vulnerabilities are, and what your next steps should be. However, there are a few things you need to know about penetration testing, and which method is best for you.
Basic Penetration Audit
Often, many organizations only conduct a penetration test when they are required to in order to comply with laws or regulations. Typically, tests geared around proving compliance are surface level software tests that offer only a basic security audit. If you’re on a budget or pressed for time to submit proof of compliance, this may be the route for you. However, it’s important to recognize that this high-level testing does not offer the thorough analysis of a traditional penetration test, and your company may still be vulnerable, even if you pass on paper.
Professional Penetration Testing
To truly assess the state of your network security, a human touch is imperative. With professional penetration testing, a team will attack and exploit your defenses from a malicious mindset, attacking your company’s security in ways you may have never thought of. Think of skilled penetration testers as a mix of security experts, method actors, and the infamous skilled hackers turned CIA employees who are the inspiration for made for television movies.
Of course, paying for an Ocean’s 11 team to break past your security isn’t cheap. While a recent ZDNet article encourages companies to hire “the best attackers your money and research can get,” how do you know if you really need this level of modern penetration testing?
Modern Penetration Testing
If you’re unsure if you need an outside firm to conduct a professional penetration test and your internal attempts feel disorganized at best, your IT team may benefit from a tool such as Kvasir, which helps penetration testers assess the security levels of computer systems at a glance. This tool was developed by Cisco to aid their Cisco Systems Advanced Services Security Posture Assessment team to keep track of data collected by penetration tests. With this tool, you can easily make sense of the data collected in a penetration test, such as:
- Host vulnerability scans
- Account enumeration exploitation tests
- Password attempt tests
With the data neatly collected in one database, your IT team will finally be able to make sense of the findings of your internal penetration testing and better assess if an external modern penetration test is in order.