The Need for Penetration Testing

Mounika Raghavarapu   

In the wake of digitizing business processes and operations, organizations often undervalue the newer risks technology advancements bring in with them. Tough cybersecurity should always be a top priority, as maintaining best in class operation security levels are always challenging in the emerging threat landscape.. No system is guaranteed to be secure forever, and it needs to be constantly evaluated and assessed for risks, therefore IT leaders must constantly prevent, detect, respond and recover attacks. 

 In our previous blogs, we have discussed about the need for vulnerability assessment (Read our Blog). Here we will focus on understanding the need for a security assessment to prevent your organization from incidents to happen. When we talk about security assessment, Penetration Testing is an essential part to analyse the present state of the organization's cybersecurity controls and to identify the vulnerabilities and risks within the organization’s security landscape. 


 What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing is a form of security assessment, it is also called as PEN Testing, performed to find out the vulnerabilities of a network, system or an application, which probably an attacker could exploit. This is also referred to as a kind of ethical hacking, and these type of hackers are referred to as ‘white hat’ hackers. Here the ‘white hat’ hackers will mimic the real behaviour of a cyber-criminal, so as to discover the critical security loopholes and cracks, they also provide the solution to fix these issues. 

The scope of penetration testing will be dependent on organizations requirements. It can either be a basic single web application penetration test or a full-scale penetration test on the organization's entire network and applications. This type of testing is effective in evaluating the faulty configuration and risky end-user behaviour and to validate the efficiency of the defensive mechanisms which are already in place to face the attacks. 

 The following are the reasons why organizations must conduct a Penetration Test:

Discover the hidden Vulnerabilities before the hackers exploit them

Penetration Testing proactively checks the entire application or system in such a way to exactly figure out where the vulnerability may occur or addresses the weaknesses and alerts security professionals on where the existing security policies are compromised. Security issues cannot be resolved until the issue is traced at the exact point. Penetration testing is something beyond identifying the security gaps rather itactually intrudes the system as a real-world hacker so as to check how an intruder will access data. It actually brings out the efficacy of the security protection or policies and clearly reveals the loopholes from where a cyber-criminal can intrude the system. 

To Maintain Compliance Requirements (PCI, HIPAA and CJIS)

For most of the organizations, it is mandatory to be PCI, HIPAA, or CJIS compliant, for this, it is very important to perform penetration testing on a regular basis, atleast once every year or after performing any prominent alterations in the network infrastructure. For this, both the application layers and network layers have to be tested, for compliance requirement, Vulnerability testing is also performed as an add-on to fully secure your enviroment

However, for a full compliance audit, just doing a penetration testing will not suffice, as it only addresses the risks that are prone from the outside but it will not expose the internal risks within the organization which are equally important when thinking about compliance. Vulnerability testing will help the organization in identifying internal risks. Under compliance guidelines, both penetration testing and Vulnerability assessments are performed to get a holistic and 360-degree view of all the potential risks in the organization’s network. 

Evaluate the Effectiveness of the IT staff in terms of Risk Monitoring and Response 

Though security is a topmost priority for most of the organizations, only a few companies actually do an assessment to check their ability to monitor, discover and recover from a security threat or breach. Pen testing is an opportunity for organizations to understand how capable their IT staff is in responding to a real security incident. 

Following are the few questions that will be answered after an effective pen testing

· Were the IT staff efficient enough in detecting malicious activity?

· Were they able to control the threat by taking the necessary steps?

· Were the existing communication protocols are used to send alerts to all the employees about the attack?

· Did all the employees respond immediately and follow the instructions of the IT staff?

 Preserve Company’s Image and Customer Loyalty

It is known that Security attacks are prone to compromise sensitive information residing with an organization, which leads to damage the image of an organization as well as to the loss of customer trust and loyalty. Penetration testing can help you avoid costly security breaches that put your organization’s reputation and customers’ loyalty at stake.

Overall, only penetration testing can make a realistic assessment of your company’s “health” and its resistance to cyber-attacks. A pen test can showcase how successful or unsuccessful a malicious attack on your company’s IT infrastructure can be.

Validate Your Existing Security Tools Every company has their own set of cybersecurity tools––like encryption codes, anti-virus software, and vulnerability scanning––but how sure are you that these tools will be able to protect you in a live attack?

Penetration testing allows your organization to think beyond the normal with the help of Pen testers who navigate their way through even the toughest of defence set up using a base of open-source methodologies. Pen testing allows you to do defense-in-depth; this also includes exploiting the vulnerabilities identified during Perimeter Testing, Database Penetration Testing, Log-Management Penetration Testing, Cloud Penetration Assessment, Network Security Assessment, Wireless/ RAS Assessment, Telephony Security Assessment, File Integrity Checking, and other assessments.

Apart from the above-discussed reasons, Pen testing is essential in convincing the management in investing in additional security measures. Usually, in most of the organizations, IT staff are aware of the security weaknesses, but they cannot many times actually demonstrate where the vulnerability exists and often cannot convince the management for change. Management cannot assess the potential risk of not topping up their resources. A Pen testing is an eye-opener for the organizations to understand the value that they have to pay over a successful security breach. This testing gives a clear insight of the organization security structure from an outsider view and signifies the need to uncover the loopholes in the existing security artefact.