What is VAPT and Why do you Need it

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.

Vulnerability Assessment:

Identity theft is one such threat that we all have to take seriously, and it’s a big part of any network administrator’s job description. Any network computer is potentially vulnerable and any network professional managing the corporate or commercial network needs to know the week points of the network, so that they can harden them.

We all know that networks are vulnerable, but we don’t know where and how, that’s where Vulnerability Assessments come in.

Vulnerability Assessment is a comprehensive check of physical weaknesses in computers, in networks as well as on the work practices and procedure. It identifies potential risks and threats and develops strategies for dealing with it. We have all seen the headlines of high profile hacks, involving the loss of sensitive or commercial data that is why security professionals need to look at network from the outside, see how the attackers see it, learn its strength, learn its weaknesses, and then plug the gaps.

Need for Vulnerability Management:

The Rising Danger of Cyber Attacks

Cyber threats are expanding in number and advancement, in the past 10 years the most reported cyber-attacks were malicious code, Trojans and advanced worms, botnets, DNS attacks and spam sites. But today the cyber criminals are challenging the world with new malwares such as bitcoin wallet stealers, ransomware, pos assaults, to give some examples.

Transformation in Information Security Requirements

The Data security requirements are changing at a lightning speed, as the Hackers are relentless and finding new techniques to penetrate a malware in the system. This makes the organizations to face complex challenges in the process of preparing for information security incidents.

Traditional Security Solutions are Ineffective for Long-term

Security solutions such as (intrusion detection systems, antivirus, encryption, prevention systems, patching, etc.) are still a key control for combatting today’s known attacks. As Intruders find new ways of avoiding such controls, the effectiveness of such solutions diminishes over time.

Gaps in Finding the Incidents

Organizations frequently do not have the capacity to identify data security occurrences because of essentially unavoidable gaps in detecting the incidents in their infrastructure.

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.