To protect your company’s valuable and sensitive data, the best offense is a good defense — a solid cybersecurity strategy that not only keeps data safe but identifies areas of weakness and vulnerability before the bad guys do. This is why penetration testing needs to be part of your cybersecurity strategy. Penetration testing, or “pen testing,” is a simulated cyber attack on your company’s security controls.
Cybersecurity Threats Are Increasing
If it seems like cyber attacks are on the rise, it’s because they are. And with each successful breach, hackers not only get more sophisticated but staying ahead of them gets more challenging. The average cost of a cybersecurity attack in 2018 was $3.86 million, and it’s not just a problem for the Fortune 500 companies that end up on the news. The number of attacks is on the increase for mid-sized businesses as well, partly because they’re seen as easier targets.
Since May 2 is World Password Day, it’s a perfect occasion to talk about cybersecurity and your plan to defend your sensitive data against cyberattack.
The Keys to a Strong Cybersecurity Strategy
The best cybersecurity strategies approach the issue from a number of different angles, including:
- Strong policies on employee password requirements and other access and usage restrictions.
- Employee training to help identify phishing and other cyber attacks.
- The right mix of technology and tools for the organization.
- A security framework that aligns to a certifiable standard, such as HIPAA, ISO 27001 or the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.
- Business continuity and disaster recovery protocols.
All of these steps combine to build a fort around your company’s data. But the best way to test a lock is to try and break it — and hackers will gladly accept that challenge. That’s why penetration testing also needs to be a part of your cybersecurity strategy.
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Penetration Testing: A Real-World Strategy Check
Because it happens in a controlled environment, pen testing a great way to figure out your security holes before someone else does. The simulated attack is conducted without advance warning by a team of expert (yet ethical) hackers and is used to identify loopholes and other areas of vulnerability in your company’s security framework.
Pen testing can include a variety of services, such as vulnerability scanning and testing on internal and external and physical penetration, web apps, social engineering, and threat intelligence reporting. (See the full list here.)
In addition, some certifications require pen testing as part of maintaining compliance, including:
- ISO 27001 + ISO 27002
- PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
- FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act
- NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
How Does a Penetration Test Work?
A pen test begins by determining the goals for the staged attack, including which systems to test and how. Then intelligence gathering begins, such as the company’s mail server and domain names. The targeted apps are scanned to see how the code works — and how it will respond to an intrusion attempt.
Once the recon is complete, the goal is to gain access and maintain it for as long as possible in order to see how much damage could potentially be done. From there, a report analyzes all of the information that was accessed, specific vulnerabilities, and strategies for strengthening them.
The results can not only help you fix any issues but assure clients that you’re taking a proactive approach to protecting your business — and their data. We recommend pen testing at least once a year, as well as any time a major change is made to your company’s network or systems. Let us help you find and remediate issues before it’s too late.