Penetration Testing Process,
Why Every Organization Can Benefit from Penetration Testing
December 7, 2022 • Jacob Nix
Every day, we access sensitive pieces of information, from personally identifiable information, including social security numbers and medical records, to trade secrets and corporate correspondences - and we’re all trying to protect it. Or, we should be.
Penetration testing, more casually referred to as “pen testing” is one of the best tools in a security arsenal to guarantee just that. Here’s how.
What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration Testing is a security exercise that is a simulation of a real-world hack. Malicious hacks attempting to penetrate systems and exploit vulnerabilities are conducted by what we call “black hats.” On the contrary, “white hats”, such as RISCPoint and other security and compliance firms, attempt to hack into an organization as a means to test its security awareness, monitoring and prevention measures.
How does a Penetration Test work?
Penetration Testing is conducted using three approaches: black box, gray box, and white box penetration testing.
Black box penetration testing assumes and knows nothing about you or your organization. These tests are done to simulate someone from outside the company coming in with zero context.
White box penetration testing, as the name would suggest, is the complete opposite. They’re the insider threat of the bunch, simulating an actor who knows everything about your organization.
Gray box penetration testing, like Goldilocks, is somewhere in the middle.
In addition to the three approaches, there are also different types of penetration testing that each caters to a different facet of an organization’s security. They ultimately boil down to key categories: technical and social.
Technical penetration testing is, as the name implies, technical. This type of testing includes:
- Network service testing
- Network service penetration tests focus on the strength of a network’s security - internally and externally. Externally, the network is tested to determine if it can be breached by an outside actor. Internally, the network is surveyed to examine how much data and information someone with credentials to the system has access to.
- Web application testing
- This type of testing is the most relevant to organizations. After all, anything you or an employee logs into is an application. Can the application be broken into? What data is available to a malicious actor when that occurs?
- Mobile application testing
- Similar to web, mobile app penetration tests the strength of an application’s security. That being said, mobile devices store different information than a personal or work computer, and therefore have access to different data.
- Application programming interface (API) testing
- API Testing tests the strength of the API itself. Can we intercept the API, and what do we have access to if we’re successful?
Social types of penetration testing, meanwhile are solely focused on exploiting human elements, also known as social engineering. Most commonly, this occurs in the form of phishing emails or vishing - aka the scam phone calls likely plaguing your inbox. However, physical penetration tests are also important, especially considering they’re often an afterthought. These tests examine physical vulnerabilities in your organization’s security. Is your server room secure, or are employees printing out and throwing away confidential documents? If so, your security could be at risk.
Who should use Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing can be either compliance or non-compliance based.
- Compliance-based testing occurs within certain industries, and some regulatory standards do require a penetration test. Most notably, DCI, FISMA, FedRAMP, and any organization offering federal services. Why? Because while compliance means aligning yourself to a standard and framework and meeting it - it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re secure.
- Non-compliance based penetration testing simply means you’re very security conscious, which is the most relevant scenario for an organization. In today’s climate, consumers expect a mature security framework, and it’s crucial for companies to meet that demand.
How can organizations benefit from Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is a real-world simulation, not a theoretical exercise. It allows you to test your defenses - technical and human - and determine how good they are. In the event they aren’t and security remediation is needed, all threats, real or potential, will be identified.
It’s important to remember that a vulnerability assessment and a penetration test are not one in the same. While a vulnerability scan is part of a penetration test, it doesn’t include the level of detail necessary to rectify any weaknesses. At RISCPoint, we offer custom penetration tests tailored to each individual client, designed around what you need, with an action plan on how to resolve it. Organizations aren’t one-size-fits-all, your approach to security and compliance shouldn’t be, either.
Have more questions about penetration testing, or how we can mature your organization’s security framework? Get in touch with us below.
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