With the rise of cyber attacks, every organization knows that cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more malicious. They also have more resources at their disposal and can better hide their traces and evade detection. Therefore, having anti-virus software or a firewall is no longer enough for your business data security. Modern businesses require advanced approaches to cybersecurity and one of the effective solutions that play a major role in reinforcing system security is Pentesting or Penetration testing.
A pen test should not be confused with a vulnerability assessment, which evaluates the potential application vulnerabilities of an IT system and provides suggestions to prevent these risks. Rather than assessing the weak spots, a penetration test is a simulation of a real-world cyberattack to see how your system copes during an actual cyberattack. Therefore, organizations often hire ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers, to test their system's resistance to cybersecurity threats and develop highly effective defense mechanisms and strategies.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybercrime cost is expected to grow by 15 percent per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
Therefore, to mitigate the risk of any data security incident and avoid the cost of a cyber attack, it’s critical to strategize a plan in order to protect your organizational data and reputation.
In this article, we’ll discuss pentesting, when it is required and why it is crucial for any internet-based software application.
What is Penetration Testing?
Pentesting is an exercise to simulate a cyber attack against an organization’s IT infrastructure. It aims to identify vulnerabilities in the system and strategize ways to circumvent data security breaches. Early detection of threats allows organizations to remediate any gaps, thus preventing damages that could affect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of data.
In this process, an organization employs a team of ethical hackers to uncover any security loopholes within the system. These tests are conducted under strict rules mutually agreed upon by both parties to maintain the data security measures. The purpose of pentesting is to assess current security implementations and identify the vulnerabilities with the planned attack set.
Additionally, it helps organizations increase employee awareness of data security protocols, evaluate the effectiveness of their incident response plans, assess the organization’s existing software security practices, and ensure the continuity of their operations.
Types of Pentesting
There are generally three types of pentesting—
Black box penetration testing
White box penetration testing
Grey box penetration testing
Black Box Penetration Testing
In this application security testing, the tester acts as an actual hacker with no knowledge of the framework that the application is developed on. Black box penetration testing (also referred to as trial & error testing or external testing) is executed from the outside in, where testers must orchestrate a data breach into the system on their own. It detects a wide range of vulnerabilities, including SQL injections and others listed in OWASP's Top 10. Leveraging this approach, internet-based applications can be accurately assessed based on the viewpoint of hackers and recommended to be performed often on production systems. There are several standard black box testing techniques, including test scaffolding, fuzzing, syntax testing, monitoring program behavior, etc.
White Box Penetration Testing
In this application security testing, the tester has complete access to the underlying network, design, source code, and so on. Reasonably so, it is also referred to as clear box testing or internal testing. White box penetration testing is executed from the inside out and examines the system to find vulnerabilities, gaps, and misconfigurations. This type of pentesting is more comprehensive and helps assess the quality of code and application design. Additionally, the time and cost are relatively less since testers have full access to information. There are several standard white box testing techniques, including path testing, decision coverage, statement coverage, etc.
Grey Box Penetration Testing
In this application security testing, the tester is provided with limited access to the organization’s internal network. It only requires user-level knowledge (such as functional specifications and design documents) with no access to source code or any other sensitive information related to the application or infrastructure. It enhances overall product quality by merging input from developers and testers. This type of security breach can be considered as a result of an external hacker gaining unauthorized access to an organization's network. There are several standard gray box testing techniques, including regression testing, matrix testing, pattern testing, and orthogonal array testing.
READ MORE: What is DAST and SAST & how do they differ?
When is it Required?
As every organization is different, so are its penetration testing requirements. Ideally, a pen test is required right after the deployment of new infrastructure and software as well as after any post-critical changes to infrastructure or software (e.g. patches and upgrades to software, modifications in firewall rules, and so on). However, most organizations do not adhere to this practice in order to quickly get their ROI and end up pushing new services live without carrying out the necessary security assessments. This ultimately exposes them to unnecessary risk and a potential infiltration attack.
There are other scenarios as well, where a pen test is required, for instance —-
Yearly health check-up
The penetration test is not a one-time task rather it should be conducted on at least a yearly basis. It ensures that the relevant security patches have been applied to your IT systems and software, any new application has been integrated safely and isn’t vulnerable to attack, and your employees are following data security protocols. They act as a technical audit of your infrastructure.
Any drastic shift in the workplace environment
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed how workplace changes make organizations more vulnerable to cyberattacks. With the shift to remote and hybrid work, cyber criminals attempt to exploit data security vulnerabilities to steal sensitive information and disrupt operations.
Therefore, it is imperative to conduct rigorous penetration testing whenever there is a change in the physical or digital world to prevent malicious intrusions and strengthen your data security mechanism.
Subject to the PCI DSS
If your organization is subjected to the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) then it is legally required to conduct at least two penetration tests every six months and also after any post-significant changes to the network or applications. So, if you wish to remain compliant with ISO 27001, you should conduct similar tests at similar intervals.
If you’re a newcomer
Even if your business doesn’t rely heavily on technology, it is still likely to suffer from a data breach. With the proliferation of data, every organization is at risk of cyberattacks. So if you’ve never performed a penetration test on your IT infrastructure before, then the time to act is now.
Why is Penetration Testing Required for Business?
Pentesting helps to measure your organization’s overall readiness in preventing and responding to cyber threats. There are various reasons why penetration testing can be crucial for your business which include —
Offer you an opportunity to remediate vulnerabilities
Pentest is leveraged to identify what vulnerabilities you have within your network, application, and data security. For instance, you may find misconfigurations in a DNS server or a jeopardized web server you missed. By conducting pentesting, you can tighten up your security infrastructure so that a cybercriminal can’t get all the way through your network to your sensitive data.
Enable your team to enhance the incident response process
A pen test allows your team to gain a better understanding of how they execute Incident Response (IR). It will enable your IR team to effectively handle incidents as well as develop reports with key metrics & performance indicators, and perform forensics on the security event. It can also help you access the true damage and cost of an attack.
Expose poor internal security protocols
A penetration test can also expose poor data security practices within your security team. For instance – missed critical patches or incorrect firewall rules. However, it can be a learning opportunity for your team to understand the techniques and exactly how networks can be exploited by a hacker.
Optimize business continuity plan
Data is said to be the heart of an organization, but in the wrong hands, it could be highly dangerous. By performing quarterly, half-yearly or annual pentest, you can not only safeguard your critical data but ensure business continuity for the organization in the event of a cyberattack. It will give you the opportunity to improve your business continuity strategies and check your backup and restore capabilities.
Measure budget and spending on security
After emulating a cyberattack in your infrastructure, your team can easily assess and measure the actual financial impact of a real attack on your organization. It is a great exercise that can help you estimate the top and bottom line of revenue growth.
Strengthen customer trust
The last thing you don’t want is a publicized data security breach. Simple news about an organization’s data breach is a nightmare and can make your customers lose trust and potentially damage your brand reputation.
However, pentest offers you an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to security and instill trust in your customers. Your customers will be relieved to know that your organization conducts regular penetration testing exercises and that their data is safe in your hands.
Build a Robust Risk Assessment Strategy with Us
To prevent an attack, you must think like a notorious hacker. With the help of pen testing, organizations can proactively detect system weaknesses before hackers get an opportunity to do any harm. Penetration testing is an effective way for your organization to mitigate the risks of a data breach, ensure compliance and assure their security team is following data security protocols.
If your organization needs help conducting a pen test on your software or cloud infrastructure, Daffodil is here with its application security services. Our team of efficient Application Security experts will assess your software application and run a full-scale penetration test. We will also provide you with suggestions for follow-up measures, remediations, and application vulnerability management.