Everything You Need To Know About Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing Strengthens Your Enterprise IT Security

This article introduces you to penetration testing as an effective approach to increase your enterprise IT security. Read about the different types of “pen” testing and discover which method suits your organization best.

Malware and other cybersecurity threats

According to Accenture, cybersecurity attacks have increased by 67% over the last five years. The extensive media coverage of malware and the GDPR enforcement in 2018 have contributed to growing awareness for better IT security measures, from technical teams up to the executive level. Customers are also paying more attention to data protection, which forces digital companies to prove their information management security through various certifications such as ISO/IEC 27001. In many industries, IT security regulations are becoming mandatory.

In fact, many companies lack IT security standards and are seriously exposed to potential threats. Firewalls and VPN connections are simply not enough in times of hybrid IT infrastructures, extensive data exchange with third parties and the rise of new technologies. Security vulnerabilities in software, hardware, and networks can provide cybercriminals with easy access to enterprise data; however, social engineering still dominates the list of cybersecurity traps. It is a reality that employees are being duped to share confidential information such as passwords or other personal data. Therefore, stricter IT security is not only a matter of more professional security systems and tools but also an organizational responsibility that must include the human factor.

How to progress towards more sophisticated IT security

Organizations are overwhelmed by the complexity of cybersecurity topics. They usually lack a complete overview of their current IT landscape and the know-how to detect security incidents. What is considered best practice in information security management is rarely fully implemented in companies due to costs and organizational priorities. Decision-makers rely on IT security professionals to guide them towards reasonable information security management by making the technical aspects easy to understand.

Hiring external professionals is a good opportunity to get an external view of your tech environment and insource up-to-date knowledge of cybersecurity. Penetration tests (or pen tests) provide you with much-needed insights on the status quo of your IT security and should include prioritized recommendations based on different threat levels. A penetration test can be the starting point of a larger initiative to improve IT security measures. In practice, organizations with advanced security management consider pen tests as a routine exercise as they know how fast internal and external factors can change. Whether novel or routine, it is important that actions follow the results of your pen tests.

Different types of pen testing: What are they?

Pen testing is also referred to as ethical or white hat hacking. The customer agrees with the penetration testers on the scope of security testing and allows them to exploit flaws in the IT architecture, as cybercriminals do. Pen testing is not a theoretical and automated exercise such as vulnerability assessments but is hands-on. The pen testers demonstrate if and how a cyber attack is possible, as the ethical hackers apply tools and approaches that are not available or even known in your organization and will try various doors to get access to your infrastructure.

Penetration testing follows a methodological approach and strongly depends on the customer’s brief. The IT security industry recognizes different types of testing:

  • White box testing

A white box testing approach gives penetration testers direct access to a company’s IT systems. The testing is limited to specific use cases and information exchange with internal employees. It can take place to streamline a specific project. For example the test use case could be trying to access the source code. Internal developers could outline the development process and pinpoint potential weaknesses in the development environment from the beginning.

  • Black box testing

Black box testing imitates a real-life scenario. The testing scope is broader and could, for example, refer to all network services of the company without any internal information about the structure, design, and implementation of the tested items. However, due to limited time resources, many security threats can be left undetected when there is no focus and knowledge transfer about key areas.

  • Gray box testing

Gray box testing combines the advantages of the other approaches. Companies can request a customized penetration test that equally considers the budget and the objective of the testing.

Penetration testing is a matter of trust

When executing a penetration test, you need to trust your external testers. Yes, you are exposing your cyber vulnerabilities, but the benefits gained are invaluable, providing comprehensive insights for preemptively strengthening your IT security. Therefore it’s important to work with trusted/reputable pen-testers that will guarantee absolute discretion of your project and not hire a random hacker without an NDA or contract to protect your company’s IT security.

expertlead has its own talent pool for experienced penetration testers, who must go through a four-stage recruiting process to assess the skills, experience, trustworthiness and overall expertise of the candidates. Only the top performing 5% of our applicants are accepted. All expertlead tech freelancers are reviewed by our clients which assure continuously high-quality results. Get the most out of your penetration testing with our experts and we’ll manage your pen-testing project from inception to completion!

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Oct 2019 - 4 min read

Katharina Höll

Katharina Höll

Senior Communications Manager

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