In this age of change and progress, cyber threats continue to evolve rapidly. Cyber attackers use experience from previous attacks and knowledge of current deficiencies to come up with new and unique methods of breaking through the digital barriers in place within most firms. The diaspora of cyber criminals from their original modes of attack have found most companies lacking, which possibly explains the increase in cyber attacks and the punitive damages suffered as a result of these attacks.
In this war between prevention and damages, penetration testing comes as the perfect tool for checking vulnerabilities and patching up gaps in your endpoint systems/firewall. Penetration testing is conducted by professional ethical hackers, as a method designed to assist organizations in identifying hidden vulnerabilities in their applications, systems and networks.
While penetration testing has proven itself to be a worthwhile assessment technique, there seems to be confusion over the frequency of these tests. We believe that every organization should commission pen testing at least once a year, while other larger businesses should conduct these tests at least on a quarterly basis.
It is, however, also necessary for businesses to consider events around them and commission testing if they feel the need for it. Research and real-life experiences have proven that unplanned penetration tests happen to be a lot more effective than planned penetration tests.
In this blog we look at certain situations where you should consider penetration testing. Be ready for these scenarios and perform penetration testing to unearth basic vulnerabilities.
After Significant Infrastructure Changes
Growth almost always comes with change. As organizations grow, they change; from the culture inside the workplace to the IT environment, everything evolves with growth and time. The breakneck pace at which organizations are adopting cloud technology, the rise of BYOD, the increase in remote working technologies and the proliferation of IoT devices are some of the changes creating new and advanced network security risks. Changes created as part of the adoption and implementation process of new IT platforms can make your systems more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Organizations that have recently made significant changes to their cloud, hybrid or on-premise infrastructure should keep their security assessments on the front of their mind. Your IT assets are usually left vulnerable after such key changes, which is why you should perform penetration testing in such scenarios to ensure that all vulnerabilities are assessed and the security of all assets is appropriately configured.
Penetration testing should also be seriously considered after you have installed new security technologies in your organization. Scenario based testing can help outline vulnerabilities in your system and can also help improve the effectiveness of your cyber security defenses. The ultimate goal is an overall improvement in how you handle threats and safeguard your systems.
When Launching a New Service, Product or Application
Launching a new service or a product can itself be a daunting task for any organization. The entire process of R&D coupled with financial investments can exhaust you and your team. However, rushing to the market with your new service, product or application can prove to be a costly mistake, especially if you haven’t taken all necessary security precautions.
Web application testing should be an integral part of your Quality Assurance process. Most organizations rush into launching new products or services and eventually go through the hassle and embarrassment of bad publicity when vulnerabilities in the new website or application are penetrated by cyber attackers.
Penetration testing can help uncover all software vulnerabilities related to data authentication, encryption, input validation and session management before the product or service is officially launched. Testing should also be commissioned before you release major app or product updates. Testing will help unearth any and all vulnerabilities in them and would allow you to rectify them before you suffer some actual damage.
When Going Through a Business Acquisition or Merger
Most mergers and acquisitions impact IT environments in ways more than one. IT environments for both firms are going through unprecedented change at a rapid pace. It is hard to imagine the huge amounts of digital assets that change hands during this process. And since the stakes are high, it is only justified for both firms involved in the deal to make testing a vital part of the entire merger and acquisition process.
A vast amount of rather confidential and important data is shared between both parties during a merger or acquisition. Data security is often compromised, but we would want you to make it a priority during the process. Penetration testing should definitely be conducted before and after the merger or acquisition happens, so that confidential consumer data and your digital assets are safeguarded during this crucial juncture. A cyber attack that occurs during the merger and acquisition process can damage not only the deal, but also the reputation and value for organizations involved.
When Working Toward Regulatory Compliance
Regardless of the industry you operate in or the region you currently service, serious sanctions await you if you do not take the required steps toward improving security. The DPA Act of 2018 and the GDPR show the hard line approach most regulators are now willing to take toward organizations who aren’t sincere in their efforts to securing and safeguarding confidential consumer personal and financial data.
Most organizations today realize the importance of compliance and the bad press they might receive if they fail to adhere to the regulations in place. Almost all data security regulations and guidelines make it necessary for organizations to perform regular security assessments. Security assessments can unearth possible vulnerabilities in your system. The vulnerabilities found through penetration testing methods can then be addressed to eventually improve how your company responds to cyber attacks.
GDPR and PCI DSS are current regulations in place within Europe and the United Kingdom, which require organizations to safeguard cardholder data at all times to avoid penalties that come with non-compliance. These regulations clearly require firms to assess their security protocols on an annual basis.
When Implementing Remote Systems
With the COVID-19 virus in full steam, many organizations have had to innovate and head towards a remote model of work. Remote work is the order of the day as it allows organizations to keep the steam of their engine running, even with most of the employees working from home.
However, remote work comes with a myriad of risks, especially since organizations have had to rush into it. But, a situation like this definitely warrants penetration testing, as there are a lot more vulnerabilities coming from unmonitored endpoint systems being used by workers to assess organizational networks from home.
After you position an endpoint security system, it is necessary that you run a penetration test to determine if there still are any vulnerabilities that have escaped your eye. Negligence right now can lead to irreparable damages in the long run.
Reasons to Go for Scenario Based Testing
Scenario based testing is a specialist form of testing that assesses your security networks through ethical hackers. This method of penetration testing can help you find out the effectiveness of your organization’s digital security and can also help drive improvements in threat hunting, incident response and breach detection.
Organizations should use scenario based testing as it gives answers to the following questions:
- How effective are your current security protocols at detecting, preventing and responding to threats within the system?
- Are there any blind spots within your network that attackers can persistently exploit?
- Are sophisticated attacks shut down by your security analysts before they render irreparable damage to your systems?
- How good is your security team at identifying genuine attacks and differentiating them from false positives? The sheer number of alerts being generated by your security system can lead to alert fatigue, which is why penetration testing helps determine whether your security analysts are still up to the job or if they are burdened by the frequent alerts.
- Do you have any incident response plan in place for addressing threats and managing possible compromises? A plan of action can help you sail through attacks, even when the tides aren’t in your favor.
- Do your in-house security personnel and teams have the intellectual know-how to mitigate the damage from breaches and remediate them? Loopholes in this regard can ameliorate damage further.
All these questions, when answered, help you identify where you currently stand and the steps that can be taken to improve your network security standing. With the right efforts and tests, you definitely can improve your network security to prevent attacks.
A cyber security consultant can help you perform penetration tests and identify the need for them. I’m a certified information security manager with extensive experience in helping organizations from various industries devise cyber security protocols and measures to ward off sophisticated and invasive cyber threats.