Penetration testing evaluates how well your security infrastructure stands up to the efforts of malicious actors. Armed with a better understanding of existing vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses, companies can take action to improve their defensive posture and reduce overall risk.
Still not sure why penetration testing is important? Here are six reasons to make pen tests a priority for your business.
What Is Pen Testing and Why Is It Important to Perform?
Penetration testing is performed under controlled conditions, often by a reputable third party with substantial security experience. The goal of pen testing is to see what happens when testers act like attackers and use common compromise tools and tactics against your system.
While companies have full knowledge of when the test will be performed, they’re not told exactly what form these attacks will take. The purpose of pen testing is to see how security controls respond under real-life conditions.
Companies can conduct pen testing themselves, but it’s often worth partnering with firms that have dedicated expertise in this area.
This is beneficial for two reasons:
- Experienced pen testing teams have the tools and technologies necessary to thoroughly assess your system rather than your team having to design the process from scratch.
- Third-party experts will attack your network in ways internal teams won’t expect. Familiarity with existing frameworks often predisposes internal teams to assume security in specific areas rather than conducting in-depth analysis. External pen testers have no such bias.
The importance of penetration testing comes down to information: The more you know about potential risks in your IT environment, the better equipped you are to bolster security defenses and frustrate attacker efforts.
Reasons to Prioritize Penetration Testing
Along with the general benefit of improved infosec visibility, there are also more specific reasons to prioritize penetration testing, such as:
- Validating existing security controls: Are current security controls working as intended? Are there specific areas where they need improvement or aren’t living up to expectations? Baseline internal and external penetration testing is critical to validate existing frameworks and forms the foundation for targeted improvements.
Internal testing focuses on systems and services accessible by employees — such as intranet portals and staff-facing applications. External penetration testing evaluates the risk of outside-in threats such as malware, ransomware and phishing attacks.
- Reducing the risk of zero-day threats: Zero-day threats occur when new vulnerabilities are discovered by attackers, leaving developers “zero days” to find and implement a fix. Regular and recurring pen testing can help identify these threats and cut off attacker access before they can exploit functional flaws.
- Improving new app or infrastructure deployment: New application and infrastructure deployment is critical to keep your business moving forward. For every new service you add, there’s also a chance of creating a security vulnerability. Here, single-point-in-time pen tests can help ensure new services don’t negatively impact your security posture.
- Delivering due diligence: When it comes to security, businesses are typically obligated to meet the standard of due diligence — that they’ve taken all reasonable precautions to mitigate risk. This is especially important in relation to third-party service agreements or company acquisitions: Robust penetration testing assesses the risk posed by new IT partnerships or the integration of new IT infrastructure.
- Supporting required risk assessments: Risk assessments are now required in many cases for companies to do business with government agencies or within industries that are highly regulated. Regular pen testing can help meet assessment recommendations under guidelines such as NIST 800-30 and ISO 27005.
- Ensuring critical compliance: Penetration testing is also critical to meet compliance with financial standards such as PCI DSS3; health care requirements such as HIPAA; and privacy laws including GDPR and the CCPA. Regular and recurring pen testing provides an auditable trail of security evaluation if your organization is attacked.
Keeping Pace With Pen Testing
Pen testing isn’t fire-and-forget. As attack methods and application vulnerabilities evolve, companies are best served by conducting regular pen tests that evaluate current frameworks against emerging challenges.
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how often companies should conduct penetration tests, a good rule is once each quarter. Other options include annually, semi-annually or a single point in time. Consider implementing a recurring penetration test program that sees systems regularly evaluated and paired with actionable recommendations to improve overall security.
If you’re not sure where to start, HALOCK can help. With more than two decades of experience helping companies of all sizes — and across all industries — protect their critical assets, our teams can help your business prioritize in-depth penetration testing that could proactively limit risk, support due diligence and improve overall security posture.
Ready to make pen testing a priority? Let’s talk.