Blurb: Business’ are at risk from a multitude of cyber threats, so it is crucial that they take action to ensure their IT networks are secure. By undergoing comprehensive penetration testing, companies will be able to assess where any potential security gaps lie and then patch them, keeping their networks secure. This process sees a team simulate a cyber attack on a business’ IT systems to test for vulnerabilities, and it is becoming an increasingly popular method for identifying network weaknesses. This article will discuss this process, and the benefits it can bring to business’.
Any business that works with valuable, confidential information would be well aware of the importance of keeping their networks safe. There is a huge range of potential information security threats out there, and the ways an organisation can be impacted by them is also numerous. The detrimental effects that an information security breach could have on an organisation could be anything from the leaking of sensitive data to the business’ entire information network requiring a complete overhaul. To prevent this happening, business’ should take pre-emptive action, by undergoing comprehensive penetration testing services on their IT systems and applications. This will allow them to assess the existing state of their information security processes, identify potential weak points, and then work at patching them. Doing so will ensure the business’ IT systems remain secure and stable, and that the business manages to uphold its reputation.
What is penetration testing?
Informally known as a pen test, this process takes the form of a replicated cyber-attack on a business’ IT systems, to assess for potential weaknesses that hackers could exploit through a genuine systems attack. A simulated pen test sees information security professionals assess your organisations IT networks from two main viewpoints, internal and external, and assess ways that they could work at exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to sensitive data. If they are successful in gaining unauthorised access to your networks, then your information systems are vulnerable to attacks and need to be overhauled. After a thorough pen test has been conducted on the network, business’ will be provided with advice about how to patch potential vulnerabilities, and ensure their network is protected against both internal and external information security threats.
To effectively assess the state of your existing IT systems, a penetration test is typically conducted in several stages, ranging from the initial planning and data gathering, to attempting to gain access, to examining the success rate of the entire process. The key stages of a comprehensive penetration test include:
- Scoping out the project and information gathering: This stage sees the pen test team clearly consult with the business, to ascertain what systems and programs need to be tested and what testing methods are to be used. After doing so, the pen test team will then research the existing information security system to understand how it functions, where its potential vulnerabilities lie, and how these weak points could be exploited.
- Attempting unauthorised access: The pen test team will utilise various web programs and backdoors to work at discovering the weak points of the system they are attacking. After successfully identifying some vulnerabilities, the team will then try to take advantage of them to ascertain just how much damage could potentially be caused, through techniques such as data theft and hacking.
- Upholding access: After successfully managing to gain unauthorised access into an information security system, the team then works at ascertaining how long the unauthorised access can be maintained for, and whether they would be able to use their unauthorised admission to gain access to various forms of privileged information. This step allows the penetration testers to not only understand how unauthorised users could gain access to the system, but the scope of damage that could be caused by an information breach.
- Evaluation: After conducting a thorough penetration test, the team will then develop a report discussing the key findings of this process. Specifically, they will outline the vulnerabilities that were found and exploited, what privileged information they were able to access from this process, and the scope of potential damage that could be caused in a real cyber-attack. With this report, the business will be able to take active steps to secure their systems, ensuring that all potential vulnerabilities are thoroughly patched.
In short, comprehensive penetration testing of your existing networks will help ensure your business’ IT systems stay safe and secure, and out of the hands of unauthorised users. By undergoing this process, your business is demonstrating a commitment to information security and client confidentiality, and proving that your organisation takes its information security practices seriously.
Further, penetration testing services can be offered exclusively, or as part of overall certification to the ISO 27001 Information Security Standards. This is an internationally recognised Business Management Standard, which helps companies to implement an effective Information Security Management System across their operations. So, if you want an assurance that your business’ IT systems are safe from hackers, a penetration test is the way to go.
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