Improve Your Cyber Security Program with Routine Penetration Testing

Written by CISOSHARE

May 11, 2021

25 min read

Unfortunately today, more advanced cyber security threats are becoming all too common, and they’ve expanded their reach beyond corporate giants and government entities to include even mid to larger-sized businesses. The number of malicious attacks is on the rise, and when combined with system glitches and possible human error, hackers have become increasingly adept at exploiting vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Despite a business incorporating what they think may be the most robust and strongest cyber security safeguards available, too often the focus relies on a limited, reactive approach. What’s needed to better defend your networks and systems is a proactive, in-depth response with multiple layers of threat remediation in place and working together.

Existing and potential vulnerabilities are often hidden and overlooked even by security leaders, and they must be brought to light. As part of a comprehensive security program with an effective methodology to meet compliance goals, penetration testing (also known as pen testing) is often utilized to help organizations better understand the impact of these vulnerabilities.

In contrast to a more straightforward vulnerability scan, penetration testing then evaluates the structure and security of IT infrastructure by purposely trying to exploit vulnerabilities with both manual and automated technologies. From servers and web applications, to network devices and other potentially exposed areas, pen tests seek to identify how an organization’s security can be infiltrated and how much damage can be done. Being thorough is key! This can include even physical pen tests, not limited to breaking into server rooms or hacking an admin’s device or computer. 

Pen tests, regularly administered in conjunction with vulnerability scans to add more context, evaluate every identifiable risk and vulnerability to understand the cause and what consequences such an incident can have on the business environment and operations. The end goal of this combined strategy seeks out and ultimately mitigates those vulnerabilities that can be leveraged for unauthorized access to the environment.

Take advantage of your pen tests to improve your security environment.

All penetration testing services admittedly can be time consuming and do use up specialized resources, so why conduct a pen test? The short answer? This type of cyber assessment offers a unique perspective and provides valuable, actionable insights. An effective penetration test allows users to then shore up strategies and fill cracks within vulnerable systems.

More specifically, the simulated pen test hacking attempts in a controlled environment rely on a risk-based approach and can help show: 

  • Compliance with specific best practice frameworks and regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, CMMC, and others.
  • Auditors and assessors that specific security policies are in place and functioning properly, and specific regulatory requirements are being met to maintain compliance.
  • Opportunities to learn more about your environment, allowing you to prioritize items for remediation on your organization’s roadmap.

Successful pen testing relies on more than simply generating a long list of security items that need to be remediated or addressed. To best align with your organization’s business needs, an effective and targeted test stands to gain the most by setting a clear penetration test scope and well-defined objectives.

Whether for purposes of meeting compliance regulations, improving best practices, or simply better understanding the state of your security environment, limiting the scope and duration of a test makes it easier to focus on the findings that are generated and prioritizing them for remediation. If you set the scope of a pen test to cover everything, you’ll end up with a huge number of findings that make it harder to sort through and address. 

For example, if your objective is to fulfill certain regulatory requirements, understanding the varying types of available pen tests and ensuring that your scope is focused on the requirements of that specific regulation is essential. If you are performing an assessment to meet HIPAA regulations, for instance, testing the systems or applications that house Protected Health Information (PHI) data should be your target. Any identified vulnerabilities can then be used to prioritize improvement projects.

Although perpetual threats of data breaches and cyberattacks still figure prominently in today’s IT domain, the risk-based approach behind penetration testing is an ideal defensive tool. The large number of penetration testing benefits offer an outside look at any organization’s most critical vulnerabilities and potential vectors open to attack. Simulating an entire attack process and correcting any security deficiencies can not only stop an attack dead in its tracks, but also provides the assurance that with better detection and containment, your business can all but eliminate more sophisticated attempts.

 Given today’s increased cyberthreat landscape, the case for penetration testing is growing. To reduce financial losses, an ounce of prevention truly is worth more than a pound of cure. To learn more about the many benefits or to schedule penetration test services, contact the cyber security experts at CISOSHARE today.

Identify and remediate risks and vulnerabilities before they're exploited