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penetration testing

At first glance having your security systems hacked on purpose may seem counter intuitive. After all, isn’t that what we’re all trying to prevent? However, there are several good reasons for this madness.

Known by many names, including ‘ethical’ and ‘white hat’ hacking, a penetration test is a proactive and authorized attempt to evaluate the security of an IT infrastructure by safely attempting to exploit system vulnerabilities, including OS, service and application flaws, improper configurations, and even risky end-user behaviour.

During a penetration test, you authorize an IT Security expert (or “ethical hacker”) armed with the same techniques as today’s cybercriminals to hack into your network or application. This exercise exploits vulnerabilities in your security network to determine what information is actually exposed to the outside world. By thoroughly examining your organisation’s internal and external IT systems for weaknesses, this test allows you to address those vulnerabilities that could be used to disrupt the confidentiality, availability or integrity of your network. Such assessments are also useful in validating the effectiveness of your defensive mechanisms, as well as your organisation’s end-users’ adherence to security policies.

By thoroughly examining your organisation’s internal and external IT systems for weaknesses, this test allows you to address those vulnerabilities that could be used to disrupt the confidentiality, availability or integrity of your network.

The reasons for performing penetration tests are pretty self explanatory, however, if you are still not convinced, allow us do delve into some of these below.

1. The consequences of security breaches can be costly.

This fact is reinforced in Ponemon Institute’s recent study, whose findings indicate that the average cost of a data breach for the affected company is now $3.5 million. Although this number is high, this is not the worst case scenario. Security breaches and any related interruptions in the performance of services or applications can not only result in direct financial losses, but also destroy your organization’s reputation, erode customer loyalties, attract negative press, and trigger significant fines and penalties.

2. Even the best security systems fail some of the time.

Continued adoption of new technologies and their resulting complexities, have made it increasingly harder to identify and eliminate all of an organizations’ vulnerabilities and protect against many types of potential security incidents. Organisations are overwhelmed with an ever increasing number of new vulnerabilities discovered every day, and often struggle to defend against attacks that are constantly evolving in terms of their technical and social sophistication.

3. Penetration testing identifies and prioritises security risks.

Penetration testing evaluates an organization’s ability to protect its networks, applications, endpoints and users from external or internal attempts to circumvent its security controls to gain unauthorized or privileged access to protected assets.

If you decide to listen to reason and make the decision to conduct penetration testing here are some things to keep in mind:

1. In order for the penetration testing to be effective and free from bias and internal preferences, it must be conducted by an independent entity outside of your organisation.

2. While, the penetration test itself does not make your organisation’s network more secure, it does identify gaps between knowledge and implementation.

In order to ensure the total security of your network defences, best practice also requires organisations to perform internal and external penetration tests as part of their regular security program. By implementing frequent and comprehensive penetration testing, your organization can more effectively anticipate emerging security risks and prevent unauthorized access to critical systems and valuable information.

Don’t wait until real hackers test your security system in action, chances are – you can’t afford it.

 

 

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