PENETRATION TEST: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW (AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT)

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The last few years have been a challenge for most organizations, especially in the field of cybersecurity. Companies are cyber security aware, they understand the key importance of data and systems protection and the future role that cybersecurity will play.

In PWC’s 2021 Global Digital Trust Insights survey, on a pool of over 3,000 interviewees including IT executives and managers, it clearly emerges that efforts have been done to enhance organizational resilience through threat detection, ensuring business continuity, and implementing security training in all business departments.

There is one thing that cannot be disputed: not only cyber threats will continue to plague businesses, but they are likely to increase. Organizations must keep an eye on remote work policies (increasingly widespread), access to data, and skills upgrading. It is high time to embrace technology, this can open a window of opportunity and challenges.

Computer systems have played a major role in meeting a broad range of needs: from promoting a product or a brand to collecting and managing large amounts of data. This also raises an IT security issue, particularly when it comes to store sensitive data.

So it is essential not only to develop security plans but also to understand what the current reference framework is.

WHAT A PENETRATION TEST IS

Conducting penetration tests means answering a simple question: ‘What would a cybercriminal do to damage my organization’s computer systems, apps, and network?’

A Penetration Test, often abbreviated to Pentest, is a test of the security levels of assets that make up the business perimeter, including servers, web, and mobile applications.

Vulnerabilities can be attributed to a number of factors, including the following:

  • Hardware & software design flaws
  • Using an unsecured network
  • Computer systems, networks, and applications, improper configuration
  • Complex computer systems structure
  • Human mistakes. 

A Pentest helps to uncover IT security gaps, detecting multi-vector attacks and configuration problems.

Through this type of analysis problems that could jeopardize data confidentiality, integrity and availability can be identified.

As a result, an organization can prioritize risk discovery, take corrective measures and improve the overall security incident response time.

PENTEST TYPES

The Network Penetration Test’s goal is to call attention to problems within a network by identifying and analyzing the exposed services and looking for weaknesses that might compromise the perimeter integrity.

Through Web Application Penetration Testing you can assess applications’ security levels, detecting issues that could lead to threatening confidentiality, integrity, and portal availability.

Mobile Application Penetration Testing, on the other hand, allows to analyze mobile security levels to seek threats in applications and computer systems.

The test exploits known or detected vulnerabilities and helps determine whether the system’s defenses are adequate or if they can be bypassed.

The objective is to identify weaknesses in the system (or network) and provide as much information as possible about loopholes that enabled unauthorized access.

It also gives a clear estimate of defense capabilities and levels of penetration achieved in relation to:

  • Vulnerabilities inside the system
  • Vulnerabilities external to the system
  • Physical security 

The variables that contribute to diversifying the types of Penetration Tests are as many as the methods of carrying them out. As a general rule quality is closely related to testers’ skills.

Typically, the Pentest are divided into three macro-groups:

  1. White box Penetration testing
    It involves sharing full target information with testers. This performance is useful to demonstrate and assess the effectiveness of internal vulnerability and of management controls, identifying the software exposure and the common configuration errors in the organization’s systems.
  2. Grey box Penetration testing
    It involves sharing limited target information with the tester. This performance can drive activities aiming at analyzing previously reported technologies and privileges.
  3. Black box Penetration testing
    No information about the target system is provided to testers at all. This performance is run from an external perspective and aims at identifying ways to access an organization’s internal IT resources. This can be seen as the most authentic test, showing the risk faced by unknown or independent attackers. However, having a limited time for testing, the lack of information can cause the non-recognition of how to exploit vulnerabilities.

FINAL REPORT

The final report plays a key role. It shows what was discovered, empowers individuals to assess the risks, and helps a sound decision-making process.

A report is a document that gives information on:

  • Summary of findings – It is a brief overview of the key findings and provides actionable answers. It explains how systems have been bypassed and what has been discovered.
  • List of feasible safety improvements – It includes protection tips in priority order and short, medium, and long-term improvement interventions.
  • Detailed description – It gives a context attack overview. Tests, techniques, and tactics used by the attackers and technical description of security loopholes.

WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT

Vulnerability analysis, in addition to acknowledging any flaws in the system, can also help to verify other aspects. Pentest may represent valid feedback to check security policy compliance and staff skills in the field of cybersecurity. It can test the ability of a company to react to a cyber attack.

This inspection is carried out by specialized figures, like certified ethical hackers, with the purpose of identifying the weak points of computer systems (as well as of the network or of an application).

Making the Penetration Test an integral part of the corporate IT security strategy is the best way to consolidate a proactive approach, always bearing in mind that to establish a good security culture, all company departments must be involved, to achieve a better cyber risk assessment.

 

disclaimer cyber eng

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