Cybercrime rates are rising each year, and the importance of protecting information has never been higher for every business.

The loss of sensitive data can have catastrophic effects for a company and its customers, whose personal data has been compromised. To guard against this, companies are taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity. A critical element to any cybersecurity strategy is penetration testing.

penetration testing

Penetration testing, or pen testing, simulates the actions of external and internal attacks on your system to identify the risks and highlight what actions should be taken to protect against them.

Regardless of the size of the company or the amount of money they’re spending on an internal cyber security team, breaches can still take place, exposing sensitive data to the outside world. To best represent how a hacker may try and gain access to your company’s data, a dual approach can be taken whereby a penetration test uses both manual skills and automated tools to try and gain access to your system.

The reason automated tools are used is that no human can achieve in the same results in the same time. Hackers will also utilise automated tools in real attacks, usually to identify the weak points in your system before then targeting them with their first-hand actions.

It should be noted that regular penetration testing becomes even more critical for large companies as their infrastructure continues to grow. If you think about a company’s system like a hotel, with the rooms representing areas where data is stored, the more rooms a hotel has, the more doors there are which could be broken into. Also, it is important to ensure that the cybersecurity budget continues to expand with the size of the business.

Considering the highly sensitive nature of the information some businesses store, it is hard to put a price on the security of that information. With some company’s budgets being stretched thinly across multiple areas, it could be tempting to implement a ‘part fix’ of the issues which have been raised from a penetration test. However, it is vital to remember that the damage to your business could be far worse if sensitive information were to be stolen compared to the cost of fixing highlighted issues correctly to ensure safety. This is especially true when payment card data is concerned, as fines for non-compliance under PCI DSS and GDPR can be in the tens of thousands. Each company will have different issues which take different amounts of time and money to fix. The most important thing is that the issues are fixed. 

Making sure the penetration test is carried out by individuals not already familiar with your system is another critical step in ensuring the best results from a penetration test. Simply asking one of your internal cyber security team to conduct a test on the system can result in critical issues being overlooked. Considering this internal team may well have been involved in the development of the site, they may not be able to see the underlying issues. In other words, they ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. External penetration testers also have the added benefit of seeing other company’s systems, which can make them aware of other issues which may not have occurred to your internal cyber security team yet.

Using a third-party penetration test service, which is delivered by experienced professionals is the best way to ensure that the money your business is spending on a pen test is being well spent. With experienced penetration testers, the tools and advice they provide will be because they believe you really need it. While, as previously mentioned, it is hard to put a price on security, your business can at least know that they are getting value for money from their efforts.

Overall, a penetration test will highlight key issues which your business needs to address to stay secure from potential hackers. Employing an experienced professional contractor to conduct the test, and produce easy to understand results for your business to work on is the best way on ensuring your system stays as safe as possible.