What is Penetration Testing?
What is penetrating testing and why is it important? What is infrastructure penetration testing? Penetration testing, sometimes known as ethical hacking, is a method used to simulate a cyber-attack against your IT infrastructure to check for vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could be exploited. The process uses a range of techniques and security measures to assess your critical security and provide vulnerability assessments.
The process involves deliberate attempts to breach application systems and servers to discover vulnerabilities that could be subject to cyber-attacks. These discoveries and insights across your internet facing network can then be used to calibrate your IT infrastructure and patch detected vulnerabilities. This then helps to validate internal policies and the effectiveness of controls across your company to ensure enterprise security.
‘65% medium sized businesses report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months.’*
Why complete a penetration test?
It is important to have a pen test carried out to prevent cybercrime and to ensure your business-critical data is secure. The testing allows you to stay ahead of the malicious hackers and protect your network infrastructure and business from potential attacks.
Not only will you be putting preventative measures and security systems in place, you will also be protecting your business from the highly negative potential impact an attack could have on the future of your business, because of substantial costs and loss of data.
‘25% of businesses affected by breaches or attacks, reported losing money, data or other assets – with a specific negative outcome – on average of those that were affected, the costs were substantial’.*
It is recommended that businesses carry out infrastructure penetration tests at least once a year, or whenever significant change is made to your IT environment. If you want good security, then this is without doubt the process you should take which will provide you with informed security.
7 Key stages of pen testing
Here are seven key stages of pen testing which we recommend, to ensure a rigorous test and to get the best possible results:
1. Information gathering
This planning stage involves defining the scope and objectives of a test including the systems that require addressing and the testing methods to be used.
The reconnaissance stage is crucial to thorough security testing because penetration testers can identify additional information that may have been overlooked, unknown, or not provided. This step is especially helpful in internal and/or external network penetration testing, however, we don’t typically perform this reconnaissance in web application, mobile application, or API penetration testing.
3. Threat Modelling
This is the process by which potential threats are identified, such as vulnerabilities or the absence of necessary safeguards.
4. Vulnerability analysis
Once the vulnerabilities are identified, analysis can be carried out to establish a remedial strategy and priorities.
Vulnerabilities are exploited to demonstrate how a potential hacker could compromise your critical systems.
6. Analysis and Review
A full report of findings will be provided, detailing all activities with a summary of targets, action plans, high priorities, and time frames/target dates for completion.
7. Action and Utilisation
The organisation being tested must use the findings from the security testing to risk rank vulnerabilities, analyse the potential impact of vulnerabilities found, determine remediation strategies, and inform decision-making moving forward.
How is testing delivered?
Penetration testing is tailored to your requirements, depending on whether you are looking to test your entire network or just specific areas. Testing may include investigation of your network architecture, network devices such as routers, switches, firewalls etc, live operating systems, software installed on live systems, source code review of domains or active directories, missing security patches, configuration of software & installed components or live devices on your network. Testing can be delivered either physically onsite or remotely.
This is when an experienced consultant will visit your offices and physically plug in to your internal network to perform the testing. It is often the preferred method of testing delivery, which can often prove to provide the best experience for customers.
If it is not possible to send a consultant onsite, a remote internal test can be performed. This can either be achieved via a VPN, where the consultant will connect to your network via a configured VPN, which provides access to a server provisioned for testing. Or it can be achieved via a pre-configured laptop, sent to your site with pre-installed tools needed to perform the test. This is then connected to your internal network and the consultant can securely dial in to the laptop to gain access to the network under review.
What are the benefits of penetration testing?
Firstly, the deep analysis and testing will identify areas of high-risk vulnerabilities so that you can prioritise actions to ensure these are remedied. You will establish a security culture within your business which will demonstrate best practices. Your business will also meet regulatory and compliance standards such as PCI DSS and ISO 27001. Ultimately, your business-critical data will be protected from cybercrime which is not only important to your business but also reassuring for your customers.
Infrastructure Security Summary
Knowledge is key when it comes to cyber security, which is why pen testing is so critical to identify and uncover areas of weakness that we may not even realise exist. The ethical hacking process is one of the most important ways to find flaws in your IT infrastructure that criminals could exploit and wreak havoc on your business.
‘Despite COVID-19 stretching many organisations’ cyber security teams to their limits, cyber security remains a priority for management boards, with 77% of businesses reporting it to be a high priority.’*
We all know that cybercrime is on the rise and is proving to have a massive impact on businesses, not only losing critical data but also causing a huge financial loss to your company. Why put your business at so much risk, when you can do so much to prevent it?
We can Make Security Happen with our cyber security solutions, penetration test services and managed security services, here at ICC. Schedule a meeting today to speak to one of our solutions specialists to discuss your specific internal infrastructure security requirements in more detail on 0333 220 0413.
*Statistics taken from the UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021