Back in the “good old days”, hacking into a company’s IT network used to require a lot of time, effort, and a very particular skillset. Unfortunately, given the advancement in cybercrime, it’s now easier than ever and bad actors are on the rise.
Penetration testing is one of the best ways to help your business find weaknesses in your network so you can proactively secure them before an attack takes place.
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What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is an active attempt to exploit the network and gain access to your data. In other words, think of it as ethical hacking. These days, many insurance companies ask questions like “when was the last time you conducted a vulnerability or penetration test?” If your answer is “never” or “I’m not sure”, you may want consider a network security assessment sooner rather than later.
What is the Difference between a Vulnerability Assessment and Pen Test?
Vulnerability Assessment: Passively scanning and reporting
A vulnerability assessment is a passive scan to identify weaknesses in your network. This probing technique is typically done at the beginning of your cybersecurity journey. It is often made up of four parts; planning, gathering information, reporting, and discovering vulnerabilities.
Penetration Test: Actively scanning and attempting to break into your network
A penetration test is necessary when you think your network is the best that it can be. At that point, you’ve already conducted vulnerability testing and you’ve fixed any weaknesses. When you move onto a penetration test, your network is actively being penetrated to determine if there are any lingering vulnerabilities. If there are, the question remains – what type of data could bad actors get access to if they infiltrated your network?
The Growing Demand for Penetration Testing
Fueling the need for penetration testing is stringent regulations, compliance, and insurance requirements for businesses and organizations. The pen test market size is projected to grow from 1.6 billion in 2021 to 3 billion by 2026, a growth of 13.8% due to rising regulations and an increased interest in cyber security.
The Penetration Testing Process
What does the actual process look like? It can often be broken down into 5 stages.
- Reconnaissance: data is gathered about your organization in order to plan for an effective attack. This simulates a cyber criminal’s approach which has grown increasingly sophisticated in nature. The details gathered in this stage may consist of IP ranges, websites, email addresses, and more.
- Scanning: In this stage, data is gathered about systems and applications on the network like operating system, software versions, and email/user accounts.
- Identifying vulnerabilities: Based on the data gathered in the first two stage, vulnerabilities are detected and identified.
- Exploitation: An active attack is done to gain access to the network through vulnerabilities.
- Privilege exploitation: Bad actors are ultimately looking to gain the highest level of access into your network so they can get as much data as possible. In some cases, a vulnerability may only provide low level access into a network, so in this final step, an attempt is made to gain full admin access to the network or to a device.
Naturally, the final step involves a series of reports and findings for stakeholders and executive staff. From there, recommendations are created and a summary of issues are presented to determine the best course of access to fully secure your network.
If your organization has not conducted a vulnerability or penetration test, you can begin with Ontech’s network security assessment. Contact our support team with questions online or by phone at 262-522-8560.