In many industries, maintaining compliance — such as the PCI standard for card processing — includes annual penetration testing. It can be difficult, however, for many companies to see the importance of penetration testing in their cybersecurity management strategy.
Here are 6 key reasons to do a penetration test:
1. Uncover & fix your security vulnerabilities
Do you know what the latest exploits used by hackers are? Do you know what vulnerabilities exist in your network that hackers could take advantage of? Are you rigorous in patching your systems and devices? Are you maintaining the latest cybersecurity standards, or are your security measures neglected?
Many hackers stay on the cutting edge of technology, and they have a solid understanding of the vulnerabilities found in each technology. Fortunately, so do penetration testers. As they test your system, pen testers will uncover vulnerabilities, whether that means identifying outdated systems with a vulnerability that could allow a full takeover of your network, or bypassing security mechanisms to access administrative features in your application. This will allow your team to gain the perspective of a hacker and find out what would happen, should they be targeted and will provide technical solutions so they can replicate and fix their vulnerabilities.
2. Protect your business from cyberattacks
According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, 88% of organizations are concerned by the prospect of cyberattacks. Even large companies with a well-established security team and responsibilities are at a risk of a cyberattack, as there are countless ways that an attacker can target organizations. Whether it’s through your public network, such as the network used by your public website, or your applications, they continuously scan the internet in search for vulnerable systems and applications they can exploit. A penetration test will allow you to determine the vulnerabilities that hackers are most likely to exploit and what could be its potential impact, allowing you to prevent cyberattacks by implementing measures that makes their exploitation impossible.
3. Comply with various standards
Depending on your industry, there are many standards you might be forced to comply with, whether it’s for legal reasons or to finalize business partnerships. For example, if you process customer payments through a credit or debit card system, you must be PCI compliant, which requires an annual penetration test. If you work in a SaaS, your clients or providers might require a penetration test of your Startup. Not only does the testing identify potential vulnerabilities, ensuring that you are protecting your customers and assets, but it also allows you to remain compliant. Maintaining compliance means that you will avoid costly fines and fees so you can continue to do business as usual, or allow you to develop new partnerships to grow your business.
4. Keep management informed
In many organizations, management fails to fully comprehend the risk that cybersecurity vulnerabilities really represent for their company. Even if your IT team understands the risks and vulnerabilities, they may lack the experience or knowledge to communicate them effectively to upper-level management–or management may fail to take that information into account. Because of this, they might not allocate the necessary resources to implement corrective measures or to make the changes to secure your vulnerable systems and applications.
When you perform a Pentest, on the other hand, you’re working with professionals whose job it is to better understand cybersecurity risks and their impact on your business. When you receive your report at the end of the test, you’ll get a detailed document that explains each vulnerability and what would be the consequences if they are exploited. It will also provide an executive summary, explaining your risks in a clear and concise language adapted to non-technical stakeholders. As a result, management will be better equipped to understand the importance of cybersecurity in your organization.
5. Prioritize fixes
Vulnerabilities are inevitable and it is nearly impossible to mitigate all of them, even for large organizations with hundreds of employees. Without a penetration test, it can be quite a daunting task to determine which vulnerability needs to be addressed first. With the help of professional frameworks recognized by the industry, such as the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), a Pentest will not only identify every potential angle of attack hackers could take, but also categorize them based on two criterias: How easy it is to exploit them (which increases the number of potential attackers) and the potential impact on the confidentiality/integrity of the systems and data. A typical report will break vulnerabilities down into 4 risk levels: Critical (Requiring immediate attention), High (Should be addressed as soon as possible), Moderate (Address when possible, but do not ignore) and Low (Consider when making changes). This will allow your team to focus their time and resources on the risks that could have significant consequences on your company and provide insight on what to account for when making changes.
6. Prevent financial losses
Depending on the size of your infrastructure and applications, penetrating testing can sound like an expensive investment. Cyberattacks, on the other hand, can generate losses that are far more important than the cost of a pentest. According to a study by IBM, the cost of lost business following a cyberattack average at $1.42 million per incident. This excludes the resources spent to recover from a cyberattack, which averaged at $13 million in 2018. In some cases, attacks can be so devastating that they can wipe out your entire organization and force it to shut down permanently. Woodranch medical, for example, was forced to close its doors following a ransomware that encrypted and deleted all of its patient data.
Cybersecurity has become essential for many businesses in today’s ever-growing digital society. With the help of penetration testing, you will be able to identify how you are vulnerable to attacks, keep your stakeholders in the loop so you can allocate your resources adequately and prevent losses.