In many industries, maintaining your compliance standards–such as the PCI standard for card processing–includes annual penetration testing. Many companies, however, are filled with people who wonder why they have to take care of this task. Is it really necessary? How important is penetration testing, really? If you’ve been putting off your annual pen test or you’re struggling to understand the importance of penetration testing for your organization, consider these key reasons you need to conduct a penetration test.
1. Uncover Hidden Vulnerabilities Before Hackers Do
Quick questions: do you know what the latest exploits used by hackers are? Do you know what holes exist in your network? Are you maintaining the latest cybersecurity standards, or are your security efforts falling a little short of the mark?
Many hackers stay on the cutting edge of technology, and they have a solid understanding of the vulnerabilities that fill every industry. Fortunately, so do penetration testers. As they test your system, pen testers will determine the vulnerabilities within your system, whether that means identifying a program long overdue for an upgrade or a smart device connected to your network with a glaring security hole. When you uncover those vulnerabilities early in the game, you can close them before a hacker finds their way through–and that can go a long way toward protecting your business.
2. Your Business Makes a Great Target
Many business owners assume that their business isn’t worth hitting. Why would a hacker bother targeting them? Unfortunately, many hackers disagree. Businesses of all kind are the ideal target for many hackers. They often lack the resources held by larger organizations, and they may struggle to keep up with the latest security standards. A majority of businesses are more likely to use legacy systems filled with gaping holes or to fail to update software once the initial contract has expired. Unfortunately, that means that hackers have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of it–and they may find it easier to get inside.
When you hire a pen tester, they’ll take a look at your small business’s security and give you a better idea of what holes need to be closed. Even if that means looking at an extensive–and potentially expensive–list of fixes, in the end, fixing security holes now is much less expensive than dealing with the aftermath of a cyberattack.
3. Comply with Regulatory Requirements
In your industry, you answer to a governing body that insists on a certain level of security standards for your business. For example, if you process customer payments through a credit or debit card system, you must be PCI compliant. Maintaining those compliance standards means regular pen testing. Not only does the testing identify potential vulnerabilities, ensuring that you are protecting your customers or patients, it allows you to remain complaint in your industry. Maintaining compliance means that you will avoid costly fines and fees and that you can continue to do business as usual.
4. Keep Management Informed About Cybersecurity Risk Level
In many companies, management fails to fully understand what cybersecurity vulnerabilities really look like for your company. Even if your IT department understands the risks and vulnerabilities, they may lack the experience or professional knowledge to communicate that effectively to upper level management–or management may fail to take that information into account.
When you schedule a pen test, on the other hand, you’re working with professionals whose job it is to better understand cybersecurity risk and how it could impact your business. When you receive your report at the end of the test, you’ll get a detailed document that explains each risk and the potential impact it could have on your business, as well as the severity of those ongoing risks. As a result, management may better understand the risk those factors can have on your business–and they may be more likely to act on that information.
5. Better Prioritize Fixing Security Problems
You know that your business has a few security holes, especially if you’re just getting started in the industry or if you’ve failed to upgrade your system in a while. If you aren’t a cybersecurity professional, however, you may not know how serious those security problems are or how they will impact your business long-term. As part of your penetration test, you will receive a detailed report letting you know what security problems exist and how serious they are. This makes it easier to prioritize the fixes needed for your system so that you can focus on the areas most likely to cause long-term negative impact for your business or your customers.
6. Learn How to Correct Your Vulnerabilities
Sometimes, security fixes are simple: upgrading your software, for example, or insisting that employees throughout your business use more detailed, effective passwords. Other times, on the other hand, the fix may not be so simple–and you may not be sure how to make it happen.
When you conduct your penetration test, you will also receive key advice about how to implement necessary fixes for your company, whether that means upgrading to multi-factor authentication or training your employees to avoid phishing scams. With this understanding, you can do a better job of bringing your business up to necessary standards, both for compliance and for true security.
7. Highlight the Differences Between Compliance & Security
You have to conduct annual penetration testing in order to remain compliant in your industry, but if you’re only maintaining minimum compliance standards, chances are, you’re missing out on some of the vulnerabilities that could impact your company. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing fields in technology. Every day, more than 350,000 new pieces of malicious software are created. Hackers discover new strategies to get around your existing security precautions. Phishing scams increase.
Is your business truly protected, or are you simply doing the bare minimum to retain your compliance standards?
When you conduct a penetration test, you can limit your attention to the bare minimum necessary for compliance standards, or you can allow your penetration tester to give you a better idea of what you need to achieve true security. Often, there is a vast difference between the two–and following the recommendations of your penetration testing company can help you maintain better security for your organization.
8. You Can Simulate What Will Happen During a Cyberattack
You think that your business is as secure as possible. While it might be, there is no guarantee that you are perfectly protected. Given enough time and incentive, hackers can break into almost any system.
If they make it into yours, what will they find? Will your system come down at the first sign of ransomware? Will your backups really provide the protection you need?
Most of the time, penetration testers slip into your system without you ever realizing that they’ve been there. Their processes do little to slow down the overall productivity of your business. After the test, however, they can provide you with a report that will show exactly what would have happened if it had been a real attack. In some cases, this can help you better prepare your systems for the potential for attack by closing holes in your security or isolating systems so that even if one is compromised, other segments will remain safe.
9. Determine Security Awareness Throughout Your Organization
The most vulnerable point in your organization is the people who work there–and unfortunately, your security is only as strong as your weakest link. Do you have employees who fail to understand proper password security? Employees who will click on unfamiliar links in their emails without thought or who will provide private information or access over the phone without appropriate testing? You can’t determine that on your own. By using a penetration tester, on the other hand, you can develop a more solid understanding of security awareness throughout your organization. Then, if needed, you can provide or update training for your employees.
10. Penetration Testing Can Save Your Business Money
Penetrating testing sounds like an expensive investment, especially if you want expensive testing or plan to implement solutions that go above and beyond compliance.
Cyber attacks, on the other hand, are even more expensive.
Can your business afford to lose the $1 million or more that it stands to lose during a cyberattack? Whether your business suffers through a denial of service attack that takes your systems down or a hit to your systems that leaves the hacker with access to private customer information, the cost can quickly add up. Unfortunately, as many as 60% of small businesses must close their doors within 6 months of a cyberattack, most due to a combination of lost business and expense due to the attack. Maintaining your cybersecurity standards, by comparison, doesn’t cost nearly as much!
Cybersecurity has become an increasingly important issue for many businesses in today’s digital society. Through regular penetration testing, you can help maintain security for your business and decrease your odds of falling victim to a cyberattack.