As businesses continue to be harangued by hackers and targeted by fraudsters, cybersecurity has never been more important. Luckily there are lots of ways for organisations of all sizes to protect themselves against data breaches and other damaging digital activities.
Penetration testing is one of the hottest segments of the cybersecurity market today, drawing on various skills and techniques to take on the hackers at their own game. But what is it exactly and how can it benefit modern businesses?
In the broadest sense of the term, penetration testing offered by specialist firms like Fidus Infosec is a kind of legitimised hacking. That is to say it involves identical processes and strategies, yet unlike actual attacks the aim is not to steal data, but rather pinpoint problems with an organisation’s existing cybersecurity infrastructure.
The obvious advantage of this is that it helps to justify the growing cost of countermeasures. Businesses spend a lot of money on solutions designed to rebuff hacking attempts, but it is difficult to know whether they are effective until a real attack happens. The aim of penetration testing is to take guesswork out of the equation and provide proof of a system’s resilience.
There are many areas in which penetration testing can go to work, focusing not only on digital systems but also on physical security within a business.
Breaches can occur at any time and impact even the largest organisations around. A penetration test can assess and evaluate whether a website, network, application, mobile software ecosystem or individual device will deflect an attempted hack, or succumb to it. This gives businesses peace of mind and also provides them with the information they need to make improvements where vulnerabilities are spotted.
The test can even encompass an investigation of what would happen if a device belonging to a company or one of its employees was lost or stolen. This is a big problem for many firms, especially as losses can go unreported and thefts remain unnoticed. Being confident that a device which ends up in the wrong hands will not be compromised is therefore important.
So far a number of the major advantages of penetration testing in relation to cybersecurity have already been covered, but there are a few other points to note.
Firstly, penetration testing can even be used as part of a push to ensure complete regulatory compliance within an organisation. This can include things like PCI DSS assessment, checking whether your practices and systems are able to meet the standard laid out by the payment card industry regulator.
Secondly, the testing can be scaled according to the size of your firm, the kinds of solutions you have in place and the amount of budget you have available to allocate to this task. You remain in complete control over the tactics that are deployed by testers, meaning you never need feel exposed or at risk during this process.
Finally, the testing can extend beyond your own systems and hardware to include any third party platforms upon which you are reliant. As more businesses choose to outsource their IT to the cloud, this is clearly an important advantage to pursue.
As you may have guessed, penetration testing is not a one size fits all option for cybersecurity, but rather a practice that involves multiple disciplines and can ultimately be adopted by large and small firms alike. As security threats will only continue to increase over time, it may even become entirely essential and no longer be seen as something esoteric, unnecessary or exclusive.