We’re slowly but surely heading toward a point where the majority of business owners and managers alike are becoming aware of the importance of data and network security. The simple fact of the matter is that the more dependent any business becomes on its networks and IT systems, the larger the threat they face from cyber criminals. Not only this, but when and where crooks do manage to hack their way into any given systems, greater reliance on said systems leads to greater consequences resulting from any damage done.
This is precisely why experts are more often than not suggesting that pen testing should be made a mandatory part of the IT security roadmap for any business with an interest in bolstering data security. Once considered nothing more than an optional extra for businesses looking to add another proverbial feather to their security bows, penetration testing is instead becoming an absolute prerequisite for businesses looking to reduce cyber attack threats to the lowest possible levels.
So, with those just coming across the idea for the first time in mind, just what exactly is involved in penetration testing and why is it so important?
Well, in terms of how the process itself works, it’s technically a case of one or more individuals with extensive experience in hacking taking up the position of the hacker and trying their best to get into your systems. Or in other words, they step into the shoes of those you’re trying to avoid in order to see how easy or otherwise you’re making life difficult for the crooks after your data.
The most crucial steps of the process are as follows:
- The data and IT systems of your business will be carefully analysed by the pen testing providers you hire, in order for them to get a good idea of how you’re running things.
- They will then move on to actively trying to hack into your systems by a variety of different methods and points of access – wireless, internal networks, externally etc. It will be up to those arranging the services in the first place as to whether company employees are made aware of the tests being carried out, or whether it is kept secret to ensure conditions at the time are 100% accurate and ensure conditions at the time reflect normality in the day to day operations of the business and normal.
- Once the hackers find their way into your systems, they will test exactly how deeply they can root around in your private networks and what type of data they can access. They’ll see how much data and what kind of data they could steal, what they might corrupt and how easy it might be to shut you down entirely. They’ll also evaluate how possible it would be for them to steal your data and disappear without a trace.
- All data collected will then be used to create a report on the security holes found, along with advice as to how they may be plugged. In some cases it may come down to more stringent security measures being taken by all employees across the board, though in others it may be essential to consider larger software and hardware overhauls. No changes will be made during the hacks or while the reports are being produced – all proposed changes will be discussed with the business owners and explained in detail.
- Implementation of the changes will be made once authorised by the business owners who will be made familiar with every element of every change made in order to better understand what has happened and why.
- Training may be offered if necessary for the business owners and its employees alike in order to both better understand the new security systems and also why and where the flaws existed before.
- Long-term aftercare and analysis may also be provided in order to keep track of the security system after the changes have been made, in order to ensure they are holding up and don’t require any further alterations or upgrades.
In terms of benefits, it all comes down to the way in which it’s impossible to know exactly what kinds of threats exist until you go out and look for them. Just because you have not yet faced a cyber security threat to date does not in fact mean that your systems are robust or even remotely effective – it just means you haven’t yet been targeted by criminals.
Waiting until the worst happens to learn a painful lesson is one option – the other is to proactively head off as many threats as possible in order to ensure they aren’t given the opportunity to deal you a bum hand.