What is penetration testing?
A penetration test, interchangeably called a pen test, simulates real attack scenarios to evaluate how secure the system is. The goal is to identify security weaknesses that attackers exploit. Traditionally speaking, the process involves a team of ethical hackers or pen testers. Once the scope is defined, the team dives in to find any potential entry points and conduct various types of attacks to see how the target responds. After the testing phase is complete, the team gathers the findings and complies a report. The testing period varies depending on the size of the scope, the expertise of pen testers, and the amount of weaknesses found. It can be from days to weeks to months to complete a thorough and comprehensive test.
Why is penetration testing important?
Penetration testing is crucial to identify and learn about security weaknesses. Often, organizations may not be aware of every weakness as they are busy developing and releasing new products and features as soon as possible. This is why conducting a pen test benefits businesses to discover both known and unknown security weaknesses they have.
Moreover, the results from a pen test help prioritizing security issues organizations need to work on. In most pen test reports, security weaknesses are categorized by the critical level of security that can be the backbone of a security patch strategy. This aids patching and fixing important security issues before hackers take advantage of them.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu famously said “to know your enemy, you must become your enemy.” It applies to cybersecurity, as well. As the number of cyber breaches increases, organizations need to know what types of weaknesses they have in an attacker’s point of view.
Penetration testing is the first step to know and become the enemy. By simulating real attacks, pen testing identifies security weaknesses and helps businesses remediate them before attackers abuse and exploit them.