Given the constant attempts of various cybersecurity threats, it is not enough to just have a cybersecurity system in place and rely on updates. Given to the evolution of such threats, it is important that your cybersecurity undergoes a thoroughly rigorous testing to better ensure the reliability and effectiveness of your cybersecurity system.
One way to ensure the performance of your cybersecurity network is through what is called penetration testing or pen testing. Simply put, pen testing is a security exercise attempting to find and exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system in order to identify any weak spots and address these weak spots immediately.
The ethical hacker
Given the crucial nature of this task, some precautions and minimum standards are set before pen testing can be initiated. For one, the test should be performed by someone with little-to-no prior knowledge of the system to be tested because they may be able to expose blind spots missed by the people who built the system. Because of this, people from outside the organization are usually brought in to perform the tests. They are also known as “ethical hackers” since they are doing hacking activities with the consent of the organization and for the purpose of increasing security.
Many ethical hackers are themselves experienced developers that actually hold a certification for pen testing. On the other hand, some of the best ethical hackers are self-taught. In fact, some are reformed criminal hackers who now use their expertise to help fix security flaws rather than exploit them. The best candidate to carry out a pen test can vary greatly depending on the target company and what type of pen test they want to initiate.
Types of pen test
An ethical hacker can conduct different types of pen test, depending on what the business requires or what may be deemed suitable depending on certain conditions. These are:
Open-box pen test - The hacker will be provided with some information ahead of time regarding the target company’s security details.
Closed-box pen test - Also known as a “single-blind” test, here the hacker is given no background information other than the name of the target company.
Covert pen test - Also known as a “double-blind” pen test, in this case, almost no one in the company is aware of the pen test, including the IT and security professionals. If a company is looking to do this type of pen test, it is especially important for the hacker to have the scope and other details of the test in writing beforehand to avoid any problems with law enforcement.
External pen test - The ethical hacker goes up against the company’s external-facing technology, such as their website and external network servers. In some cases, the hacker may not even be allowed to enter the company’s building, which means an attack may be conducted from a remote location or carrying out the test from a truck or van parked nearby.
Internal pen test - The ethical hacker performs the test from the company’s internal network.
The next steps
Once the pen test is completed, the ethical hacker shares their findings with the target company’s security team. The information shared by the ethical hacker will be utilized to implement security improvements and upgrades that will address the vulnerabilities detailed in the findings.
Conducting pen tests on a regular basis ensures your network is better prepared and capable of defending itself from various cybersecurity threats.