What is Penetration Testing?
Last updated 25/01/2019
Penetration testing also known as a pen testing identifies vulnerabilities which are exploited by certified professionals in an effort to penetrate your company’s network. A professional ethical hacker running the penetration test assess the network environment, finds potential vulnerabilities, and attempts to exploit those vulnerabilities in the same way a real-world hacker would. The holes in a business’s network can invite threats looking to find and use these defense pitfalls to their advantage. The goal of penetration testers is to identify these holes now so that they can be addressed and other hackers can’t take advantage of them in the future.
Many companies receive penetration tests regularly to comply with the standards of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). However, a penetration test is useful for any company wishing to assess their IT security systems, it is not only a requirement for compliance standards such as PCI DSS and ISO 27001. Any business can use a pen test to see just how secure their business network is.
What You Need to Know About Penetration Testing
Company websites and networks are being targeted by cyber-attackers, a compromise or breach can negatively affect a business in many ways. To help prevent this, businesses build up their network security systems, spending money on defensive devices such as firewall’s, web application firewalls and intrusion detection devices to keep out potential threats and help prevent a breach.
But the question is…
How do you know that these methods are effective?
The only way to see how robust your company’s defenses are is to put them to the test. A penetration test or pen test is one of the best ways to identify where your cyber security defenses are weak allowing you to strengthen them against real cyber-attacks. The end result from a penetration test is a report ranking identified vulnerabilities by risk level, allowing your business to focus on the high level issues first.
What does a Penetration Test Provide?
Having an external pen test provider perform an assessment against your company network allows a ethical hacker access to attempt to break into your company’s secure network to see if they can gain access to sensitive data. The ethical hacker’s penetration process is typically manual with the use of automated tools, allowing the consultant to use tools to automate parts of the test while still spending time on likely entry points, much like a real hacker would. Allowing an attacker to identify security issues with tools, then manually verify, exploit and combine the existence of multiple lower level vulnerabilities into higher level issues.
How Much does a Penetration Test Cost?
The cost of the penetration test can vary depending on several factors that pen testers take into consideration when hired to perform ethical hacking for a company:
- Complexity: Depending on how complex the network environment is and the size of it, plus the devices within that network all effect the price of the pen test. Because these elaborate networks and environments require more work to hack and expose all the vulnerabilities within the system.
- Methodology: Every hired hacker has their own unique style when it comes to pen starting. The tools they utilise can range in price, and those who use the most expensive equipment tend to charge more for their services. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Those who with the most expensive tools can perform a pen test fast and can offer superior results than pen testers who use lower quality tools. Making these more expensive pen testers worth the additional costs.
- Experience: Pen testers who have been at their job longer also charge more for their services. If you opt for a pen tester with a lower price tag, just be wary of the quality of the results. However, if you come across a pen tester offering their services at an unreasonably low price, be extra cautious because they may not be qualified or they may not be thoroughly testing the security.
- Onsite: A pen test can be performed on site or off site. However, it is normally done offsite except for in situations when the network environment is very large. In that case, an onsite visit is best to thoroughly examine the business’s security.
- Remediation: Depending on whether you want to be charged for retesting and/or remediation some pen testers will charge you for that, as compared to others who will provide the results of their test and vanish.
Is Penetration Testing Worth the Price?
Penetration testing identifies security issues before malicious users can exploit them, it's probably the most important thing a company can do to prevent a breach and ensure systems are functioning as expected - Netpeas.com 2019
When you consider the fact that finding weaknesses within your IT systems through pen testing will significantly reduce the chances of a real hacker exploiting any one hole in your system and costing you significantly more than the price of a pen test. You can bet that the price of a penetration test is worth it for the level of risk it helps reduce.