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How Penetration Testing Can Help Prevent Ransomware Attacks


Ransomware attacks are increasing exponentially every year. Businesses of all sizes have become victims of these vicious cyber-attacks, which often result in the loss of sensitive data, financial losses, and damaged reputations.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a specially-designed malware that infects one or many target computers by encrypting all of the data in the target system. It also prevents the owners from accessing the data and forces the system's owner to pay a ransom in exchange for releasing that data.

Such an attack vector often takes advantage of network, system, and software vulnerabilities, loopholes, or mistakes humans commit. Ransomware can target PCs, smartphones, printers, point-of-sale (POS) servers, network devices, or other endpoints. According to research, by 2025, ransomware attacks will cost an estimated revenue loss of US$ 10.5 trillion annually, along with damages to brand reputation. Another study shows that, by 2031, a ransomware attack will happen every two seconds; the frequency was one attack every 11 seconds in 2021.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, can be an effective way to prevent ransomware attacks. By simulating a real-world cyber-attack, penetration testers can help identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in an organization's network and systems. They use specialized tools to penetrate or exploit networks, computer systems, websites, servers, and apps to identify and report vulnerabilities. Although the primary motive of penetration testing is to detect exploitable points in digital assets, security professionals also use it to test whether a system is prone to threats.

Organizations that have not been through a penetration test are at a much higher risk of being successfully attacked by ransomware. In fact, a recent study found that organizations that had not undergone penetration testing were 7 times more likely to be hit with ransomware than those who had penetration testing.

Why is ransomware penetration testing important?

Incorporating ransomware penetration testing into your security strategy can help you to stay ahead of the attackers and mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack. A ransomware attack will not only disrupt an enterprise’s regular working, but it can also inflict financial losses and draw regulatory intervention. By identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities in an organization's network and systems, penetration testers can help businesses take steps to fix those issues before they are exploited by cybercriminals.

How does ransomware access and start exploiting systems?

There are numerous ways ransomware can access a system. Some well-known attack vectors are phishing or spam emails, remote desktop protocols, USB sticks, drive-by downloads, DNS poisoning, email attachments, and clipboard hijacking. In most cases, the emails or messages come as a file or links that masquerade themselves as coming from a trusted source. Penetration testers identify the flaws in the enterprise system by exploiting and reporting them.

Steps to perform ransomware-centric penetration testing

Penetration testing is an efficient way to identify system vulnerabilities that may lead to a ransomware attack. Here are the phases:

  1. Planning: In the first phase, the pen-tester will develop a plan and list all the tools and techniques required to exploit the system & find the flaw.

  2. Reconnaissance: In this phase, the pen-tester starts using the tools on any existing vulnerability, pinpointing flaws and access paths, as well as identifying resources prone to a ransomware attack, among others.

  3. Exploitation: In this phase, the pen-tester tries to exploit the systems and their owners. They will consider how ransomware gets pushed into a corporate network. They will use social engineering or exploit the known attack vectors.

  4. Analyze and study: After analyzing and discovering known vulnerabilities, the pen-tester will report their attacks and what they have accomplished. The professionals will suggest procedures to address the flaws and enhance security.

  5. Remediation plan: The enterprise must work on the crucial conclusions from a penetration test and develop a plan to resolve the findings.

Benefits of penetration testing

Penetration testing helps enterprises overcome risks associated with security vulnerabilities. Here is a list of some common reasons enterprises should perform penetration testing.

  • Testing your defence against cyberattacks: Since penetration testing recognizes all the vulnerabilities, enterprises can easily set up defensive measures against such attacks.

  • Predicting new threats: Penetration testing helps security professionals determine new threats based on weaknesses that the pen-testers exploit. Based on the test reports, security professionals can identify ransomware attacks.

  • Firewall inspection: Penetration testing can help identify any bug or flaw in the existing firewall configuration. Through this, enterprises can prevent ransomware and other malware threats.

  • Regulatory compliance: Through penetration testing, enterprises can adhere to regulatory compliance.

  • Risk prioritization: Penetration testing helps enterprises prioritize resources needing immediate attention. Risk prioritization also determines which resources need frequent backup.

  • Reduce downtime: Downtime often leads to a business’s downfall. Penetration testing can help calculate the time needed to react and revive the system from attacks.


Ransomware can cause irreparable damage to a business. By leveraging penetration testing techniques, enterprises can fix vulnerabilities before hackers exploit them. To learn more about ransomware penetration testing, contact the Packetlabs team today for a free, no-obligation quote.

Ransomware Penetration Testing

Ransomware penetration testing evaluates the preparedness and risk of a ransomware attack. In addition to a complete analysis of the security program against the Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Ransomware Risk Management (NISTIR 8374), and a technical assessment of security controls, a full penetration test is conducted to measure the robustness of your systems.