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Why Do I Need a Penetration Test?

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"Why do I need a penetration test?" is one of the most frequent questions we field here at Packetlabs.

In today's blog, we provide an overview of penetration testing, common misconceptions surrounding it, and the different types of testing your organization should be considering in 2023 and beyond.

An Overview of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a professional service that evaluates the security of your organization, supporting applications and infrastructure from an attacker’s perspective. There are various threats affecting the security of your business, and exploring each of them helps us to understand any exposure; this is where a penetration test comes in.

A penetration test is best if performed by a qualified resource proficiently communicating the significance of each finding in terms that the business can understand. Discovered findings are measured in risk and business impact to help prioritize remediation and the allocation of resources to increase security overall.

How Businesses Benefit From Penetration Tests

A penetration test helps reduce exposure to financial loss, resulting from a breach. Having a window into the mind of an attacker, a penetration test helps to uncover targets of opportunity, the path of least resistance, and technical vulnerabilities that, if exploited, may result in significant financial loss. For instance, the average cost of a data breach last year was $5M USD.

Many organizations look to insurance to transfer risk, but recent news has indicated there are many exclusions and limitations to this strategy. To start, cyber insurance in Canada has very low coverages forcing many organizations to seek high coverages with out-of-country insurance providers. Unfortunately, having a policy also does not mean your damages will be covered.

Penetration testing provides the most value when coupled with a particular business change. During mergers and acquisitions, IT teams are scrambling to unify their operations and ensure each side is not exposing the other to cyber and financial risk. A penetration test is an excellent fit and helps measure risk, and prioritize remediation before the networks are integrated to maintain the integrity of each.

Types of Penetration Testing

Here at Packetlabs, we offer the following penetration tests and related assessments:

  • DevSecOps: DevSecOps is integrated early in your development cycle and can act as an extension of your development team to find and flag vulnerabilities within your existing detected management systems

  • Red Teaming: Red Teaming is a full-scope, multi-layered simulated attack designed to get a holistic review of the level of risk and vulnerabilities across people, processes and technologies in an organization

  • Purple Teaming: Purple Teaming is our collaborative testing exercise where Packetlabs’ red team works with your internal security operations team (or blue team) to bridge the gap between offensive techniques and response efforts

  • Cyber Maturity Assessments: A Cyber Maturity Assessment supports the tactical direction of your cybersecurity strategy. As the first step in strengthening your security posture, this assessment generates the roadmap to strengthen your overall security program

  • Compromise Assessments: A Compromise Assessment uncovers past or present threats like zero-day malware, trojans, ransomware, and other anomalies that may go unnoticed in standard automated vulnerability scans

  • OT Assessments: OT Cybersecurity Assessments simulate the likelihood of an attacker reaching the control centre from an external and internal perspective with production-safe testing

  • Ransomware Penetration Testing: A ransomware penetration test evaluates the preparedness and risk of a ransomware attack and identifies gaps in people, processes, and technology, to determine the likelihood and readiness for a ransomware attack

  • Cloud Penetration Testing: Multiple perspectives help with strengthening your security posture. These include Cloud Penetration Testing, which simulates an attacker in the environment, and a Cloud Penetration Review, which provides insights into cloud-specific vulnerabilities originating from an insecure configuration. Each of these services can be conducted separately or, for maximum effectiveness, combined as an enhanced cloud security bundle

  • Objective-based Penetration Testing: Following a preliminary penetration test, objective-based testing conducts a more advanced simulated cybersecurity attack. The test is conducted by persistent ethical hackers who deploy multiphase attacks to gain access to your organization's data so that you can discover gaps and vulnerabilities unique to your organization and test your ability to detect and respond to threat actor

  • Application Security Testing: More targeted in scope than a regular pentest, application security testing uncovers vulnerabilities residing in your web and mobile apps. Application Security Testing actively explores your application from an attacker’s perspective

  • Infrastructure Penetration Testing: An infrastructure penetration testing assessment uncovers vulnerabilities in your IT and network systems and provides a tailored approach to each environment

These are in addition to the Packetlabs Portal, which enables you to quickly view findings, prioritize efforts, request retests after remediation, and monitor progress.

Which Compliance Standards Mandate Penetration Testing?

Various regulatory requirements understand the importance of penetration testing services and mandate annual testing. PCI and SOC 2 are two standards that often require penetration testing to be certified. In PCI, requirements 11.3 outlines the requirements for annual penetration testing of the cardholder data environment (CDE).

PCI DSS 11.3.1 Perform external penetration testing at least annually and after any significant infrastructure or application upgrade or modification (such as an operating system upgrade, a sub-network added to the environment, or a web server added to the environment).

PCI DSS 11.3.2 Perform internal penetration testing at least annually and after any significant infrastructure or application upgrade or modification (such as an operating system upgrade, a sub-network added to the environment, or a web server added to the environment).

PCI-DSS Requirements

PIPEDA and GDPR are two privacy-related laws in Canada and the UK, respectively. While they do not mandate penetration testing, their fines are high and mandate timely breach notifications. Penetration testing is a great fit to balance privacy legislation because it explores your business from the perspective of an attacker looking to obtain unauthorized access to privacy and personal health information (PHI).

"Why Do I Need a Penetration Test, and How Does it Benefit My Organization's IT?"

Penetration testing helps prioritize investments in your IT Security program. As IT Security evolves within the business, there are several areas that require controls and allocating resources is typically done through a risk assessment process. The effectiveness of this process is based on the risk management framework you’ve adopted and does not take into consideration any blind spots you may have. Further, investing in technologies is fruitless unless you have an operational process to implement and maintain each of them. Penetration testing is practical and helps understand the impact of each missing or ineffective control within your business.

An objective-based penetration test, as just one example, is a full-blown simulation to assess cybersecurity within your organization through considerations of countless attack scenarios including phishing, tailgating, device drops, etc. These engagements are best run blind, where the target operations teams are unaware there is a penetration test to test their reaction; similar to a fire drill. In countless engagements, our team has been miscategorized as foreign nation attackers with limited justification; in others, they discover it’s a penetration test and block the attack.

Having this knowledge enables organizations to better prepare for an attack and adapt their strategies to reduce risk.

How Penetration Testing Improves Client and Customer Confidence

Customers expect more from organizations that hold their most sensitive information. In the event of a breach, customer confidence is lost which results in millions of damages. In some cases, customers mandate their vendors perform and share the results of their penetration tests to validate that they are taking the same steps to protect their information.

In the Software-as-a-Service industry, penetration testing attempts to obtain unauthorized access to other customers information. Most SaaS applications are multi-tenanted, which means that your information is stored alongside other customers information. On the same database, application servers, or content delivery network. Isolation of this content can be completed, but there is often a way to call functionality directly and bypass these restrictions.

Most important, is customer confidence in your brand. In a previous article on this topic, we had outlined that research suggests that if your organization is impacted by a data breach, 65% of your customers will think about moving their business, and 31% actually will. Immediate financial risk is obvious, but the erosion of customer confidence will take time to realize.

Conclusion

"Why do I need a penetration test?" is a crucial question to ask when in search of a pentesting vendor.

In summary, penetration testing is a great tool to help with various business and technology-related challenges. It is a precious investment at every stage of business growth, all sizes of business and helps prioritize IT spending to maintain client confidence in your brand.

While it is often mandated to ensure the protection of specific information (e.g., credit cards), it is done so because of how effective it is. Your customers' privacy and confidence in your business are essential for growth.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help.

Download our Free Buyer's Guide

Whether you are looking to complete Penetration Testing to manage risk, protect your data, comply with regulatory compliance standards or as a requirement for cyber insurance, selecting the right company is crucial.

Download our buyer’s guide to learn everything you need to know to successfully plan, scope and execute your penetration testing projects.