Hidden Risks With Penetration Testing

August 12, 2023

Discover hidden risks with penetration testing. Penetration testing (or pen test) is an approach used to detect vulnerabilities within an IT infrastructure and detect gaps in defense measures and improve cybersecurity strategy development.

Penetration testing helps identify risks while also assessing compliance, increasing employee awareness of security protocols and measuring incident response plans’ efficacy to ensure business continuity.

1. Vulnerabilities

As part of running an internet-facing business, it is imperative to periodically run vulnerability scans to ensure the security of your systems and to comply with security regulations like PCI-DSS or HIPAA.

Vulnerabilities may take various forms, from outdated software and operating systems, open ports, network misconfigurations or overexposed features and services – to outdated operating systems themselves – that leave systems vulnerable. Attackers could potentially exploit these vulnerabilities to gain entry to your system and steal sensitive information.

Pen testing can assist in uncovering vulnerabilities so they can be fixed before they cause disruptions in your business and with its customers. It is a vital way of protecting both them both.

Additionally, this process helps you uncover potential weaknesses that you hadn’t considered yet – which allows for more precise planning of remediation processes and prevents money being wasted on patches that won’t work.

Penetration testing can be carried out using either manual techniques or automated tools, making it important to understand their differences so you can select one that best meets the needs of your organization.

Automated vulnerability scanning uses various techniques to search for weaknesses in applications and networks, including crawling websites for known vulnerabilities, combing through published lists of CVEs to find common weaknesses, and employing artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate exploit attempts autonomously.

Scanning tools offer a good way to identify vulnerabilities and their severity levels; however, their reports can sometimes contain false positives.

So it is vital that your organization seeks out a reliable vendor capable of providing detailed reports and recommendations for corrective action, in order to protect itself against security breaches which could leave it exposed to major fines and costly consequences.

Penetration testing serves to discover and assess the security of your network, servers, devices, and applications. As it’s an extremely specialized form of IT security, penetration tests should only be carried out by professionals with experience in finding vulnerabilities in an organization’s infrastructure and exploiting them to breach it.

2. Hackers with questionable motives

Many hackers are motivated by various motives, including financial gain, street cred or corporate espionage. Hackers may also seek revenge against their targets while some use their skills as an act of civil disobedience.

Hackers use malware to access information and then sell it on the dark web for profit – where it is sold as social security numbers, payment information or even used to commit identity theft or make counterfeit money.

Hackers may gain entry to your computer in order to spy on you or they could use zombie computers (bots) that secretly control it to spread spam or launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that cause network slowdown or shutdown altogether.

Some hacktivists are motivated by political or religious convictions and may seek to promote an agenda or social movement through online activity. Some nation states employ hacker groups for strategic purposes – stealing trade secrets or interfering in elections are among their targets.

Hackers often seek to spread fear and chaos around the globe through cyberterrorism. Hackers frequently employ viruses, worms, and phishing attacks in order to disrupt operations or collect large sums of cryptocurrency as ransom.

Spy hacker groups are increasingly utilized by corporations as an effective means to penetrate competitors or act as moles in organizations, helping companies steal trade secrets and gain competitive advantages.

White hat hackers provide ethical penetration testing and provide assistance in keeping clients’ systems secure, acting as both white hat and gray hat hackers.

A hacker with black-hat hacking experience typically seeks to gain entry to systems for malicious reasons; while white hat hackers tend to prioritize security and ensure their clients’ systems remain protected.

White hat hackers often work for security firms and governments, investigating and fixing system vulnerabilities that may lead to system attacks. While these ethical hackers strive to safeguard public interests, their services cannot always prevent black-hat hackers from breaking into systems they defend.

3. Exposure

Penetration testing is an integral component of any comprehensive security strategy, helping companies identify security flaws that hackers could exploit to break into networks, steal sensitive data or otherwise cause harm.

penetration testing is used by many organizations to bolster their cyber defenses and demonstrate to stakeholders that their cybersecurity investments are working as promised. Penetration testing also allows organizations to fine-tune their defensive setup and test out blue teams (those dedicated to strengthening security within their companies).

Penetration testing is carried out by someone with special skills that allow them to gain entry into a system or network and break in, then identify and assess vulnerabilities through various steps that include #1) Data Collection, #2) Vulnerability Assessment and #3) Exploitation.

Pen testers employ various scanning tools to gather as much information about the target network as possible, then use this data to launch various attacks against it such as buffer overflow, denial of service (DoS) attacks and other exploits.

Once completed, a detailed report is compiled that details all vulnerabilities and recommended corrective actions for correcting them, with copies being distributed to IT managers and others responsible for security within an organization.

An effective testing process relies heavily on comprehensive reports. An organized report allows security teams to comprehend and act upon what was discovered during testing.

An effective vulnerability report can assist your business with meeting all its information security standards, particularly for companies handling personally identifiable information such as PHI (Personally Identifiable Information). Such companies need to demonstrate to clients and investors that security is their top priority.

The best penetration testers possess both skill and experience to conduct thorough, efficient penetration testing. Utilizing hacking techniques that mirror those employed by real attackers to find vulnerabilities within systems and applications. Testing can be conducted both internally and externally to detect any security holes that might allow an outsider to compromise a company’s system and access its data.

4. Outages

Penetration tests (or pen tests, as they’re commonly known in the industry) are an efficient way to identify vulnerabilities and evaluate your cyber security defenses. A quality test should offer insight into both strengths and weaknesses within both systems and people – leading to improved efficiency with less downtime and increased productivity as a result.

An effective pen test requires teamwork; those conducting it should know exactly what they’re doing and have your best interests in mind. Top penetration testers will possess an in-depth knowledge of your network as well as any tools necessary for its protection, and be able to report back with a comprehensive report detailing their findings to their superiors.

An effective penetration test can reveal numerous unexpected security features and flaws that would not otherwise be apparent to an average user. For example, it may expose hidden routers on the network that would not otherwise be noticeable, or uncover security vulnerabilities which could be exploited by unapproved employees. Many such security snafus can be easily avoided with proper planning – taking time to identify and address security deficiencies is an invaluable investment that can protect both you and your employees in the future.

Ammar Fakhruddin

ABOUT AUTHOR

Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.


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