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In a threat landscape where ransomware attacks double year-over-year and the number of data compromises is at an all-time high, it is vital to understand how your information security program will stand up to threat actors. Whether you’re testing a new system before production deployment or checking in on how the defense of an existing system is working over time, conducting a penetration test can help you uncover gaps in your information security program before threat actors take advantage of them.

What is penetration testing?

Organizations hire ethical hackers to simulate an attack on their systems, referred to as a penetration test, also known as a pen test. The test is carefully designed to examine how well the organization’s security program keeps unwanted threat actors from infiltrating the online services in their systems. The test results give technology leaders valuable insights that help them reinforce the defense of their and their customer’s valuable data.

Penetration testing has a specific scope based on your unique goals.

Instead of using their expertise of systems and how they work for malicious purposes, like conducting a ransomware demand, pen testers use penetration testing methods to strategically uncover potential gaps in your defense.

You can conduct penetration tests on your entire system or a specific part of it. If pen testers run the test over a broader range of your systems, they have more context to consider as they prepare their simulated attacks and make remediation recommendations.

The right-sized penetration test will be unique to your organization, but every penetration test includes the following stages:

  1. Define scope: Collaborate with your pen testing partner to determine the goals, objectives, and length of the penetration test.
  2. Perform test: Pen testers use their experience and creativity to attempt to compromise your online services and find unexpected behaviors.
  3. Review findings: Your pen testing partner provides a report that outlines their findings and any potential consequences that may result from the vulnerabilities.
  4. Remediation: You rank your discovered risks and make any changes necessary to solve for the gaps.
  5. Test your fix: Pen testers repeat the test to confirm the remediation efforts were successful and didn’t create new vulnerabilities.

Penetration testing helps you defend your organization throughout time.

Deploy with confidence.

Aim to find as many vulnerabilities in your information security program as possible before it is put through the real-world test. A penetration test is a dress rehearsal before performing to a live audience on opening night. Conduct a penetration test before pushing your online system or application live to catch and patch any potentially exploitable issues before it’s accessible to the public.

It can be tempting to skip the penetration test step to get to a faster ROI on your systems. If you’ve already released your system to the public, it’s still beneficial to do a penetration test, so you have the information you need to remediate risk as soon as possible.

Prove the ongoing effectiveness of your security program.

Threat actors are a moving target to defend against. Your infrastructure and the threat landscape continue to evolve. These changes potentially create new opportunities for threat actors to break through and exploit your systems. Keep your information security program on pace with the advancing threat landscape by conducting regular penetration tests.

Aim to conduct penetration tests at a frequency that is appropriate for your risk level and risk tolerance. Your organization is unique, so the cadence of tests may be different than those of other organizations. For some companies, this may be conducting a pen test once per year, while for others it is more frequent. To evaluate your needs, consider your company size, the sensitivity and value of the data in your systems, your available budget and resources, regulations and compliance requirements, and your infrastructure. Information security tools like ZeroWall’s can help you decide the best strategy for your needs.

You may also need to conduct one-off penetration tests based on events happening in your organization’s ecosystem. Consider testing for new vulnerabilities after any major changes in your organization, including new office locations, end-user policy modification, or any other significant upgrades or modifications to infrastructure or environment.

Add additional perimeter monitoring power with a bug bounty program.

A penetration test is sometimes confused with a bug bounty program. Both approaches to information security exist to find gaps in your security program by simulating malicious attacks, but there are key differences between them.

A bug bounty program is an incentive initiative that offers independent hackers a reward for discovering and reporting vulnerabilities they find in your systems. Organizations pay hackers per reported vulnerability and offer rewards based on the level of criticality of the reported vulnerability. Bug bounty programs provide constant monitoring and occur with no time constraints, as opposed to penetration tests, which are experiments that happen within a specific timeframe.

Bug bounty programs uncover valuable information, but they should not replace the practice of penetration testing. A bug bounty program is a supplemental practice to methodical penetration tests. Use these practices together to gain a deeper understanding of how your security program will perform in real-world conditions.

Penetration testing builds trust in your security program.

Penetration testing is a safe and effective way to prove that your information security program is ready to safeguard your data against real-world threats. Consistent security drills help you quickly optimize your program and avoid oversights that can be detrimental to your organization’s valuable business data and relationships. The optimizations you make based on the penetration test findings help you confidently present your security program and build trust with stakeholders and clients.

Are you due for a penetration test?

ZeroWall’s tools help you assess your information security profile and decide your best next move.

Taking the ZeroWall Assessment™ is the fastest way to grow a holistic security program, including determining how and when you would benefit from conducting a penetration test.

ZeroWall’s Threat Model Engine works its magic and delivers you an Insights Report that outlines:

  • The gaps in your security program
  • How your current investments are addressing risks
  • How you compare to similarly-sized organizations in your industry
  • Right-sized recommendations, such as penetration testing, catered to your unique organization

Get the information you need to confidently build your organization’s right-sized program. Get started >

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