What is penetration testing?

A penetration test, also known as a pen test, is a process in which an IT system would be tested by an ethical hack to find any vulnerabilities which could leave a system exposed to an unwanted attack.

The aim of this ethical hack would be to find and identify any potential faults in the system so they can be either fixed or defences bolstered.

In this type of test, the same or similar tools and techniques would be used as those of a potential hacker. This is a high-level method to gain assurance in the security of the systems that you use. This will normally be applied to individual systems such as local and wide area networks (LAN and WAN), Wireless, Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), and Internet of Things (IoT) etc.

Keep in mind though that when running a penetration test, it can only identify problems that it is designed to look for. It should not be viewed as the primary way for identifying any vulnerabilities you may have in your security systems.

If you are looking to find vulnerabilities in your IT systems and to find potential security risks such as software defects or configuration issues, penetration testing may not be for you. In this case we would recommend a vulnerability test instead.

How does penetration testing work?

You would normally look to outsource this job to a trusted IT company to perform this test, more specifically a cyber security specialist.

Firstly, systems that you are using will be assessed and all relevant information collected so the testing can start. From there all points of possible entry will be identified. This will show you the level of susceptibility each entry point has.

The next stage is the analysis. Any vulnerabilities in your IT system will then be highlighted and explored. Once found they will be defined and categorised.

But it doesn’t stop there… the issues which get flagged will be investigated further and the ethical hackers will expose the IT system to more attacks to be sure they found everything.

The next stage is the most important bit to you, and that is the reporting of the penetration test. This report will be the documentation of the entire process and what was involved. Then an actionable list would be created for you with what needs to be done to increase protection of your IT systems.

Why is penetration testing important?

illustration of a weak link in a chain highlights looking for weaknesses in your IT systems
A penetration test will look for and highlight weaknesses in your IT systems, like a weak link in a chain

Penetration testing is important because it shows the weaknesses in your IT systems. Once you know what your weaknesses are they can then be improved.

It will highlight areas of your cyber security that you may have overlooked, and this way of testing will bring weaknesses to your attention. You can then either change your systems security or heighten the security on the systems you already have.

A penetration test will also help you and your business be better prepared for a cyber-attack. It would be naive for any business owner to think they’ll never fall victim to an attack as no system is fully immune. With penetration testing however, you will not only be helped to assess the effectiveness of the systems you are currently using, but also the steps you need to have in place to deal with an attack should you fall victim to one. It will help you and your IT team to know what to expect and what you should do in order to deal with an attack. Preparation is the key.

Does my business need a penetration test?

The short answer to that question is yes. It is a very good idea to conduct a penetration test on your business as it will show you where your vulnerabilities are in the specific systems you test. If these vulnerabilities are being picked up in the test, you can guarantee that hackers can find them too.

Keep in mind that conducting a penetration test is not a one-time activity. Any time you install web applications or a new infrastructure to your network, you physically move office or add an additional site to your network, or when you apply any security patches a test should be conducted.

It may also be that penetration testing is required periodically as part of your organisations industry profile and regulatory requirements or to meet customer compliance.

The sad thing is that cyber-attacks are rapidly increasing, and hackers aren’t slowing down in their efforts. You need to protect yourself and your business from being attacked. As we said earlier, no business is totally immune to an attack, but you can increase your defences and so make it much harder to fall victim to one.

We obviously recommend fixing any issues flagged by their level of significance. So, the worse the risk, the higher the priority, and so the sooner the fix needs to be implemented.

PS Tech can help you identify any weaknesses in your business IT systems. Once we’ve identified them for you, we can work alongside you to bolster your cyber security and give you peace of mind.

Contact PS Tech today to get started.

July 14, 2022 — Paul Stanyer