Just like IT applications, networks and operating systems are prone to cyber security vulnerabilities and threats. As companies allow outsiders such as; suppliers, business partners and customers, boundaries that separate unwelcomed intruders and trusted users become hard to manage. One effective way of identifying such security threats before the cause trouble is by conducting penetration tests. Penetration testing also known as pen test is a simulated cyber-attack against a network, system or application. It seeks to methods that hackers can use to by-pass security features by mimicking real-world cyber-attacks. Note that, a penetration test should occur from both the inside and outside of a system network.

Penetration testing tools

Penetration testing tools automate specified tasks in a bid to boost test efficiency and identify issues that would otherwise be missed when using manual system analysis techniques. Common penetration testing tools include; dynamic analysis tools and static analysis tools. These testing tools are applied to identify vulnerabilities such as; malicious codes in the system and absence of core system functionalities that could cause security breach. For instance, they can examine whether the applied encryption is sufficient and whether a software application contains any backdoors via hard-coded passwords and usernames.

Penetration testing methodology

After vulnerabilities and threats are evaluated, penetration testing should address all identified risks throughout the system, application or network. The testing must include all key system access points, core network connections, and applications that store, transmit and process core business data. The goal of penetration testing is to determine whether unauthorized access to core files and systems can be achieved by malicious hackers. If unauthorized access can be achieved, the vulnerable access points must be sealed through application of additional security measures.

Companies must shift to proactive approaches that protect crucial business data and organizational infrastructure. This is the only way to minimize any identified risks and high costs incurred during recovery after a data and security breach occurs. To ensure productivity and data security, companies must accept and demystify different security myths that predispose data to malicious attacks. The myths include; hackers do not hack small organizations that are not established or an organization that uses firewall and updated security systems cannot experience a cyber-attack.

Summary

Though some companies may view penetration testing as expensive, it is nothing as compared to the effort and costs incurred when cleaning after a data breach. Pen tests offer benefits like; minimizing possibilities of data breaches, identifying and prioritizing security risks, and safeguarding intellectual property and sensitive data among others. Therefore, penetration testing should be prioritized among all organizations that store and process private client data online or using applications.