Why Pentesting Is Now a Necessity — and How To Leverage it Effectively

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The global penetration testing, or pentesting, market is already worth more than $1.8 billionOpens a new window , and experts predict a 15.97% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years.

This investment makes sense. Here’s why: attack surfaces are growing in tandem with expanding cloud networks and mobile device environments, thus making it easier for attackers to find and exploit unknown vulnerabilities.

To help identify potential problems before they become critical data breaches, effective penetration testing has gone from solid security addition to must-have for businesses of any size. Here’s a look at why pen tests are now a priority, how this process works, and what companies can do to make the most of their pentesting efforts.

The case for comprehensive pentesting

When vulnerabilities are found and reported by companies, they’re assigned a common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) number. Each CVE is also assigned a value between 1 and 10 using the common vulnerability scoring system (CVSS); higher values represent greater risk. CVEs with scores of 9 or greater are considered “critical,” while those with scores between 7 and 8.9 are “high” — both types have the potential to cause significant damage if exploited.

According to data from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NISTOpens a new window ), of the 20,158 vulnerabilities reported in 2021, more than 4,000 (20.2%) were rated either “high” or “critical”. The earlier IT teams can identify and remediate these issues, the lower their total risk.

How pentesting works

Penetration testing is the process of simulating cyberattacks against businesses to evaluate their defenses and identify software vulnerabilities or configuration weaknesses. It’s used in combination with other security tools such as web application firewalls (WAFs) and intrusion detection systems to provide greater visibility into current security practices and potential weak points.

See More: What Is Penetration Testing? Types, Methods, and Best Practices

Four Common Types of Pentesting

Internal

Internal pentesting assesses the impact of any potential insider compromise. Whether accidental or malicious, staff with access to critical applications present a risk to organizations; internal pentesting provides real-time insight into applications or systems that are at risk.

External

External pentesting targets visible assets such as company websites, email servers, or web and mobile applications. Pen testers go after these targets to find weak points and compromise key data or services.

Blind

In both external and internal pentesting, teams know what’s coming. This lets them watch what’s happening in real-time but also means there’s no pressure to respond.

In blind testing, teams don’t know when or how pentesters will attack. As a result, this type of pentesting better simulates actual risk by forcing teams to see how well current security measures fare against cyberattacks.

Targeted

Targeted pentesting is used to assess a specific system or application and find its weak links. Consider a company that has just purchased a new CRM tool. Targeted penetration tests let teams evaluate the security of this tool before it gets pushed out to all users. 

Making the Most of Pentesting Processes

It’s one thing to recognize the crucial role that pentesting plays in cybersecurity — it’s another to put this process into practice.

Here, three components are critical to make the most of pentesting efforts.

Solid strategy

Before diving into the pentesting process, companies need a strategy. Given the sheer number of applications, services, and network connections across IT environments, efforts to simply “improve security” have little chance of delivering substantive results. Instead, businesses are best served by selecting a set of apps to evaluate or prioritize a specific goal, such as testing the response time of IT security teams to unexpected attacks.

Skilled staff

A skilled staff can make all the difference between effective pentesting and unsuccessful efforts. The ideal pentesting personnel have a combination of both in-situ experience and education. Experience may include time spent handling security issues as they arise and building security frameworks for organizations, while education may entail certifications such as the EC Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) or the Infosec Institute’s Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CETP).

Companies can also benefit from using third-party testers to help pinpoint problems. Here’s why: While internal staff have the business’s best interest at heart, they also have a working knowledge of internal systems. This familiarity may lead them to accidentally overestimate the security of existing systems. Third-party testers, meanwhile, can assess systems without bias.

See More: Penetration Tester: Job Description, Key Skills, and Salary in 2022

Security software

Finally, companies need the right pentesting tools to get the job done. This applies whether they opt for in-house or third-party pentesting. In both cases, technology facilitates talent to pinpoint problems.

Both free and for-pay options are available depending on business budgets and use cases.  Indusface WAS Free Website Security Check is a solid starting point when it comes to free pentesting tools. In contrast, for-pay tools such as Invicti, Acunetix, and Core Impact can help companies quickly pinpoint potential problems.

Testing, Testing…

Pentesting is now a critical component for effective IT security. 

More importantly, it’s an ongoing and evolving process. No matter which pentesting type or tool companies choose, the rapid expansion of IT environments means that regular and robust pentesting is now a necessity to increase overall security and reduce total risk.

How is your organization using pentesting to secure its attack surface? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

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