Any server connected to the internet is at risk of getting attacked by hackers. Penetration testing or pentesting simulates a DDoS attack in a controlled environment with ethical hackers to assess the risk exposure of the servers. Organizations can use pentesting to identify vulnerabilities in the system and work to resolve any risks.
Penetration testers have authorization from the owners of the server to simulate a DDoS attack and provide a report about the integrity of their server. You can validate your current security measures via pentesting and review any risks at the end of the exercise. Ethical hackers who conduct such penetrative testing usually document each step of the process at every independent network layer. Thus, you can be sure of how secure your organization’s server is even if you are using multiple protection schemes.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about designing and building a robust and comprehensive pentesting program. But first, why is penetration testing important to your enterprise and the data you protect?
Why Is pentesting important?
If your company’s website uses online payment methods such as credit or debit cards for transactions, you’re required to comply with PCI-DSS regulations. According to these rules, you must conduct an annual pentesting exercise on the site to mitigate threats and shield your site’s data from hackers.
2. Crisis training
Penetration testing can help train your security teams to immediately react to and effectively overcome a security breach or other crisis. Your network can be vulnerable to several different types of cyberattacks, making it essential for your team to learn how to deal with each kind of attack. This will help you assess your team’s preparedness for cyberattacks and, at the same time, allow them to fine-tune their response to such events.
3. Building goodwill
By conducting regular penetrative tests, you minimize your organization’s exposure to the risk of hacking and data breaches, thereby maintaining the best standards of user data protection. This way, you can leave a really strong impression on your user base and build trust and goodwill, which will result in the long-term growth of your organization.
Running a penetrative test will help you gauge the time it would take for a potential hacker to breach the security, as well as prepare security teams to respond to the attack in time.
4. Testing new technology
Testing new products or technology is one of the primary objectives of most penetrative tests. They can help you make the technology’s security more robust, allowing for a safer, smoother experience for users. The developmental stage is the best time to start penetrative testing so you can get rid of any vulnerabilities right at the early stages.
Stress testing your new technology for vulnerabilities can give you insight into whether your technology is secure enough for mass deployment and production. This preventive measure can save you time and money since it is easier to fix vulnerabilities at the earliest stages of development.
5. Verify security protocols
Your security team may be confident of their protocols and prepared to face an attack at any moment, but penetrative testing can help verify them all the same. You can identify any major oversights in security and make sure the protocols are improved to be as efficient as possible.
Ethical hackers are independent third-parties who are authorized to conduct an attack on the system to see if they can bypass the security. As such, performing regular penetrative testing exercises can mitigate any risks you might have been exposed to.
Steps to building a pentesting program
Building a penetrative testing program at your organization can be confusing at first, but not unachievable. Let’s break down how your organization can design and build a penetration testing program in no time:
Step 1: Ascertain objectives for the test
The first step before actually setting out to build the program is to understand what its objectives are. For instance, you may require a rigorous program that tests multiple frameworks or simpler ones that revolve around only one framework. Other considerations include an emphasis on certain assets or elements that might be particularly vulnerable.
In this phase of development, you should consult all your teams to understand what the pentest needs to address. Testing for compliance with PCI-DSS and other protocols and risk assessment are some common objectives.
Step 2: Identify the most critical assets
Once you’ve identified your objectives for the test, it’s important to gauge which of your assets are at the highest risk of being compromised in the event of an attack. Special attention must be paid to these critical assets during the testing to make the process as efficient as possible.
Penetrative tests are often time-limited. Thus, knowing which assets are the most critical will help testers identify more vulnerabilities in the same window of time.
Step 3: Create a schedule for testing
Penetrative testing is an ongoing process that will require you and your team to conduct a test every so often. This is true, especially when you are rolling out major updates that have imposed significant changes to the program’s code. Chart out a schedule that includes routine penetrative tests and special tests to find flaws in updates.
Step 4: Identify infrastructural changes and upgrades
Another important factor that affects risk is the infrastructure that organizations use to host their data. Your backend infrastructure is not always built to withstand upgrades or changes, thereby warranting a penetrative test. This makes it important to consider any planned infrastructural changes to your system for the period of the pentesting program.
While not every minor infrastructural change requires a pentest, a change as significant as moving from cloud-based infrastructure to its on-site counterpart cannot be ignored.
Step 5: Determine the content of the test
The content of the test is critical and can change depending on the kind of vulnerabilities you are looking for on your organization’s websites. It can indicate whether or not you’ll need to run tests with or without credentials. If you’re looking for flaws in business logic or want to test attacks based on privilege escalation, it would make sense to provide pentesters with credentials and other information.
However, it would make more sense to have the hackers perform a test without credentials to truly gauge the impact of external threats on your system. You can also choose to perform tests with and without credentials in the same testing plan.
Step 6: Determine what needs to be tested and at what level
While you may have several assets that need to be tested, it may not be a good idea to test them all at the same time. Doing so might not allow ethical hackers to assess each asset in as much depth as they could have with fewer targets. Rather, it is better to schedule multiple tests for different assets than to club all of them together.
A solid piece of advice is asking the testers the ideal number of assets that can be tested in the given time. It will help you understand how many pentests you need to run so you can properly schedule them, too.
Running an organization with online hardware and infrastructure can be quite stressful, and understandably so. The constant threat of a cyberattack looms large on the internet, forcing businesses to fortify their networks. However, pre-emptive penetration testing can help your organization avoid dealing with a real attack in the future.
There’s a lot that pentesting has to offer, so before you start the process, be sure to address the most critical parts of your system. You can use the checklist above to make sure that you’re covering everything you need to build a great pentesting program. Pay special attention to the protocols that need to be complied with and let your testing team know about it so they can plan the test accordingly.