A complete security program involves many different facets working together to defend against digital threats. To create such a program, many organizations spend much of their resources on building up their defenses by investing in their security configuration management (SCM), file integrity monitoring (FIM), vulnerability management (VM) and log management capabilities. These investments make sense, as the resources listed above can all help protect the organization.
That’s the hope, anyway. In reality, there’s more to building a security program than just buying new security capabilities. Indeed, while it is critical to build up your defenses against today’s advanced attacks, it is impossible to measure these tools’ effectiveness without exercising them. It is akin to building an elaborate disaster recovery site to keep your business running in the event of a significant outage but never actually testing whether it will actually work when it’s needed.
Testing one’s defenses is paramount to understanding one’s weaknesses and making strategic and tactical adjustments to strengthen those areas of weakness. Budgets are tight, after all. This makes directing funding and resources to areas that will see the most benefit all the more important.
So, which testing method should organizations choose?
Penetration Testing as a Viable Answer
Organizations can’t go wrong with implementing a regular penetration testing program and cadence. Doing so can bring many benefits to the organization. Before we get into those, however, let’s refresh our minds about what’s usually involved in a penetration test.
What is a Penetration Test?
A penetration test (pen test) is a simulated attack against your network, web applications, personnel and/or any other potentially vulnerable medium or system. The purpose of a pen test is to identify exploitable vulnerabilities in your environment so that existing risks and weaknesses can be understood and mitigated.
With this approach, an organization utilizes security professionals to work as ethical hackers to emulate actual attacks and identify areas of weakness in the environment’s security posture. The biggest difference between a pen tester and an actual malicious hacker is that the pen tester is operating at the direction of the organization and with noble intent. A pen tester would never operate without the consent of the organization for which the tests are being conducted against.
The Benefits of a Penetration Test
After completing a penetration test, an organization can expect to receive a detailed report that outlines areas of entry and weakness within the organization. The report should also contain clear, prioritized and actionable steps for mitigating identified weaknesses. These clear and actionable steps make it easy for the organization to identify the most important areas in which they should focus their security efforts. In addition, they should point to the “low hanging fruit” that support an efficient and manageable remediation process.
Given these results, penetration testing can also be viewed as a solid financial investment for the organization. The burden of safely securing customer and employee data falls squarely on the organization. We see this in the emergence of more and more regulatory requirements that require organizations to protect their customers’ data security. Most if not all of these standards carry hefty fines for those companies that fail to comply.
Beyond monetary penalties, organizations face other damages if they don’t submit to penetration testing and get caught up in a data breach as a result. Indeed, the impact on the organization’s brand after a breach of customer data could be irreparable. Consumers are becoming very sensitive to the protection of their personal information and data. Organizations would therefore be wise to illustrate how they care about their data, too, by conducting some penetration tests.
Igor Tkach, CTO at Daxx, expands on the overall benefits associated with pen testing:
Overall, only penetration testing can make a realistic assessment of your company’s “health” and its resistance to cyber attacks. A pen test can showcase how successful or unsuccessful a malicious attack on your company’s IT infrastructure can be. Moreover, it can help you prioritize your security investments, comply with industry regulations and develop efficient defensive mechanisms so that your business will be protected from intruders in the long run.
Tripwire and Penetration Testing
For those organizations sold on the value of penetration testing, they need not look further than Tripwire in satisfying their needs. That’s because Tripwire now offers robust penetration testing services to organizations in North America via its Professional Services.
This full-service penetration testing enables organizations to assess their environments both externally and internally to better understand their weaknesses, explore the recommended remediation strategy and proposed mitigations as well as achieve regulatory compliance.
Tripwire’s penetration assessments:
- Gather information about the target before the test (i.e., exploration)
- Identify possible entry points and attempt to break in
- Report the outcome through a detailed assessment document
Average security companies often blur the lines between penetration tests and vulnerability assessments. At Tripwire, our proprietary pen testing methodology is based on years of experience in areas such as network administration, integration engineering, incident forensics, and response.
We combine penetration techniques with vulnerability assessment activities, configuration reviews and architecture analysis to provide the most complete picture of your organization’s security posture.
Click here to learn more about Tripwire’s new penetration testing service.