Can Penetration Tests Actually Help Overcome the Cybersecurity Crisis?

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Gartner had estimated that worldwide spending on information security products and services would reach $86.4 billion in 2017, an increase of 7 percent over 2016, with spending expected to grow to $93 billion in 2018.

The year 2017 has seen types of malware such as Ransomware, and other probing bugs cause massive data breaches, endangering the fundamental idea of Cybersecurity. However, it doesn’t end here. Experts estimate that 2018 will witness many such instances where enterprises must review and strengthen their Security / Cybersecurity strategies.

While this is being estimated, enterprises will continue to consider tried-and-tested security testing strategies such as vulnerability assessment, penetration (or pen) testing, security scanning, risk assessment, and ethical hacking. Amongst these, Pen Testing helps teams assess the vulnerabilities and dig deeper to open them up and expose their impact.

What is Penetration Testing, and how does it help strengthen Cybersecurity?

Penetration Testing is a sanctioned triggered attack conducted on a computer system to assess security flaws, which can otherwise result in a data breach or intrusion within the method. It attacks the system, the network, or a web application to expose vulnerabilities that a hacker could eventually exploit.

These tests can be automated by leveraging software applications or can be performed manually as well. The core objective is to gather data about the targeted attack, check potential entry points, initiate a break-in, and ultimately report the findings. Penetration Testing is sometimes referred to as a White hat attack, as here, the good folks do the attack for exposing and report vulnerabilities.

Nevertheless, it cannot be mistaken for a vulnerability assessment, scan, or compliance audit. A Pen Test doesn’t just expose the vulnerabilities. It goes beyond and effectively exploits the vulnerabilities to estimate their impact in a real-world scenario, where an organization’s IT assets, data, and physical security system could get attacked.

Targeted testing

Targeted tests are witnessed by all in the system. The organization’s IT team performs it, and the security testing team collaborates to conduct these tests. Here, the impact is seen by all to take necessary actions.

External testing

These tests attack the organization’s servers that are externally facing or devices such as domain name servers (DNS), firewalls, web servers, and so on. The idea is to gauge whether an external attacker can penetrate and how far it can damage the system.

Internal testing

These tests emulate an internal attack behind the firewall with authorized access and legal access. This helps estimate the damage an internal party can cause in case of an issue.

Blind testing

These tests help to mimic the stabs and attacks that can be expected from an actual attacker with limited information and data points. In these cases, the concerned teams are only given the company’s name before executing such attacks. These attacks can take considerable time and even get expensive. Similarly, Double-blind tests can be implemented to test an organization’s security monitoring and detect incidents.

All in all, Penetration testing can take various forms and can be initiated in diverse forms to establish the impact of different vulnerabilities.

What is the estimated business value for conducting Penetration Tests?

In some cases where data security is a significant concern, Penetration Testing could be a key aspect of the security testing strategy. It can be a costly affair, too. Hence, it is important to understand the business value that organizations seek from Pen Tests.

Most importantly, it helps determine the vulnerabilities that can bring high risks that can be a combination of lower-risk vulnerabilities. It helps evaluate the impact of the potential attack on the business and its operational activities. Pen tests further help to test the ability of the network to detect the attack and respond to it. With this, it gives evidence for added investments in security protocols, investors, and technology for meeting compliance.

After reporting a security incident, organizations must check the vectors implemented to access compromised systems. With penetration tests, teams can recreate the attack chain and authenticate new security controls to stop similar attacks in the future. The equation is clear – Attack, Identify, Assess, and Report.

Penetration tests establish the overall formula to enable organizations to determine the security threats and build resilience for Cybersecurity.

How do we determine the real-world effectiveness of Penetration testing?

Automated Penetration tests can bring tremendous value by detecting and addressing threats by leveraging frameworks across various scenarios. At the same time, applying logic and ensuring that the right automation strategy is implemented to derive the results is essential. It can involve tools and frameworks, but human logic is important to streamline the tests and think along the lines of an attacker who could conceptualize an attack on your system.

Penetration Tests help security testing teams determine the target and plan an attack to expose the vulnerabilities, similar to a real-life scenario. The point is that even with automation, human intervention is crucial, as even automated and well-secured networks could be vulnerable to a unique human thought and probing strategy. This will further enable teams to deal with real-world scenarios and attacks. Teams need to think out of box and conceptualize attacks on the networks, servers, and firewalls.

In some scenarios, even 100% compliant organizations can be vulnerable in the real world if a skilled attack is executed effectively. Penetration tests equip organizations for multiple stabs against the same target, eventually gauging the impact. The tests can be implemented in various ways and by considering varying situations. There is no limitation on that front, making it practical for real-world scenarios.

In Conclusion

Gartner in its report mentions that by 2020, 40 percent of all managed security service (MSS) contracts will be bundled with other security services and broader IT outsourcing (ITO) projects, up from 20 percent today. CyberSecurity is a growing concern, and enterprises are looking at feasible and agile ways to deal with diverse vulnerabilities and threats. Nevertheless, processes such as pen testing help enterprises detect threats internally as well as externally across varying scenarios. 

With Security Testing Center of Excellence (CoE), Cigniti offers end-to-end security testing services, including Network Penetration Testing, SCADA Network Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing, Web Application Penetration Testing, Wireless Network Assessment, and Penetration Testing. Connect with over 100 security testing professionals with certifications such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Certified Security Analyst (CSA).


  • Cigniti Technologies

    Cigniti is the world’s leading AI & IP-led Digital Assurance and Digital Engineering services company with offices in India, the USA, Canada, the UK, the UAE, Australia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Singapore. We help companies accelerate their digital transformation journey across various stages of digital adoption and help them achieve market leadership.

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