What is Penetration
Penetration testing—also known as pen testing –is a method
of testing the security of your computer, applications, or network by
attempting to hack into them. The hacking exercise aims to expose the
weaknesses of its target so that they can be fixed.
This test involves ethical hacking and is not a malicious
attack by cybercriminals. It is carried out by cybersecurity firms at the
request of the organizations that own the target infrastructure. The process is
either performed manually or is automated by dedicated software.
This is somewhat like a store hiring someone to conduct a
mock-robbery on its premises. The mock-robbery could reveal weaknesses in the
store’s security measures that leave it vulnerable to real robbers. The store
owner can then fix the weaknesses before they are exploited by actual thieves.
Information about the computer system or application’s
defenses is collected during the pen test and provided to the concerned
company’s IT managers when the test is completed. They can act on the captured details
to seal any loopholes that have been detected.
Conducting a Penetration Test
These are some benefits you could gain from regular
Identification of Weak Spots in Your System
It’s always better to find the threat when t’s still just
potentially dangerous. The earlier you discover the problem, the more time
you’ll have to fix it and prevent a major security breach.
Why spend substantial amounts on fixing a security breach
when you can prevent it from happening in the first place? A penetration test
will save you from the costly downtimes and repair charges that happen when
unfriendly actors exploit vulnerabilities that you haven’t detected.
The information that’s generated from a pen test should
enable you to strengthen your security policy and measures against threats.
•Know Where the
Greatest Risks Are
It’s one thing to know that there are risks. But it’s quite
another to tell which one of those risks requires your urgent attention. With
the detailed data you glean from penetration testing, you can rank your IT
security threats and tackle the most pressing ones soon enough.
•Keep Your Company’s
Reputation in Tact
The disruptions to service that arise from security problems
may dent your company’s image. Customers who want prompt service will be
disappointed by the slow response and pitch their tent elsewhere. By carrying
out a penetration test regularly, you can keep this from happening to you.
Who Carries Out the
Pen tests are carried out by cybersecurity firms at the
request of their client businesses. There are at least two reasons why
businesses typically don’t do it themselves.
First, it’s not usually the case that they possess the expertise
to conduct the test. They have to ask
specialized firms to do this on their behalf. Also, the test should be done by
someone without prior detailed knowledge of your security setup. This makes the
test mirror an actual attack as closely as possible.
The Steps Involved
These are the steps involved in penetration testing:
Decide the purpose and scope of the test. List the targets
of the test and the methods and tools to be used. Information about how the
target functions and its weak points also be will be supplied to the
The system or application is scanned when it is both static
and in an active state. The former provides the tester with an idea of how the
target operates. The latter shows how the target functions in real-time.
Next, the tester launches an attack on the target system or
application to reveal its weak points. It then attempts to manipulate the
vulnerabilities it detects to see how much control it can wield over the
4. Retain Access
The aim here is to see how long the actor who has breached
the system can maintain a presence, and how deeply the can penetrate the
A report on the penetration test is compiled. It contains
information about the vulnerabilities identified and exploited, length of time
in which the actor stayed undetected, and how much sensitive data they were
able to access.
•White Box Pen Test: The hacker is given some information
about the company’s security before the test is conducted.
•Blind Pen Test:
Also called ‘Black Box Pen Test’. Here the hacker isn’t given any
information about the company they will attack, besides its name.
•External Pen Test: The hacker attacks the company’s
website, application, or other company technology that is
•Internal Pen Test: This is performed inside the company’s
network. It provides the target an insight into the extent of damage that an
inside-actor (e.g., a disaffected employee) could cause.
•Covert Pen Test: In this case, almost no one in the
company knows that a pen test is ongoing. It’s done to replicate a real attack
as closely as possible and test the company’s preparedness for such an
How Frequently Should
a Pen Test Be Conducted?
The standard frequency for pen tests is one year. However, the
actual testing frequency may be determined based on these criteria:
The greater a business’s online presence, the more susceptible it is to cyber-attacks,
and the more in need of regular pen testing it will be.
company with a large budget will be able to carry out pen tests more frequently
than one with a smaller budget.
•Type of Infrastructure: If your infrastructure
is on the cloud, your cloud service provider may take on the duty of carrying out
pen tests on it.
Penetration testing should be on your list of IT security
measures. It lays bare the weaknesses in your current strategy and allows you
to plug the gas before any breaches happen.
If you’re looking for an IT security firm to conduct a pen
test on your systems and network, you’ll find a reliable partner in Layer3. Institutions in Nigeria’s private and
public sector trust us to secure their IT infrastructure. And we have done so
for the better part of 14 years.
Get world-class protection for your IT systems and applications
today. To speak with our consultants, click here.
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