Penetration Testing in Cybersecurity: Why Businesses Need It
Updated: Oct 16
The threat of cyber-attacks has become more critical than ever. This is continually
enhancing the need to conduct regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests to pinpoint
weaknesses and ensure the ongoing effectiveness of cyber controls.
Notably, in 2022, the total damage inflicted by cyberattacks reached a staggering $6 trillion.
In the wake of cybersecurity growing vulnerable to hackers, who, too, are evolving their
strategies, to bolster cybersecurity, organizations are turning to penetration testing.
Penetration testing offers a proactive approach through which businesses can not only
protect themselves from potential losses but also mitigate risks before malicious hackers
have a chance to exploit them.
Thus, a well-orchestrated blend of regular vulnerability assessments, penetration testing,
and the expertise of ethical hackers becomes essential to safeguarding digital assets and
maintaining robust cyber resilience. We shed more light on penetrating testing, its
importance in cybersecurity, and the benefits it comes with.
What is Penetration Testing
Penetration Testing, often referred to as ethical hacking, is a strategic cybersecurity practice employed by organizations to proactively identify vulnerabilities and assess potential security risks within their digital infrastructure, applications, and systems. It involves a controlled simulation of real-world cyber-attacks, wherein skilled cybersecurity experts simulate the tactics, techniques, and procedures that hackers may use.
The primary goal of Penetration Testing is to provide organizations with a comprehensive
and actionable understanding of their businesses' security posture. As a result, it enables informed decision-making and resource allocation to protect sensitive data and ensure business continuity in the face of evolving cyber threats.
How Penetration Testing in Cybersecurity technically adds value across areas
Cybersecurity spans across areas, each having a different scope for potential vulnerabilities. By implementing penetration testing, the possible threats can be averted successfully, as we see below:
Web Application Security
Security misconfigurations cause vulnerabilities in a whopping 83% of web applications. As
the chances of web applications falling prey to malicious threats is high, so you need a
robust security testing mechanism. Thankfully, with penetration testing you can guard your
Penetration testing of web applications involves evaluating the security of login
mechanisms, input validation, session management, and other critical functionalities. By
simulating attacks like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and cross-site request forgery (CSRF), penetration testers uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors. Overall, this greatly benefits in safeguarding web applications.
To bolster network security, penetration testers evaluate firewall configurations, router
vulnerabilities, and identifying weak points in network architecture. Here, the simulate
attacks such as port scanning, denial-of-service (DoS), and Man-in-the-Middle (MitM), to
enhance network segmentation, encryption protocols, and intrusion detection systems so
that unauthorized access attempts can be effectively thwarted.
The role of penetration testing in network security becomes more important than ever at a
time when the cost of cybercrime is on the rise – it rose by 10% compared to the last year,
and most attacks happen when network security is fragile.
Data loss and leakage and sacrificed data privacy and confidentiality are critical concern
areas in the cloud. Overall, in cybersecurity, 45% of breachers come from the cloud. To
counter these attacks and keep your cloud infrastructure safe, implementation of
penetration testing becomes an essential step.
With penetration testing of cloud environments, you can examine configurations,
permissions, and data storage practices within platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. You can emulate attacks on misconfigured cloud resources and thus ensure that data
remains private, integrity is maintained, and compliance requirements are met.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The use of the internet of things (IoT) is increasing rapidly. Currently at around 15 billion,
the connected IoT devices are expected to rise to around 29 billion by 2030. With the
increasing number of IoT devices, comes the rising threat of cyberattacks that can pose risks to IoT infrastructure.
However, in-time implementation of Penetration testing can help your IoT ecosystem
function uninterruptedly. It involves assessing the security of interconnected devices,
ranging from industrial sensors to smart home appliances. You can identify weak
authentication, insecure firmware, and unauthorized data transmission and ultimately
safeguard against potential breaches that might lead to significant disruptions.
Mobile Application Security
Half of the mobile apps with five to ten million downloads have showed a security flaw.
Considering the rising importance of security in mobile applications, organizations are
shifting towards adopting a robust strategy that can guard mobile apps with utmost
protection, in framing which Penetration testing plays a central role.
With techniques such as reverse engineering, data leakage analysis, and privilege escalation, penetration testers examine all channels from where vulnerabilities can strike the mobile apps. In this process, they assess data storage, communication protocols, and potential points of exploitation, and secure the applications against compromises and prevent unauthorized access to user data.
Operating System Security
Research paper titled, Survey on Types of Cyber Attacks on Operating System Vulnerabilities since 2018 onwards found that most cybersecurity issues in operating system are the result of ransomware attacks. In fact, in 2022, organizations worldwide detected around 493 million ransomware attacks. Firewalls, anti-virus applications, and encryption frameworks are often posed threats by these attacks that lead to critical OS components getting corrupted.
With the help of Penetration testing, you can analyze system configurations, user privileges,
and patch management practices. Next, you can develop a thorough understanding of the
attacks such as privilege escalation, buffer overflows, and kernel vulnerabilities to make the
OS well-protected against cyber threats.
Benefits of Penetration Testing in Cybersecurity
Having discussed at length the pivotal role of Penetration testing in cybersecurity, here we
summarize its benefits:
Systematically identifies vulnerabilities, weak configurations, and coding flaws within an organization's digital assets.
Replicates real-world attack scenarios, assisting organizations to understand how attackers might exploit vulnerabilities.
Helps assess the actual risk associated with identified vulnerabilities, thereby helping prioritize remediation efforts based on the severity of the vulnerabilities.
Validates the effectiveness of existing security controls and measures, ensuring that firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other security mechanisms are properly configured and capable of thwarting attacks.
Helps organizations demonstrate compliance with regulations and standards, helping avoid fines.
In the event of a breach, having undergone penetration testing equips organizations with a pre-established understanding of their vulnerabilities.
Addresses vulnerabilities in time, assuring business continuity and prevents revenue loss due to cyber incidents.
Helps gain confidence of customers, partners, and investors gain in organization's commitment to cybersecurity.
Halting hackers from disrupting, causing harm, or attaining unauthorized entry to your
system can be achieved through diverse forms of penetration testing.
So, every company equipped with an IT infrastructure should routinely engage in
penetration testing. Employing a blend of manual and automated methods is optimal for
ensuring comprehensive security.
However, mishandling these tests could result in data exposure and, at the most severe,
system failure. Therefore, entrusting this responsibility solely to a reputable and seasoned
firm is imperative.