4 Things to Watch For When Running an In-House Penetration Test

by Brad Garland
4 Things to Watch for When Running an In-House Penetration Test.pngBusinesses that keep sensitive data on their computer networks need penetration tests to make sure hackers do not have access to the information. Testing often starts with a vulnerability assessment, which is an exercise that evaluates the network's security and creates a list of potential security flaws. By scanning the network, you can often discover compromises that you didn't know were there.
While a vulnerability assessment can help you learn more about your network's strengths and weaknesses, the assessment does not attempt to breach the network. All your data remains safe and secure during the assessment. This provides some useful information, but it doesn't test the full extent of your network's security. When performed for good, these experts are also called "ethical hackers" or White Hat" Hackers. Vala Secure has multiple consultants who are "certified" and experienced in this process.
Penetration tests offer a closer look at your system's vulnerabilities. With a penetration test, cyber security experts try to exploit your system's vulnerabilities. It isn't a mental exercise or scan. The experts actually try to break into your network through various means to see if they can access sensitive information.
To get the most out of a penetration test, you should follow these four suggestions.

1. Test All Types of Vulnerabilities

Many chief technology officers understand the importance of penetration testing, but they forget that hackers have other ways to access sensitive data. In some cases, hackers don't bother with techniques like password hacking, buffer overflows or fault injections. Instead, they take a low-tech approach by manipulating your employees. This approach is called social engineering. Your company needs to perform tests that will also discover this type of security threat.
Social engineering can use a variety of techniques. Phishing is one of the most popular ways for hackers to acquire information that helps them access your business's network. Hackers may send emails to hundreds or thousands of your employees. These emails may ask for certain types of information, or they may include malware that infiltrates your system. If one of your employees falls for the scam, then the hacker wins.
Hackers may also use a social engineering tactic called pretexting. With pretexting, a person creates a scenario that encourages others to give them information. The hacker may create an elaborate story designed to make your employees feel sorry for him. Your employees may not normally provide sensitive information, but they may after they've been manipulated.
Social engineering can happen in person, via email or on the phone. Explore this free social engineering e-book to learn more about common social engineering strategies and how you can defend your company from them.

2. Establish Hacker Profiles

Security experts put hackers into two groups: black box and white box. You need to establish hacker profiles for both types to rid your system of vulnerabilities.
A black box hacker is someone who doesn't know about existing vulnerabilities. In fact, the person may not know much about your system at all. The hacker may have excellent skills, but she is coming into the situation blind. Typically, this type of hacker will have to spend quite a bit of time looking for doorways into your network.
A white box hacker already knows quite a bit about the structure of your network. He may even know about existing vulnerabilities, which makes it easier for him to find ways into your system. If this situation sounds far-fetched, consider that a hacker may have worked for your business at one time. The hacker may have also acquired knowledge through social engineering.
By establishing different hacker profiles, you gain a glimpse into the minds of people who may want to access your system. With white box and black box profiles, you will know more about how different people behave as they try to hack into your network.

3. Perform Red Team Assessments

Your company should have a Red Team of individuals who challenge your network by trying to gain unauthorized access. The Red Team's professionals can help ensure that your network uses security measures that can keep hackers out. When they discover a vulnerability, you can take action to fix the problem.
You can improve the effectiveness of your Red Team by testing its responsiveness when vulnerabilities are discovered within your system. If you discover a security flaw during a vulnerability assessment or penetration test, have the team concentrate its efforts on what you have learned.
A Red Team's effectiveness relies on the skills of each member. The better your team is at monopolizing security flaws, the more secure your network will become.

4. Test Your Vulnerability on an Ongoing Basis

You can't rely on one penetration test to secure your network. You need to test your vulnerability on an ongoing basis. Ideally, you will have created a risk assessment to help determine the frequency needed based on your environment, regulatory needs, and growth strategy. The industry best practice is at least quarterly with a proactive stance landing on conducting a vulnerability assessment and penetration test once a month.
You need ongoing tests because hackers are constantly looking for new ways to take advantage of security flaws. This is one of the reasons that software developers update their programs so often. When hackers find a vulnerability, the developers have to work quickly to solve the problem. Otherwise, the hackers will have an easy path to networks all over the world.
Unfortunately, you can't learn about vulnerabilities until someone discovers them. By testing your system monthly, you can eliminate security risks as they develop.
Penetration testing offers a reliable way to protect the security of your network and sensitive data. Performing in-house penetration tests, however, probably isn't the most efficient use of your time and money. Many businesses decide that it makes more sense to outsource this task to cybersecurity experts. Learn more about Vala Secure's penetration testing services to help you decide whether it's the right option for your business.