When we think of hacking, we think of foreign agents or thieves undermining cybersecurity. But ethical hackers have served an important role in uncovering security vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious parties. The practice of penetration testing is one of the most tried-and-true forms of security testing available, and one that many cybersecurity regulations require for compliance.
Here we provide an introduction to penetration testing and its role in compliance. The fact is that most security frameworks either require or suggest some form of penetration testing… and for good reason.
What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is the practice of simulating attacks against your IT infrastructure to determine how it might perform against a real attack.
To ensure that a test provides a comprehensive picture of your security capabilities, that test must cover any and all relevant systems and attack surfaces, including:
- Applications and APIs
- Frontend and Backend Servers
- Any Input Areas (Search Bars, Logins, etc.)
- SQL Database Access
- Social Engineering
- Hardware Vulnerabilities
- Mobile Devices and Network Access
With that in mind, there are several approaches to penetration testing:
- Internal Penetration Tests are tests run by an expert with access to internal systems and can help suss out risks from internal threats.
- External Penetration Tests are run from the outside and intend to test your outward-facing security capabilities, including network security, website hardening and social engineering.
- Cover Penetration Tests are when an expert runs simulated attacks without notifying the organization about the actual plan (the when, where and how).
- Open and Closed Box Tests are when the hacker is given some (in the case of the former) or no (for the latter) actual information about the company.
Each kind of test is meant to help your organization determine where your weak points are and how to address them. Additionally, there are several
Overall, penetration testing is something that can be undertaken as part of a compliance audit or security assessment with the help of a security partner. Additionally, white hat hackers will also conduct partnered or surprise pen tests and deliver their list of vulnerabilities to your organization.
What are the Types of Penetration Testing?
Vulnerabilities are complex. In a world of complex cloud infrastructure and online apps, there are dozens of vectors through which a hacker can gain access to your system.
Several types of penetration tests can help you understand where you are most vulnerable:
- Web Applications: These tests involve searching out vulnerabilities for all your online applications, including cross-site exploits and object references as well as session management and injection vulnerabilities.
- Network Security: Penetration tests can determine weaknesses in areas like hardware configuration, weak authorization and authentication services, Wi-Fi vulnerabilities, or other security flaws.
- Cloud Security: Cloud testing methodologies include determining the security state for any IaaS or PaaS infrastructure. This includes how data is handled, security and authorization, credentials for accessing resources and interoperability between different systems.
- Physical Testing: While not typically considered along with more common testing, physical testing for customer-facing technologies, including cameras, ATMs, kiosks, and IoT devices.
- Social Engineering: Sometimes our most vulnerable asset is our people. Social engineering techniques like phishing, dumpster diving, cold calling and online research are commonly used alongside technical hacks, and a penetration test can leverage them to give you a clear view of where attacker might bypass IT measures.
While more types of testing can address nearly any technology configuration, they typically combine different aspects of these specific approaches.
Why is Penetration Testing Important for Compliance?
Penetration is a critical part of any security assessment. Penetration is also a critical part of any compliance strategy.
To begin with, most compliance frameworks require penetration testing for certification or authorization. These include:
- NIST 800-53
- PCI DSS
- NIST 800-171
Additionally, depending on your requirements and level of testing, you may need penetration testing for SOC 2.
More importantly, penetration testing supports best security practices. While your IT team can field advanced security measures like firewalls, anti-malware and hardening tools, there isn’t a surefire way to know that you’ve covered your security bases against all potential threats.
With a penetration test, you can get a better, “boots on the ground” look at how your security measures function in the real world. Additionally, you can catch potential gaps in security before they become bigger problems. That means a better handle on what kind of cybersecurity and compliance posture you have in very specific areas, like network or application security. Even better, pen testing can help you understand some of those lesser-understood security areas like physical security. A smart pen tester can exploit weaknesses when your employees don’t stick to best practices, showing you where you might utilize more training or continuing education.
A more subtle benefit to penetration testing is that it helps cut costs in time and effort for remediation and adjusting security in the future. When compliance standards change or threats evolve, having a better grasp on your risk and gaps will help you better make decisions about how to change your security infrastructure.
Penetration Testing and Compliance with Lazarus Alliance
The number one threat to infrastructures today is still existing vulnerabilities that aren’t noticed or corrected, and leveraging the power of Lazarus Alliance Cybervisors, your organization will stop looking like low-lying fruit to cybercriminals.
Lazarus Alliance will help you plan and conduct penetration tests as part of your regulatory obligations. Additionally, our experts will support you in remediating any problems and situating your IT infrastructure in a way that promotes continued cybersecurity and compliance.
Interested in learning more about Lazarus Alliance penetration testing services? Call 1-888-896-7580 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity.