Is Ethical Hacking A Business Necessity In 2021?

Cybercrime is on the rise. With more businesses bringing their operations online, criminals have seen the opportunities in taking advantage of companies that lack strong cybersecurity measures. 

The problem is only getting worse; by 2025, it is forecast that cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually. So it is natural that businesses would want to take steps to improve their cybersecurity. Of course, there are many ways that this can be done; staff training, stronger cybersecurity software and integrated systems. But one area that is less well covered is the idea of ethical hacking.

Sounding like a contraction in terms, ethical hacking involves cybersecurity professionals using techniques and skills that would usually be associated with criminal hackers, in order to test a business’ system. This ethical hacking helps to uncover problems and give companies the chance to mediate the issue before a real hack can occur. So, should ethical hacking be considered a business necessity in 2021? 

There are three major types of ethical hacking that are useful for modern businesses; vulnerability scanning, penetration testing and red teaming. To understand whether any of them are what could be considered a ‘necessity’, we need to first establish what they are and how they differ from one another. 

Vulnerability Scanning

A vulnerability scan is a simple form of cybersecurity testing. It involves the use of specialist software to scan a business’ system for known vulnerabilities and issues that can be fixed. These scans are limited in their scope, but they can provide businesses with valuable information about what they can do to improve their defences easily. There are still so many companies that are failing with the basics of cybersecurity: regularly patching and updating. Vulnerability scans uncover issues that are known to be a problem - this allows a cybersecurity professional to then provide a fix. 
This should be considered an important but basic form of ethical hacking, in the sense that the scan looks for flaws, but it can’t go beyond standard issues. 

Penetration Testing

Where vulnerability scans are largely performed with software, penetration testing involves the work of a cybersecurity professional. Unlike computers, human hackers are able to be creative and alter their methods. A penetration test involves a cybersecurity professional looking for vulnerabilities within your system that would not be picked up on a simple vulnerability scan. After the test is complete, they let you know what they found and then provide you with a report on how to deal with the issues. 

Penetration testers will try everything from software-based attacks, such as password crackers, to forms of email phishing targeting staff. 

Penetration testing carried out by profesionals at firms like Redscan is something that the vast majority of businesses will benefit from, especially if it is done on a regular basis, and the issues that are identified are dealt with promptly. 

Red Teaming

This is the most in-depth form of ethical hacking in terms of its benefits for your cybersecurity. Whereas vulnerability scans and penetration tests are designed to find flaws and vulnerabilities that you can fix, a red team scenario is designed to be a true test of what your defences can withstand, to see if you remain vulnerable to a criminal attack. Where the goal of the other types is gathering information, red teaming focuses on beating the defences in any way they can. The goal is to simulate what a real hacker or criminals would do. So, if one method doesn’t work, they will move onto another and test all the facets of your security. 

In truth, red teaming is only generally applicable for businesses that are likely to come under sustained attacks because they are valuable targets. International organisations and those sensitive sectors such as the finance industry should undoubtedly be looking into having red team operations carried out, but for smaller businesses, this kind of simulated attack may not really be necessary. 

Final Thoughts

Ethical hacking is an extremely important tool to keep businesses as protected as possible against cyber threats. Of course, not all types of ethical hacking are vital for all businesses and it will depend on the nature of your business and how potentially vulnerable you are to a cyber attack occurring. 

It is a great idea to talk with cybersecurity professionals about your needs - they will be able to provide you with an idea of the kind of cybersecurity that is best suited to your requirements.

About the Author: Chester Avey is a professional writer for Redscan.              Image: Nick Youngson

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