Penetration Testing & Ethical Hackers

Directors Report:  This Premium article is no longer free to view. For unrestricted website access please Subscribe: £5 monthly / £50 annual.

With the shift to remote working and companies left more vulnerable than ever, cyber attackers have used this opportunity to take advantage of thousands of enterprises and people all across the world. 

Penetration testing, or pen testing, is a security exercise where a cyber security expert attempts to find and exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system. The purpose of this simulated attack is to identify any weak spots in a system’s defenses which attackers could take advantage of.

In 2020, the rates of cyber crime increased immensely and in 2021 it has continued to increase. During the pandemic, many companies started working from remote areas. Several companies started to digitalise their business, which increased the demand for various cyber security solutions and penetration testing solutions. 
Employees got access to use the company's data on their personal devices, which surged the chances of data breaching and data loss.

All these factors are accountable to the surge in demand for penetrating testing and the Global Penetration Testing Market size is expected to reach $3.1 billion by 2027, rising at a growth of 12% CAGR. 

Penetration testing is performed to test a network, computer system, and web application to identify security weaknesses including the possibility to access the system's data & features by unauthorised parties and strengths that allows a full risk assessment to be completed. Penetration testing is the method of testing, which is used to increase and measure the installed security solutions on various devices like computers, mobile phones, and other information systems.

It is becoming more important than ever to undertake regular vulnerability scans and penetration testing so as to avoid vulnerabilities and make sure that your organisation is protected against cyber attacks. Penetration testing could help enhance the cyber defenses that are in place while ensuring the safety of the company.

The number of cyber attacks on organisations is increasing year on year and various businesses of all sizes are being targeted by criminal hacking groups or nation-state actors. The approach to security has evolved over the last few years, however, to focus on having a year-round view of security and vulnerabilities as opposed to a singular Penetration Test is a point in time assessment, and therefore limited as regards ongoing view.

A rise in multiple cyber-attacks and the lack of knowledge and defenses to tackle them has made it extremely important for companies to use ethical hacking to combat hackers. 

While Black Hat hackers use their skills for malicious purposes to defraud high-profile companies or personalities, Ethical Hackers or White Hat hackers use the same techniques, penetration testing, different password cracking methods or social engineering, to break into a company’s cyber defense but to help companies fix these vulnerabilities or loose ends to strengthen their systems.

Typically, penetration tests are used to identify the level of technical risk emanating from software and hardware vulnerabilities. 

Exactly what techniques are used, what targets are allowed, how much knowledge of the system is given to the testers beforehand and how much knowledge of the test is given to system administrators can vary within the same test regime. This is like a bank hiring someone to dress as a burglar and try to break into their building and gain access to the vault. If the ‘burglar’ succeeds and gets into the bank or the vault, the bank will gain valuable information on how they need to tighten their security measures. 

A penetration test, or ethical hacking test, is an authorised simulated cyber attack on a computer system, performed to evaluate the security of the system.  

The test is performed to identify vulnerabilities, including the potential for unauthorised parties to gain access to the system's features and data, as well as strengths, enabling a full risk assessment to be completed. The process typically identifies the target systems and a particular goal, then reviews available information and undertakes various means to attain that goal.

The goals of a penetration test vary depending on the type of approved activity for any given engagement, with the primary goal focused on finding vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a nefarious actor, and informing the client of those vulnerabilities along with recommended mitigation strategies. It’s best to have a pen test performed by someone with little-to-no prior knowledge of how the system is secured because they may be able to expose blind spots missed by the developers who built the system. For this reason, outside contractors are usually brought in to perform the tests. These contractors are often referred to as ‘ethical hackers’ since they are being hired to hack into a system with permission and for the purpose of increasing security.

Many ethical hackers are experienced developers with advanced degrees and a certification for pen testing. On the other hand, some of the best ethical hackers are self-taught. In fact, some are reformed criminal hackers who now use their expertise to help fix security flaws rather than exploit them.

The best candidate to carry out a pen test can vary greatly depending on the target company and what type of pen test they want to initiate. Only a penetration test carried out by a trained security professional can give you a proper understanding of the security issues you face.  

To protect your organisation, you should regularly conduct penetration tests to:

  • Identify security flaws so that you can resolve them or implement appropriate controls.
  • Ensure your existing security controls are effective.
  • Test new software and systems for bugs.
  • Discover new bugs in existing software.
  • Support your organisation’s compliance with the UK GDPR regulation and UK DPA (Data Protection Act 2018), and other relevant privacy laws or regulations.
  • Enable your conformance to standards such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
  • Assure customers and other stakeholders that their data is being protected.

What are the types of Pen Tests?

  • Open-box pen test:  In an open-box test, the hacker will be provided with some information ahead of time regarding the target company’s security info.
  • Closed-box pen test:   Also known as a ‘single-blind’ test, this is one where the hacker is given no background information besides the name of the target company.
  • Covert pen test:  Also known as a ‘double-blind’ pen test, this is a situation where almost no one in the company is aware that the pen test is happening, including the IT and security professionals who will be responding to the attack. For covert tests, it is especially important for the hacker to have the scope and other details of the test in writing beforehand to avoid any problems with law enforcement.
  • External pen test:   In an external test, the ethical hacker goes up against the company’s external-facing technology, such as their website and external network servers. In some cases, the hacker may not even be allowed to enter the company’s building. This can mean conducting the attack from a remote location or carrying out the test from a truck or van parked nearby.
  • Internal Pen Test:   In an internal test, the ethical hacker performs the test from the company’s internal network.

This kind of test is useful in determining how much damage a disgruntled employee can cause from behind the company’s firewall.

In an online world infested with hackers, we need more ethical hackers. But all around the world, hackers have long been portrayed by the media and pop culture as the bad guys. Society is taught to see them as cyber criminals and outliers who seek to destroy systems, steal data and take down anything that gets in their way.

  • Many cloud vulnerabilities are often missed when only pen testing is used as these tests are focused on data center techniques and not cloud tactics. Flaws are often only apparent in the full context of the environment and this is made clearer by using pen testing and ethical hackers.
  • Primarily the IT security team devises the security program but if done in coordination with the ethical hackers, they can provide the framework for keeping the company at a desired security level.  Additionally by assessing the risks the company faces, they can decide how to mitigate them, and plan for how to keep the program and security practices up to date.
  • After completing a pen test, the ethical hacker will share their findings with the target company’s security team. 

This information can then be used to implement security upgrades to plug any vulnerabilities discovered during the test. 

No matter how large or small your company is, you need to have a plan to ensure the security of your information assets. This plan should include Pen testing and the use of ethical hackers to test your organisation’s electronic systems.

For information & recommendations on Penetration Test contact Cyber Security Intelligence.

References

NCSC:   Imperva:      DigitalPathways:      Software Testing News:    Cloudflare:   

 ITGovernance:     GlobeNewswire:      Dark Reading:      Packt:      Packt:  

You Might Also Read: 

The Value Of Network Pen Testing To Reduce Cyber Attacks:

 

« Stolen: Personal Details Of 80k Australian Government Employees
Hackers Compromise Indian Prime Minister's Twitter Account »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

NordLayer

NordLayer

NordLayer is an adaptive network access security solution for modern businesses — from the world’s most trusted cybersecurity brand, Nord Security. 

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout enables cyber security professionals to reduce cyber risk to their organization with proactive security solutions, providing immediate improvement in security posture and ROI.

Practice Labs

Practice Labs

Practice Labs is an IT competency hub, where live-lab environments give access to real equipment for hands-on practice of essential cybersecurity skills.

Cyber Security Supplier Directory

Cyber Security Supplier Directory

Our Supplier Directory lists 6,000+ specialist cyber security service providers in 128 countries worldwide. IS YOUR ORGANISATION LISTED?

CD Networks

CD Networks

CDNetworks is a global content delivery network with a fully integrated cloud security solution, offering unparalleled speed, security and reliability for the almost instant delivery of web content.

APWG

APWG

APWG is the international coalition unifying the global response to cybercrime across industry, government, law-enforcement and NGO communities.

HackLabs

HackLabs

HackLabs is a penetration testing company providing services for network security, web application security and social engineering testing.

Praetorian

Praetorian

Praetorian services include security assessments, penetration testing, code reviews, regulatory compliance solutions, and incident response.

MENTIS Software

MENTIS Software

MENTIS provides a comprehensive enterprise data security and breach prevention platform to protect sensitive information assets.

CyberPlat

CyberPlat

CyberPlat is an integrated broad-based multibank Internet payment system. It is the largest electronic payment system in Russia and CIS.

National Accreditation Authority Hungary (NAH)

National Accreditation Authority Hungary (NAH)

NAH is the national accreditation body for Hungary. The directory of members provides details of organisations offering certification services for ISO 27001.

Arctic Wolf Networks

Arctic Wolf Networks

Arctic Wolf Networks delivers the industry-leading security operations center (SOC)-as-a-service that redefines the economics of cybersecurity.

TechRate

TechRate

Techrate is an analytics agency focused on blockchain technology and engineering. Or expertise includes security and technical audits of projects.

Startupbootcamp Fintech & Cybersecurity

Startupbootcamp Fintech & Cybersecurity

Startupbootcamp is the world’s largest network of multi-corporate backed accelerators helping startups scale internationally.

Cypress Data Defense

Cypress Data Defense

Cypress Data Defense helps clients build secure applications by providing training, best practices, and evaluating security during every stage of the Secure Application Development Lifecycle.

OSIbeyond

OSIbeyond

OSIbeyond provides comprehensive Managed IT Services to organizations in the Washington D.C., MD, and VA area including IT Help Desk Support, Cloud Solutions, Cybersecurity, and Technology Strategy.

FiVerity

FiVerity

FiVerity provides financial institutions with cyber fraud defense to combat a dangerous and growing threat - the convergence of fraud-related theft with sophisticated, high-volume cyber attacks.

Credible Digital Security Pvt. Ltd. (CDSPL)

Credible Digital Security Pvt. Ltd. (CDSPL)

CDSPL is an innovative Cyber Security Services Company in India. We are committed to offering cyber security solutions for important sectors such as energy and utilities, healthcare, and more.

SoftwareONE

SoftwareONE

SoftwareONE is a leading global provider of end-to-end software and cloud technology solutions.

Aravo Solutions

Aravo Solutions

Your Extended Enterprise is full of hidden risks – Aravo makes them visible, measurable, and manageable.

Cyberguardians

Cyberguardians

Cyberguardians is a team of experienced cybersecurity experts and consultants who always believe in the value and a high level of cybersecurity services to clients.