What is penetration testing?
Penetration testing is a security exercise where a cybersecurity professional looks for vulnerabilities in a computer system. The purpose of this exercise is to expose any gaps in a system where attackers could take advantage of.
Who performs penetration tests?
When testing your own systems, it is best to have a professional with little-to-no knowledge of how the system is secured in order to expose vulnerabilities missed by the designers who built the system. These cybersecurity professionals are commonly referred to as ethical hackers. The ethical name comes into play because they 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 penetration testing, some ethical hackers are self-taught, and some were previous malicious hackers who now help fix security flaws rather than exploit them.
What does a typical penetration test look like?
Penetration tests start with a discovery phase where the ethical hacker spends time gathering data and information to better plan their attack. Now they are focused on gaining and maintaining access to the target system. The ethical hacker uses a variety of tools, methods, and social engineering to fully test a system of its defenses. Once they have gained access, the hacker conceals their tracks to avoid detection and leaves the system exactly how they found it.
What is the result of a penetration test?
After completing a penetration test, the ethical hacker now shares the results with the target company’s security team. This information allows for a company to improve their security by fixing any vulnerabilities revealed during the test and can prevent it from happening in real time. The risks involved with a cyber breach can be greatly reduced by performing a penetration test and fixing any gaps before they cause real harm.