Attention: the article is intended for business leaders, there will be no technical details or anything like that, only general concepts that will help further explain Pentesting.
Pentesting is essentially an authorized hack.
Yes, you heard me correctly. AN AUTHORIZED HACK.
Why would anyone authorize a hack to occur? Simply put, businesses and companies Pentest to better protect themselves against cybercriminals. Things like leaking confidential data, competitors gaining access to your database, or even large sums of money being stolen can occur without the right kind of protection. So penetration testing is the best way to check if your business can survive an actual hack.
As a business owner, you don’t really want to overcomplicate this subject… so let’s get to the point.
We are going to detail what Pentesting is, why its valuable to you, if the IT department you have should or shouldn’t be relied on, and what you can do to better your business.
So What is a Pentest Again?
In simple terms, penetration testing (or Pentesting) is when you hire specially trained people to break into your system. Let me give you an analogy: you have built a house and want to know how protected you are from thieves. To find out, it is wise to offer a real thief to try to break in, under your supervision of course. The house in this analogy is your network, the break in is the Pentest itself, and the thief is a penetration tester. It’s important to note that the pentester is a type of hacker, but rather than your day-to-day bad guy, his motive isn’t to take anything or do anything against the law. In fact, the pentester only works by legal means, and after officially hiring them, not only do they conduct the test to check everything but they will give you a detailed report on all the weak points that they found.
Is this Valuable information? Why does this matter?
Everything can be hacked. In essence, the more complex the system , the higher the likelihood that vulnerabilities in it will be missed.
Cybercrimes are far from a myth, especially now with technology being a huge part of everyday life. As we evolve with our new technological advancements, Cybercrimes also evolve and become even riskier.
Hacking can happen in a multitude of ways, not just technologically. It can happen from within your own company, from someone you don’t know, even just from someone going through your trash can and finding information on some thrown away documents. Protecting yourself from hackers now-a-days is incredibly important to the overall success of your business!
So let’s focus our attention specifically on web security, as it is the easiest and most popular hacking method. If you have a website with various components and complexities, then you should definitely check all possible vulnerabilities of the site itself, since the risk of database leakage is very, very high.
You can’t predict what will happen tomorrow. If you aren’t sure that it will rain, you should still keep an umbrella just in case. It’s the same principal here. You need to be ready for any Cyber threat, even if you aren’t sure when they will actually occur.
But my IT Department should take care of this!
You might probably think that your IT department probably keeps you safe… but unless you have a dedicated security department that can handle Cyber-attacks or have experience, you really are just asking for trouble.
Take, for example, a seven-person IT department. The standard might be made up of a head in the IT department, a system administrator, a web developer, a webmaster, an electronics technician for minor repairs, and maybe a few extras. Each of them is ideally a professional in their field. BUT NONE ARE CYBER THREAT PREVENTION PROFESSIONALS. It’s like scolding the dentist for having a very bad eye surgery, it’s just not the same thing.
You might even notice that if you were to ask your IT specialists if they would willingly agree to a Pentest, they might try to run from you! This is like asking to be checked by the doctor when you aren’t sure if you are dying or not. They don’t want to expose their own problems since they are scared that they would be fired because of it.
Now, is this a good idea? Just to fire everyone because there is a problem found via Pentest? Not exactly. You see when you receive the results of the Pentest itself, they only show work by the IT specialists in regard to security measures. So if there are only weak spots in your defense system it isn’t their fault in the slightest! On the other hand, you may find that the Pentester can check whats been done or not, complaints from users, and even have some opinions on the IT staff… so keep that in mind!
Now you may not be interested in what your Pentester thinks of your IT department, and that is totally fine, but I would urge you to pay close attention to whether you have a strong or weak staff or not. Here are some top tips:
- Pay attention to what they do all day (They might just be playing games for all you know!)
- If the majority of your company’s users constantly complain about IT-related problems, you need to draw conclusions.
- Invite outside experts to audit. This can help identify issues with your staff.
Now what you are looking for should be a department that can solve problems efficiently by using whats available to them, bring in savings by automating business processes, and implement innovated solutions to help grow the business. If this doesn’t sound like your IT department I highly suggest you double check who you’ve hired!
How can I improve?
As already mentioned, a Pentest will reveal all the “blemishes” and “diseases” your website suffers from. Not all of this mistakes can be blamed on having a bad IT department, sometimes it can turn ugly because of YOU. Business owners are often at fault for security problems. Take software licensing, for example. If you have not allocated money for licensed products, the IT department is not to blame. It is the business owners responsibility to secure a license. Another example can be when your IT department asks for updated or new equipment. If you cannot give them the quality of equipment that they need, it makes it just that much easier for hackers to take advantage of the vulnerabilities from the older equipment they are using.
Now, on reflection there are some alternate situations that can change the entire situation. For instance, if the system was configured in a poor way, then the fault of having a weak system falls on the system administrator. Or if you were unaware of licenses needed for your business, and the IT employees knew and didn’t warn you, then that would be their fault too!
Overall, you need to look at the big picture. Take everything in account and make sure that you are being assertive in order to keep your business safe. Don’t rely on what you THINK you have, rather check everything and assess what you can do to be PROACTIVE.
Pentesting is a great solution to this venture since you can do this periodically. It might not be the cheapest thing to do, but it is worth it in the end. If you were to calculate how much it would cost you to not be able to run your business for a day, the losses from a theft, the cost of a breach in your customers personal information, a shattered company reputation, and who knows what else… the cost of having a Pentest is definitely worth it.