What Is A Penetration Test?

what is a penetration test?

A penetration test is a simulated attack to exploit weaknesses and vulnerabilities on a system, network, application, website, wireless network, or employees.


Penetration testing can consist of a variety of activities designed to simulate real-world attack scenarios against a business’ IT and physical security controls.


The ultimate goal of a penetration test is to validate the vulnerabilities identified during the scanning phase, and investigate any other avenues of penetration through reconnaissance.


Why Do You Need A Penetration Test?


Knowing about vulnerabilities is just one step toward a secure enterprise. Penetration testing is conducted to validate not only the vulnerabilities already identified but to evaluate the implementation of security controls and tools.


As sophisticated as security devices are today, almost 90% of Cyber Attacks are Caused by Human Error or Behavior.


Security misconfiguration can happen at any level of an application stack, and these are the targets of modern hackers. The only way to know that your security tools are working is to test them.


It’s considered security best practice for businesses to perform penetration tests at least 1 – 2 times per year, however, compliance requirements or major infrastructure changes may require more frequent tests.


What Are The Benefits To Security?


There are 5 main benefits to performing a penetration test including:


  1. Determining weakness in the hardware, software, or human assets of an organization in order to develop controls.
  2. Maintaining the 3 triads of cyber security – Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.
  3. Ensuring that controls which have been implemented are adequate.
  4. Providing intelligence and insight of an organization’s security measures by understanding how it could be and likely will be attacked and what steps should be taken to secure the organization.
  5. Improving the overall security posture of an organization.


How Much Do Penetration Tests Cost?


A penetration test can cost between $4,000 – $100,000 on average due to how involved the process is, the resources required to execute a successful penetration test, and the duration of time required to complete the report.


Is There Anything Else I Need To Know?


If you’re engaging with a vendor it’s good to have an idea of the type of penetration test you need performed and any compliance security standards you need to fulfill.


In addition, you will need to provide:


  • Your goals for performing a pen test.
  • The number of internal workstations on the network.
  • The number of servers.
  • The total number of internal and external IPs.


You may also be asked if the tester should exploit vulnerabilities if found, or if you just want vulnerabilities noted for the report.


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