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Why, When & How Often Is Pen Testing Needed?

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What Is the Purpose of Penetration Testing? 

Rather than assess potential vulnerabilities in your IT system, the penetration test acts as a cyber attack to determine how it handles your system. Professional IT professionals try to gain access to your system using a variety of methods that help identify vulnerabilities and show how those vulnerabilities can be exploited in your system. In this way, it can help with solutions to avoid the risk of a real cyber attack in the future. As an ethical hack, it is designed to provide a cyber attack test without harmful consequences. Instead, this test provides real-world data and insight into which areas are most vulnerable and how those specific areas can be used to damage your system. 

The main purpose of testing is to look at your activity through the eyes of an attacker and proactively prevent his attacks. Through this process, companies discover specific weaknesses in their IT systems at the time of testing. Using this understanding allows for proactive mitigation and correction of these potential abuses. Businesses should strive to protect their digital infrastructure through information obtained through necessary tests. The main goal of testing is to recruit trained people for vulnerability testing. While a secure IT network is a major advantage, other benefits offered by pen testers range from building customer trust to a healthy PR profile. With that in mind, let’s dive in and take a closer look at the purpose of testing , and examine the different value propositions that the test leads to. 

Regulatory Frameworks that Require Penetration Testing 

Due to the highly regulatory nature of some industries, such as service providers, healthcare and banks, penetration testing is necessary to ensure compliance. Here are some common rules that require penetration testing for compliance: 

SOC 2 

Penetration testing is required for the initial revision of SOC 2 type II and every 180 days thereafter. 

SOC stands for Service Organization Control, and SOC 2 compliance is an industry standard for SOC member technology. In order to comply with SOC 2, companies must conduct a cyber security audit. This audit examines five controls known as the principles of trusted services: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Auditors ensure that these five controls are relevant to the sector. Cybersecurity experts recommend penetration testing quarterly or twice a year as part of the SOC 2 compliance audit. 

HIPAA 

Penetration testing is required at least once a year. 

Medical information is extremely valuable and perhaps more cost-effective for hackers than credit card information. It usually includes birth numbers, birth dates, insurance numbers, diagnostic codes, and billing information. Hackers can use this information to commit identity fraud and to protect against fraudulent regulations. It is necessary that medical institutions conduct regular pen tests to ensure that the data is safe from prying eyes. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Liability Act 1996) is a U.S. federal law that regulates the privacy, security, and electronic exchange of medical information. According to HIPAA, healthcare institutions must conduct regular technological safety tests of their data. Is there a better way to test the system than to think like the person who broke it? That’s what a tester does. 

PCI-DSS 

An independent penetration testing organization requires every 180 days. It does not have to be ASV or QSA. 

PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is a regulation that regulates the way users’ card data is managed. It has recently been modified to require vulnerability scanning and pencil testing. Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing must include the perimeter of the cardholder data environment (CDE) and any systems that could affect the security of the CDE in the event of a threat. Pencil tests should be performed at least once a year and every six months at the supplier. 

When to Perform a Pen Test 

First, the organization must understand that the penetration test is not a one-time activity. The cyber threat environment is constantly changing. New vulnerabilities are constantly emerging, and for every cybercriminal who hangs his shoes (you can always hope!), Three more jump in. That is why it is important to set temporary “target places” that will guide the organization’s strategy for testing the pen. 

Therefore, pen tests should be performed whenever the following situations occur: 

  • New components or applications added to the IT infrastructure
  • Significant changes or updates to the infrastructure, even if no other components have been added
  • Security patches applied to antivirus software or firewalls 
  • Acquisitions and mergers of companies (must be completed before the acquisition or merger) 

Almost all organizations experience such situations during their business, so pen tests are key to maintaining a strong security position. 

5 Signs That it’s Time for Penetration Testing 

  1. After Launch – IT teams often work with impossible deadlines and are forced to issue applications, systems, or services without proper security assessment. When systems are new, they usually have security holes and security vulnerabilities that penetration tests can detect. 
  1. After Significant Changes Are Made to the Environment –These major changes in the IT infrastructure create vulnerabilities that automated scanners can ignore. Through security penetration testing, organizations can identify any security breaches or misconfigurations or logical errors that may result from such major changes. Organizations typically continue to make rapid changes in their system, infrastructure, and technology to be agile and keep up with ever-changing technologies. These rapid changes inadvertently create gaps and weaknesses in the IT infrastructure that can be exploited. Last year, however, a global pandemic swept the organization and forced them into digital transformation in full swing. 
  1. After Security Patches Are Applied – Security patches are fixes for previously released software designed to fix bugs / vulnerabilities / security holes. Because patch information is publicly available, attackers are often prone to reading and finding ways to break patches and related vulnerabilities. Although many organizations do not apply patches, it is not uncommon for attackers to take advantage of fixed vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is not recommended to apply security patches to all devices as they appear, regardless of their impact, nor is it recommended to completely ignore security patches. 
  1. After a Policy Is Modified – The security policies of the company, end users and information affect the security position of the organization. The principles of information security form the core of functional security and define the scope and activities of the organization’s security management system. Major changes in security policies are affecting the IT environment and therefore require extensive security penetration testing. They provide insight into newly defined information security systems. Changes to company and end-user policies can create vulnerabilities and logical errors that cannot be detected by scanning tools and simple vulnerability assessments. Pencil tests are crucial in recognizing such inaccurate configurations and logical errors. 
  1. If Your Industry Is Regularly Targeted – If you’ve received warnings about sophisticated and sophisticated cyberattacks targeting your industry, it’s time to get involved in security penetration testing. This could be due to technological or regulatory changes in the industry or other factors causing an increase in the offensive area. 

How Often Should Pen Testing be Done? 

Penetration testing should be conducted regularly (at least once a year) to ensure more consistent IT and network security management that reveals how malicious hackers can exploit recently discovered threats (0 days, 1 day) or emerging vulnerabilities. In addition to regularly scheduled inspections and evaluations required by regulations such as the GDPR, PCI-DSS testing must also be conducted whenever: 

  • A new infrastructure or network application has been added 
  • Significant updates or changes are applied to the infrastructure or applications 
  • New offices are being set up 
  • Security patches have been applied 
  • End-user policy is changing. 

Is It Time for Your Organization to Get Tested? 

AWA can perform penetration testing that simulates an actual attack by a hacker. Request a quote today to get started. 

About The Author

CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
CEH - Certified Ethical Hacker
CISM - Certified Information Security Manager

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