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Why would your company need a penetration test?

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” describes the essence of penetration tests. With the rise of hacker attacks on the firms’ databases, services, networks and bank accounts, assessing a company’s cybersecurity before hackers do is crucial for every business. One security breach can result in the permanent loss of clients and stakeholders trust, and in some situations, can even lead to a bankruptcy. One of the basic steps to protect your company’s data from unwanted eyes is to perform a penetration test.

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What is a penetration test?

A penetration test – referred to colloquially as a pen test – is a secure and authorized attempt to hack a computer system, executed to test the security of that system. It simulates a real-life cyber attack scenario, which means testing not only your networks and systems but also existing policies and people. Pen tests are performed in order to prepare a cybersecurity risk assessment from both an internal and external sources and to evaluate a system’s weaknesses and strengths.

What penetration tests can tell you about your security levels

The biggest strength of a penetration test is its emulation of real-life threat scenarios, such as external hacker attacks or a dissatisfied employee trying to harm the company’s network. The test doesn’t only identify weaknesses and strengths but also predicts the impact an attack may have on company assets. Through these tests a business can identify:

  • System weaknesses before real hackers do
  • Which areas of security need immediate improvement
  • The location of security holes in the network
  • The need for new internal security policies
  • The effectiveness of real-time response to a cybersecurity breach
  • A timeframe for how quickly a cyber attack will be detected
  • Potential real-life effects of a data breach on both clients and company
  • Post-attack company procedural accuracy

As you can see, a penetration test is a crucial component of cybersecurity. Insights gained from running pen tests allow you to plan security budgets and projects efficiently, train personnel, and save money through the prevention of cyber-attacks.  

What are the benefits of performing a penetration test?

The main benefit of performing a penetration test is that it helps to keep sensitive data safe. The whole point of cybersecurity strategy is to not allow hackers to steal your valuable information regarding your clients, projects, patents, credit card data, etc.

In some cases, pen tests are required by law to be run on at least a yearly basis. This is for companies that are transmitting, processing or storing one million or more credit card transactions annually, or that had a recent PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) data breach

Another benefit is that pen tests are customizable to any firm’s needs. They can identify threats using multiple techniques and approaches, systematically attempting to make your systems attack-proof.  

Where does a penetration test fit into a cybersecurity strategy?

All companies that have a website, store customer or client data on their servers, or even have a social media presence are in need of having a cybersecurity strategy in place. While most of us already understand potential cybersecurity threats, not all of us know how to put a strategy in place in case of a breach. A penetration test is only one component of an effective cyber-security strategy, but what should a solid cybersecurity strategy look like?

Implementation and assessment

There are certain government policies that every company must meet in order to operate. For example, credit card safety protocols (PCI) and firewalls must be implemented in order for a company to set up an online shop. The EU implemented their new Network and Information System (NIS) directive on May 2018, which have had a big impact on businesses in many sectors, such as healthcare, finance, online marketplaces, transport, and energy, among others.

Once the required security measures are in place, it’s time to run penetration tests to see where there is a need to improve. You can either run penetration tests in-house or hire a professional firm that will do tests for you.

Monitoring and response

While many companies perform a penetration test on an annual basis, hackers come up with new ways to breach your security more often than that. That’s why the next step, regular monitoring, is so important. Performing pen tests on a regular basis is all about that early warning that will prepare you in advance of any threat, and hopefully, spare you the full response that a breach would necessitate. The response phase is not only the act of dealing with the breach on the IT level but also a wider external and internal crisis communication plan and other protocols that a company must develop in advance.

Cyber insurance

Another layer of the response phase could be securing cyber insurance. With its roots in errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, cyber insurance typically covers expenses related to first parties, as well as claims by third parties. First-party coverage includes direct losses to the company, such as monetary losses due to a network downtime, business interruption, data recovery, and costs involved in managing a crisis – which may involve repairing a company’s reputation. Third-party coverage includes costs of regulatory investigation expenses, lawsuits, and extortion, as well as liability arising from a failure to maintain the confidentiality of data.

Protect your business from cyber-threats

Cyber risks are changing and evolving quickly. Frequently carried out penetration tests, together with the right protocols and having a solid cyber insurance plan in place should be able to protect your company from ever-changing and unpredictable cybersecurity threats. Ultimately, “better the devil you know, that devil you don’t”, right?

To learn more about cyber insurance, contact Pacific Prime’s insurance advisors today for impartial advice on receiving a cyber-security risk assessment.

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