Generally, when people think the world is conspiring against them, you’d toss them a tinfoil hat and get on with your day. But in the world of security? Well, it’s not exactly Lizard People—but things working against you comes with the territory. Attackers on the prowl. Vulnerabilities lying dormant in your network. Even – and especially – your own employees. That’s why it’s crucial your security program is equipped to defend your network against technology, process, and people. And that’s where penetration testing can help.
Penetration testing (or pen testing) is the practice of attacking your own IT systems, just as an attacker would, in order to uncover active security gaps on your network. Penetration testing is conducted in a way that allows you to safely simulate these attacks, so you can discover your organization’s actual exposures – whether within technologies, people, or processes – without taking down your network. A pen testing tool or program is a must-have in any security program, providing you with a virtual map of your exposures and where to direct your resources.
Penetration testing gets you in the attacker mindset
The goal of penetration testing shouldn’t simply be compliance. Although it is a requirement for PCI compliance and HIPAA compliance, what you’re really trying to accomplish is a simulation of how attackers would exploit the actual vulnerabilities in your network, live, in the real world. Yet without a deep understanding of programming languages and exploit writing, it can be difficult to simulate a real attack efficiently. In order to get in the attacker mindset, you have to use a penetration testing tool that automates the tactics that normally take days or weeks, so you can simulate them in the precious few hours and minutes you have.