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Why Penetration Testing Is Not Enough to Secure Your Business

Why Penetration Testing Is Not Enough to Secure Your Business

Published on: 30 Nov 2020 6 min read

Penetration testing (also known as pen testing) is a simulated cyberattack that a business conducts on its network/software in order to identify system vulnerabilities. In most cases, pen testing is done in order to meet compliance regulations or to satisfy the needs of a customer.

The problem is that so much misinformation surrounds penetration testing, the use of it creates an overtone of penetration myths that may be dangerous to your business’s health. Not to mention that it is expensive.

Pen Testing Provides a One Time Security Snapshot

One-off security audit penetration testing or vulnerability assessment, just to meet а regulation or to cross it whit a checkmark on your to-do list, does not make you secure. One of the benefits of penetration testing is that it gives you a snapshot in time of your current exposure. The downside is that tomorrow your exposure most likely will be different. If you use PenTesting as more than a snapshot at a given time, the effort does not help you. It could hurt the determination of your cybersecurity exposure.

To gauge to an accurate degree the extent of your assets’ exposure to cyberattacks, you need a thorough knowledge of all your businesses’ assets and appropriate visibility. Appropriate visibility tells you what you need to know:

  • Where each of your assets is located
  • Who has access to your assets

Any type of assessment will give you only partial overview of what is going on, since the information provided in the report after the test will be limited to the ability of the Ethical Hacker to gain knowledge about your system for the given time of testing, and again it will be only for this moment in time.

What all of this means is that infrequent PenTesting provides only a short-term assessment. If you want to maintain a strong security stance, you need frequent or regular assessments that provide more than a single snapshot in time. The right way to do security is continuously, and once you set that process up, it is not that hard to maintain it either.

Pen Testing May Cost Less — But More Efficient and Cost-Effective Alternatives Exist

Cyber savvy security professionals understand that before spending any money, smart businesses start by adopting an overarching cybersecurity business strategy. An effective cybersecurity strategy strives for accuracy in the results so the strategy must base its outlook on three things:

  • Company size
  • Type of assets to protect
  • Interactions between clients and vendors

Developing a cybersecurity strategy does not add anything to your existing business expenses but the knowledge a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy furnishes your IT professionals will demonstrate PenTesting’s deficiencies. From there, your IT professionals can take the next step which comes when IT learns where and how to implement corrective measures.

Some smaller businesses invest in one-time PenTesting because it costs less. Larger enterprises with more substantial discretionary revenue may choose to implement a Security Operations Center (SOC) or Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software. SOC teams monitor and analyse a network’s security on an ongoing basis. SIEM software provides an integrated look in real-time at what’s going on the network. To take advantage of either of these options, companies may invest thousands of dollars in SOC and SIEM services. SOC, in particular, is quite expensive but it gives an accurate response when an intrusion event occurs.

Let’s face it. The general understanding is that staying one step ahead of cyber hackers and maintaining cybersecurity is expensive, but actually, if you do not have the budget of a big Enterprise to maintain a SOC team, there are actually some controls, security mechanisms and tools that can secure your business on a reasonable price. They can be implemented with minimal effort and in exchange for your small investment, those solutions and controls yield value and a robust defence. Consider implementing prevention and awareness measures before expending a considerable investment in monitoring and response-only systems.

Pen Testing Makes Remediation More Difficult

When pen testing uncovers an issue, a limited window of time opens within which the IT professional must act, because you actually have a very small window in order to fix the gaps which were found, so the Ethical Hacker can retest your system. The difficulty comes when the IT professional’s knowledge, which needs to fix the system, does not extend to an accurate analysis of the pen test result. The identified issue may require further, more extensive research or specialized knowledge outside the IT professional’s understanding. In that case, the IT staff may transmit the pen test result to an outside professional for validation and assessment. All of that takes time, a valuable commodity in the cybersecurity realm. Remedial actions must occur immediately following the pen test’s identification of a vulnerability; a slow reaction might give the cyber hacker enough time to steal the business’s valuable data and cause a substantial financial loss.

Outdated Systems and Poor Asset Management

Outdated systems. In the fast-changing world of cybersecurity, sometimes companies have outdated, legacy software that they mix with new applications. Such mixing does not engender an accurate pen test result with respect to the company’s security posture. Those companies with mixed legacy and new applications would do well to take the following wise advice: Take the time to update the system. That of course sounds easier said than done. So if you don’t have the ability to update your whole system, for one reason or another, you should at least have visibility over it, monitor its behaviour over time, and know what is your exposure from maintaining an outdated system. In this way, you will be able to calculate your risk score on the different assets and see if you can tolerate the risk, or you need to find another solution, to maintain your defence. In either way, you will know where the problems are and you will be able to control them according to your business needs. This is one of the many problems that pen testing will not save you from, it might give you just some partial overview of what is going on.
Poor asset management. It makes sense that larger organizations have large data collections to secure. Even more critical, large companies often store that data in various locations. That is, enterprise data is not limited to one single server, workstation, or platform. It follows then that a company in these circumstances cannot generalize the security posture of all network facets from one single pen test. Each server, workstation, or platform is unique and requires monitoring over time.

Moving Forward

If you find your company considering a pen test to determine its cybersecurity position, remember this: pen testing provides a mere snapshot in time while other cost-effective tools provide constant awareness of security exposure with easier remediation.

You probably won’t have full confidence in your system’s cybersecurity position if your system passes all its penetration tests but the testing only covers 55% of the existing system.

The CsRM platform leads the way toward cybersecurity based on awareness, visibility, continues assessment and it manages your cybersecurity risk over the long-term. We cordially invite you to schedule a free trial so you can see how CsRM can help you tame your cybersecurity issues.

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