A person in a black jacket and hood with the words “ethical hacking” printed over the image.

What Is Penetration Testing & Why Should You Care?

Does your CEO have administrative access to the entire network? Do your employees wear their ID badges when they leave for lunch? Is anyone with a maintenance badge given free-range to your facility? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your business has a serious vulnerability risk that must be corrected. Otherwise, you may find yourself a victim of a cyber-attack.

The problem is that most companies aren’t aware of these holes in their core security posture. These holes leave them vulnerable to hackers who will exploit these seemingly innocent situations and gain access to their entire network. But with penetration testing from a reliable cybersecurity firm like us, we can find these security gaps and patch them.

Every day, a different security incident is happening. Sometimes it’s because of human error. For example, in February 2023, a server was left open without a password at the Department of Defense. This security flaw allowed anyone with internet access to steal private data using their web browser. Is your business’s security as comprehensive as the DoD’s? Likely not. So, imagine how easy it would be for a hacker to get into your network.

Avoid being the next cyberattack victim by signing up for penetration testing from us. Our penetration testers will help you discover the holes in your organization’s systems and help you patch detected vulnerabilities to prevent hackers from getting in. Get in touch with us today to get started!

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What Is Penetration Testing?

An overview image of a server with a magnifying glass graphic and the words “penetration test” overlaid on the image.Penetration testing, sometimes called pentest or pen testing, is a security exercise where a cybersecurity company performs a simulated attack to penetrate an organization’s network. These ethical hackers, as they’re called, use external, internal, and wireless pen tests to find easy access points to gain entry into your computer systems. They may also try social engineering, such as sending phishing emails or pretending to be someone else to gain access to computer systems. Pen testing tools are used to aid in their penetration tests on target systems.

Pen testing aims to gain access inside a business, whether in the network or physically in the building, to retrieve confidential data that should be under lock and key. If an ethical hacker can’t enter your business—congratulations! Your security measures are top-notch and up-to-date. But if they can access your network, don’t worry! They’ll provide you with the steps you need to take to repair your security weaknesses and stay at the top of your cybersecurity game.

What Are the Different Types of Penetration Testing?

The three basic types of pen testing are external, internal, and wireless. Each one targets a different aspect of your business’s environment or network. You can choose one or a combination to ensure your security infrastructure is up to par.

  1. External Pen Tests: External pen testing is where an ethical hacker tries to enter the business network from the outside. For example, they may try to exploit a vulnerability in a web server that is missing a patch. This kind of test is usually performed outside of the company’s building to simulate someone attacking you from the Internet.
  2. Internal Pen Tests: This test is performed inside the company’s network. Ethical hackers are given normal access to the company and try to elevate to privileged access to administrator access. Then, they can view anything, including classified documents and sensitive data. For example, they may start on the computer of a C-level executive’s secretary and try to escalate their access to view documents thought to only be viewable by C-level people.
  3. Wireless Pen Tests: The main purpose of conducting a wireless pen test is to ensure people aren’t getting into your network through your WiFi and accessing things they are not supposed to access. For example, does your wireless network have a username and password to get on it? Are any workstations using guest or public WiFi? A wireless pen test also ensures there are no bridges between the guest’s WiFi and your company’s internal network. Sometimes something as simple as a wireless printer can be exploited to bridge into secure WiFi. These tests also ensure employees are also following best practices.

Penetration tests can also be open-box, closed-box, and or covert. An open-box pen test is when the cybersecurity company is provided with information ahead of time about the company. Closed-box pen testing, or single-blind testing, is when the ethical hacking company is only given the target system and nothing else. A covert pen test, or double-blind testing, is when almost no one in the company knows about the simulated attack, including IT professionals. However, caution must be exercised, and details must be in writing to avoid problems with law enforcement.

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Why Do Companies Need Pen Tests?

A free WiFi sign sits on a coffee table.Companies need penetration testing for a lot of reasons. First, many industries, such as banking, need pen testing performed as part of a yearly audit. This test will help ensure the bank has the right security controls, access permissions in place. Some companies could lose their certifications if they neglect to conduct a penetration test, making them unable to compete in their industry.

Another reason companies want a penetration test is that they previously had a security incident in their business. A penetration test allows them to strengthen their defenses and ensure they aren’t hacked again.

Thirdly, some companies want to know their exploitable vulnerabilities and fix them before a real-world attack happens.

The fourth reason any company should consider conducting penetration tests is that cybercriminals are sneaky and resourceful. It’s not hard or inexpensive for someone to physically, internally, or wirelessly access your business. For example:

  • They can use an inexpensive device to casually bump into your employee wearing a badge and scan it. They can create a badge and enter your building pretending to be an elevator technician.
  • A hacker can strap a WiFi Pineapple to a drone and land it on the roof of your building. Then your employees and customers think they’re connecting to your business WiFi, but it’s the hacker’s WiFi. This situation could also apply if your employee takes their business laptop to Starbucks and connects to public WiFi. You don’t know if that WiFi is legitimate.
  • Your employees can easily be victims of phishing emails, giving a cybercriminal access to your network.
  • Penetration testing tools are not expensive, and even though they’re marketed for ethical hacking only, anyone can buy them.
  • One such tool, a rubber ducky, is a USB thumb drive. It makes the computer think it’s a keyboard, but there’s a malicious script on it that can steal passwords.
  • Another tool, the Flipper Zero, can capture your car’s lock and unlock signal from your key fob if it’s not encrypted. It can also capture the remote start signal. It also captures other signals that may allow someone into your business.

As penetration testers, we aim to find back doors or loopholes to your company and gain access to your internal database. We then present our results after our pen testing process. We’ll explain how we performed the pen test and what you can do to fix your detected vulnerabilities before a real hacker finds them.

What Are Some Common Pen Test Failure Points?

You see some common security controls that fail pen testing when you have been penetration testers as long as we have. The failure points we most often see as security professionals include the following:

  1. People have permission to access internal IT systems they shouldn’t have. While a CIO may need administrative access to everything, a CEO doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with server configuration and wouldn’t need the same access. Once a hacker enters their account, all bets are off, and they can have the keys to your entire kingdom.
  2. Not checking who is entering and out of the building with badge access.
  3. Not verifying visitors who come into the building.
  4. Devices not being up to date.
  5. Not deactivating access to former employees.
  6. Keeping remote access open when not in use.
  7. Not changing default passwords.

A company should try to enhance these security controls and keep maintaining access to the company using the least privileged principle. That means users are given only the minimum level of access to company or customer information to do their jobs. This security principle can help stop attackers from gaining additional or higher access within a network system.

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How Does Pen Testing Relate to Zero-Trust Security?

Zero-trust security is a big buzzword in the cybersecurity world right now. At its core, you trust no one or anything and must verify everything. It calls for the least privileged access to software and computer systems, so only people who need access to something on a server have access.

A penetration test will show if you’re following these zero-trust security rules and which users or computers have permissions that aren’t necessary.

What Are Some Recommendations to Help a Company Pass a Pen Test?

A person uses an electronic keycard to gain access to a building.We have a few recommendations for companies who wish to ensure that they can pass a pen test and prevent a pen tester from gaining access to their computer systems.

First, connect your employees’ computers directly to the internet rather than through WiFi. This step eliminates the possibility of a hacker mimicking WiFi or connecting to the business WiFi through the guest’s WiFi.

Second, consider whether you need to have a guest WiFi network. If your organization is a high-value target, such as a medical facility, turning off guest internet access may be a better choice if not needed.

Third, have an employee at the front desk verify everyone’s access to the building. You can also upgrade everyone’s badges with more encryption to prevent penetration testing tools from being able to scan them.

Fourth, consider every access point to your physical and virtual business. Even your roof is a potential failure point. Ensure all your access points are secure.

Fifth, train your employees. Ensure they aren’t putting out too much private information on social media that could be used against them. For example, someone could look up an employee’s spouse on social media, create a fake email, and send a message to their business email. Employees who aren’t astute enough may fall victim to a phishing scam. This method used by hackers is called social engineering.

Sixth, get regular penetration testing. Real-world attacks happen every day, and if your security team doesn’t stay on top of them with the help of pen testers, you might be at risk for severe security issues.

Why Do I Need to Hire ImageQuest to Do Penetration Testing?

It can be overwhelming, especially for small to medium businesses, that don’t have the dedicated resources to investigate potential failure points all day. Every day there is a new vulnerability for software or web applications, a computer system, or a network. Without a dedicated resource like ImageQuest, keeping up with these security risks is impossible.

ImageQuest can do external, internal, and wireless penetration tests. Some can be done right from our office without going anywhere, giving you quick results. Others require more reconnaissance and require us to go to the business. We can also ship a device to the customer, wait for them to set it up, and start scanning their environment for security vulnerabilities.

For more than 15 years, ImageQuest has helped companies like yours get the IT security and compliance services they need to remain successful. We have the pen testing tools and dedicated employees to help with all your penetration testing needs. Get in touch with us today to start finding and repairing your security weaknesses—before a hacker exploits those security vulnerabilities.

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