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Penetration Tests – No Longer An Optional Add-On

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These days, barely a week passes without the world being informed of some business or brand being targeted by hackers for one reason or another. In some instances it’s a major airline targeted by propaganda merchants, another day we hear certain loyalty card systems have been hacked and then it’s one of the world’s biggest companies losing millions of credit card numbers to unknown parties in some far-off land. On the whole, it paints a pretty gloomy picture of the whole network and data security issue, which many experts fear is only going to get gloomier before it gets better.

The simple fact of the matter is that as the world moves closer to an era in which the web really is the be all and end all of everything, more and more criminals will be directing their efforts online. Every hour of every day, billions of dollars make their way to and from an infinite number of locations all around the world without a single physical trade being made. Needless to say, this is the kind of prospect that’s nothing less than music to the ears of criminal types, who in larger numbers than ever before are hanging up the High Street robbery gear and turning to the web.

Being in business online cannot and should not be interpreted as risk-free or even low-risk.

The Everyday Business

Of course, some would argue that these kinds of risks only apply to the larger businesses on the web as this is where the real money lies…at least in terms of taking what’s not rightfully yours. However, in reality this doesn’t tend to be the case at all as while the larger online firms may indeed have far more money behind them, they also have the world’s most advanced security systems. And as criminal hacker groups tend to be pretty lazy more often than not, they’re more inclined to target the everyday business…as in your business.

Which begs the obvious question – exactly how big of a risk are you facing right now in terms of a potential hack or data security breach?

Well, the simple answer is that you’ll never know unless you go about a full penetration testing program to see what’s what. It’s one thing to have a security system in place, but unless it has been put to the test by those who know these things best of all, how can you be sure it will work? Of course you cannot be sure, which is why the very best way to go is to bring in the pros and see exactly how far a hacker might get if they were to put your own networks and IT systems in the crosshairs next time around.

How it Works, Why it Matters

It’s the kind of security measure that most would overlook as superfluous, though in reality it’s quite to the contrary. To have an IT security system in place that’s never been tested would be a little like wearing a bullet-proof vest that also has never been verified in its effectiveness – chances are you wouldn’t be happy to take a risk on either.

There are many ways a pen test can be carried out, though in most cases the process will follow these key steps:

  1. An ethical hacker or group thereof will with your permission attempt to gain access to your IT systems as if they were a criminal looking to do you harm. Chances are they will ask for little information other than the name of your business in order to ensure they have no advantage any other hacker wouldn’t have, while at the same time requesting that the rest of the business is not informed of the planned hack to maintain the most realistic conditions possible.
  2. The hacker will look into every possible security break that could play into the hands of a criminal, investigating not only how deep into the systems an intruder could get, but also the level of damage they could do.
  3. Nothing will be changed or tampered with, but rather brought to the attention of the business owner in the form of a full report which will usually include a proposal on how to plug the clear gaps in security.

More often than not, where gaps in the systems are present they can be fixed relatively quickly and easily. It’s a classic case of covering your interests ahead of time and adding the proverbial ‘stitch in time’ to save you being torn a new one further down the line.

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