What is Penetration Testing and Why is it Important?

what is penetration testing and why is it important

Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, is something designed to test and evaluate the security of a system. This test identifies weaknesses and strengths, performing a full risk assessment on the system.

This form of testing isn’t new. In fact, it started in the mid-1960s and has improved ever since.

The goals of penetration testing vary based on the approved activity of any given system, but the test is always designed to show the vulnerabilities in a system and to offer potential solutions to those vulnerabilities.

Companies, such as those that take card payments and banking websites, require regular penetration tests, along with tests after any new system changes. This process allows vulnerabilities to be fixed as soon as possible, keeping private data as safe as possible.

Phases of Penetration Testing

The process of penetration testing can be narrowed into five steps:

  1. Reconnaissance. This is the initial step, and it involves gathering information about the target.
  2. Scanning. The first stage of hacking. This stage is where the tester learns more about the system they’re going to attempt to penetrate.
  3. Gaining Access. Here, the tester puts the gathered information to use and exploit the targeted system. In this stage, attacks can be automated towards known vulnerabilities in the system.
  4. Maintaining Access. This stage involves taking steps to continue to have access to the targeted information. The length of maintained access says how much data can be accessed.
  5. Covering tracks. Finally, the last stage of the penetration test is clearing any history of compromising the system. The goal here is to think like a real hacker attempt to avoid detection.

Penetration testing is a necessity in any business that specializes in the holding or transferring of secure information, and these tests should be performed regularly. Whether your business is large or small, this type of testing can drastically improve security.