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Debunking 10 Myths About Penetration Testing

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Penetration testing is a complex topic surrounded by many misconceptions. Such myths could result from simply misunderstanding the purpose and value of a penetration test, as well as its basic processes and tools. A penetration test is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ process, which depends on the organization’s size, industry type, and compliance requirements.

In this blog post, we will dispel the 10 most common myths about penetration tests, from the belief that all penetration testing tools are the same to the assumption that only merchants, governments, and financial institutions need penetration tests to remain secure from hackers.

1. All penetration tests are the same

The approach differs from one pentest to another, depending on the organization’s size, industry type, and compliance requirements.

Penetration tests can be divided into three categories :

  • Black-box
  • White-box
  • Gray-box

Black-box pentesting treats the system as a complete unknown, while in white-box pentesting, testers have full knowledge of the system under attack. Gray-box pentesting lies somewhere between the two.

Penetration tests can also significantly differ based on their following types:

External Penetration Test

It is conducted from outside the organization’s network to check how well the system can withstand external attacks.

Internal Penetration Test

As the name suggests, an internal pentest is conducted within the organization’s network perimeter. The objective of this test is to find out if a malicious insider can exploit vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Social Engineering Penetration Test

It is conducted to check an organization’s employees’ susceptibility to phishing attacks and other social engineering techniques.

Application Penetration Test

The test focuses on web and mobile applications to find flaws that could be exploited by attackers.

Therefore, it is evident that all penetration tests are not the same, and the type of test conducted depends on the organization’s specific needs.

2. An automated test is as good as a manual penetration test

A penetration test consists of both automated and manual testing. Automated tests are conducted using tools, while manual tests are done by human testers. Both types of tests have their pros and cons. Automated tests are faster and can cover a larger area in a shorter amount of time. However, they can only find vulnerabilities that have already been identified and for which there is a known exploit. Manual tests, on the other hand, are slower but can find both known and unknown vulnerabilities.

3. A penetration test and a vulnerability assessment are the same thing

Penetration tests and vulnerability assessments are two different things. A vulnerability assessment is a security assessment that identifies and classifies vulnerabilities in systems and applications. A penetration test, on the other hand, is an attack on a system to exploit its vulnerabilities.

4. Penetration testers must have no prior knowledge of the targeted systems

This myth is based on the belief that penetration testers can only find vulnerabilities if they have no prior knowledge of the system. In reality, penetration testers use a variety of tools and techniques, some of which require prior knowledge of the system. For example, penetration testers might use social engineering techniques to trick employees into revealing sensitive information. They might also use brute-force attacks to guess passwords or PINs.

5. A penetration test only identifies technological flaws

Penetration tests can identify both technological and non-technological vulnerabilities. Technological vulnerabilities are weaknesses in systems and applications, such as poor security controls or design flaws. Non-technological vulnerabilities are human factors, such as an employee clicking on a malicious link in an unexpected email during a phishing or social engineering attack.

6. A penetration test is purely for prevention purposes

Penetration tests are not just for prevention; they can also be used for detection and response. Penetration tests can help organizations detect vulnerabilities in their systems before attackers exploit them. They can also help organizations respond to attacks by simulating real-world scenarios and testing their incident response plans.

7. Only large organizations can afford a penetration test

Penetration tests are not just for large organizations; they can also be required by small and medium-sized businesses. The cost of a penetration test depends on the scope and objectives of the test. It also hinges on the size and complexity of the organization’s systems.

8. Only merchants, governments, and financial institutions need penetration tests

This myth is based on the belief that only businesses that handle sensitive data need penetration tests. In reality, any organization that uses information technology can be the target of an attack. Penetration tests can help organizations assess their risks and vulnerabilities, and identify the steps they need to take to improve their security.

9. A penetration test will make our network or critical systems crash

Penetration tests are performed with specific tools and techniques designed to prevent any damage to the targeted systems. In some cases, penetration testers might use aggressive methods to find vulnerabilities, but they will always get permission from the client before doing so. Penetration tests are meant to improve security, not make it worse.

10. Penetration tests are a waste of time and money

This myth is based on the belief that penetration tests are only for prevention. In reality, penetration tests can also be used for detection and response. Penetration tests can help organizations assess their risks and vulnerabilities, and identify the steps they need to take to improve their security. They can also help organizations respond to attacks by simulating real-world scenarios and testing their incident response plans. Penetration tests are an important part of any security program, and they should be conducted regularly.

Conclusion

Penetration tests form a foundational tool for organizations to assess their cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities. There are many myths surrounding penetration tests, but the truth is that they can be beneficial for all businesses, regardless of size or industry. Penetration tests can help organizations identify weaknesses in their systems and take steps to improve their security.

To get you started on your penetration test project, contact us today.

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