network penetration testing services
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Penetration Testing Lifecycle

Posted by: TÜV SÜD Expert Date: 27 Jul 2023

A network penetration test (pen test) is a process where testers simulate an attack on the company’s application or IT infrastructure. This pen test exposes the vulnerabilities in the system, which helps the cybersecurity team design and implement preventive strategies.

According to a report, the total damages from cyber-attacks in 2021 were $16.4 billion daily. Apart from Pen Testing, maintaining an active understanding of your vulnerabilities will help combat cybercriminals.

This article will explain the important factors in pen testing, its five phases, and choosing a trusted partner for network penetration testing services.

How Can Pen Testing Help Your Organisation?

Pen testing, also called ethical hacking, provides a comprehensive report of the company’s current security status. Using this information, businesses can mitigate their vulnerabilities and avoid malicious attacks that could damage reputation, finances, and resources.

The testers use the same techniques as hackers and simulate a cyber-attack against the organisation. They verify how well the system’s security controls hold up against internal and external threats.

Pen testing should not be a one-time activity but a part of the company’s cybersecurity culture with pre-defined execution intervals and standard metrics. This brings us to the phases or steps for pen testing.

Five Phases of Pen Testing

Penetration testing needs a structured approach, and these are five phases that the team should approach:

  1. Reconnaissance – In this phase, the testing team gathers information about the system they want to test. This includes the network topology, user accounts, operating systems and regulations, and other important information. This information helps them create an effective cyberattack strategy. The reconnaissance team chooses an active or passive approach. While the active method interacts directly with the target system to gather information, the passive method takes the information already available publicly. Both are necessary to form a comprehensive picture of the system’s vulnerabilities.
  2. Scanning – In this phase, the pen testing service provider uses tools to identify open ports and check network traffic. Open ports are typical entry points for black hat hackers, and the pen testers want to identify and deal with them.
    Scanning can identify the potential threat but cannot tell how much the hackers can access the system. This requires human intervention and penetration testing.
  3. Vulnerability assessment – In this phase, the penetration tester uses all the information from the reconnaissance and scanning phases to identify vulnerabilities and know whether hackers can exploit them. Vulnerability assessment becomes even more powerful when the testers use other penetration testing methods.
    Penetration testers refer to the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), which is a collection of vulnerability data of the US government. The NVD rates the severity of vulnerabilities using a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (NVSS).
  4. Exploitation – Once the pen tester has identified all the vulnerabilities, it is time to target or exploit them. This step requires bypassing the security restrictions, and the pen testers must ensure no harm to the live data or the system during this phase.
  5. Reporting – The pen tester reports the findings. This information helps fix cybersecurity problems and improve the organisation’s security posture. A detailed report indicates the vulnerabilities, their Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores, business impact in case of compromise, explanation of any difficulties during targeting, risk briefing, and remediation recommendations

How To Choose a Trusted Partner for Your Pen Test Audits

Pen testing helps businesses meet regulatory and compliance requirements such as the payment card industry’s Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). That is why choosing a pen testing partner that guarantees a thorough and compliant approach is important. To choose a pen test partner in Singapore, you must check the vendor’s credentials, licences, work experience, and the value it can add to your business. Here is a quick checklist:

  1. Clear process visibility – Your pen testing partner should provide you with clear visibility, including the system’s critical vulnerabilities. The vendor must provide reports during the kick-off, testing, retesting, and repair phases which will help you lower the overall expenditure
  2. Check the licences and experience – Your vendor must be licensed to conduct pen testing in Singapore. Without a licence, its reports are invalid, and you cannot challenge them if required. Rather, focus on the vendor’s work experience and skills that bring value to your cybersecurity requirements.
  3. Verify the vendor’s credibility – The pen testing vendor will access all your sensitive data, including that of your clients, suppliers, internal research, and financial systems. Before hiring them, check their credibility and record with other clients. Check these points:

    a. Hiring procedure and employment verification process.
    b. Organisation’s data storage and security procedure.
    c. Insurance and indemnity provisions.
  4. Look beyond technical skills – Choose a service provider that allocates a responsive team that updates you at every step. They must complete the testing within the agreed time and budget. Consider your budget – Irrespective of the size of the company, you have a certain budget for pen testing. The budget will also depend on the number and type of systems, software, and apps you have. Choose a pen testing vendor that does not burn a hole in your pocket.

Conclusion

To prevent failure and service disruption, businesses must proactively plan and execute penetration tests on their critical systems. This must be a continuous process with pre-defined time intervals and not a one-time or reactive approach.

This is where a third-party penetration testing service provider such as TÜV SÜD in Singapore can guide you end-to-end to save costs and complete the activity in time.

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