What is a penetration test?

The National Cyber Security Centre defines Penetration testing as "a method for gaining assurance in the security of an IT system by attempting to breach some or all of that system's security, using the same tools and techniques as an adversary might."

By implementing a penetration test our CREST accredited experts will attempt to identify vulnerabilities within your business and demonstrate how these could be exploited and the risk this represents in the context of your organisation.

NHS Digital advise that “a penetration test should be undertaken at least annually.”

Our clients in the Not for profit, Charity & Hospice sector are a great example to demonstrate the ongoing need for penetration testing as they are subject to NHS guidance. The NHS England’s Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT) mandates that all organisations that have access to NHS patient data undertake an annual penetration test as part of their compliance requirement.

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Why would my business be a potential target for cyber attack?

Whilst large and high-profile companies may often attract more attention from cyber criminals, small and medium businesses can often be preferred targets.

Here’s why:

  • Supply Chain Attacks

You may be part of a larger supply chain and identified as a potentially weaker route into a bigger prize. Cyber criminals may focus on you with the sole intent to leapfrog your business to the larger businesses you support further up the chain. Once inside a network, cybercriminals may use this as a stepping stone to a more lucrative target, leaving a mess in their wake.

  • Easier Targets

Few smaller businesses have resources dedicated to cyber security, making them more vulnerable to attacks. Cyber criminals often seek out a path of least resistance, and businesses that don’t have the resources can be perceived as an easier target.

  • Access to Sensitive Information

All businesses hold sensitive information, such as: customer data, financial records, or intellectual property. Cyber criminals target this kind of data to cause disruption that will have a significant impact on day to day operations.

  • Ransomware

Cyber criminals may deploy ransomware attacks indiscriminately, encrypting data and demanding a ransom for its release. Smaller, non-enterprise businesses can be a prime target for this type of attack.  

Benefits of a Penetration Test

With a Penetration Test you can...

  • Identify vulnerabilities and poor security controls
  • Provide an objective overview of an organisation’s attack surface that a malicious actor may seek to exploit
  • Expose security ‘blind spots’ unknown to internal IT teams
  • Help to prioritise and redirect IT budgets to avoid wasteful expenditure
  • Demonstrate preventative measures and regular assessments to reduce your insurance risks

The threat landscape continues to evolve at an alarming pace and whilst your business may not be subject to compliance requirements in the same way as regulated industries are, many Cyber-insurance policies are increasingly asserting the need to prove the preventative measures that are in place in order to insure businesses.

Can your business afford not to be cyber-aware?

Penetration Testing, sometimes referred to as ‘ethical hacking’, is delivered by CREST certified cyber security professionals to identify vulnerabilities in an organisation’s systems; with the overall objective of identifying attack avenues a malicious actor may exploit to compromise sensitive business data or systems.

Contextualising the outputs from your Penetration Test Report

On completion of a penetration test, a comprehensive report of the applicable findings will be compiled by the lead penetration tester. This will assist in contextualising the risk, specifically for your business, and will then be a valuable asset used to communicate to the leadership team of your business

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3 Core Phases of Penetration Testing

Each and every Penetration Test we carry out will differ depending on a) the system being tested, and b) your individual business needs. We follow a proven methodology so as to maintain a consistent set of results.

This includes 3 core phases:

  • Planning & Investigation

This phase will involve planning and gathering intelligence which will help us identify how we’ll be targeting our simulated attacks, and will include mapping high value assets such as employee, customer and technical data, as well as internal and external threats.

  • Exploitation of vulnerabilities

With a map of all possible vulnerabilities, we’ll then begin the simulated tests on your entry points. Our goal will be to see how far we can get into your environment, identify any high-value targets, and avoid detection.

  • Analysis and reporting

While Penetration Testing is a complex activity, our analysis and reporting isn’t. We’ll highlight security vulnerabilities and areas that could be exploited. We’ll also provide guidance on remediation, with a clear focus on preventative countermeasures.

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