Companies Without Penetration Testing: What Could Go Wrong?

by Sunny Hoi

Based on the studies conducted by security software providers, an average of 30,000 new websites get hacked daily. 

That mortifying figure should prompt you to establish preventive cybersecurity measures to protect your data against breaches and privacy issues.

Otherwise, you could be leaving your customer data and other business-critical information exposed and vulnerable to hackers.

By performing penetration testing, you can identify the weaknesses in your web apps, networks, etc., and resolve potential danger areas before hackers can do critical damage to your system infrastructure.

While pen testing can’t guarantee 100% protection from cyber attacks, what it can do is analyze your system, find vulnerabilities, and come up with actionable recommendations to improve your security measures.

Is penetration testing the answer?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) requires that your business (and any entity that handles customer data) conduct regular testing to your processes and security systems.

This makes penetration testing one of the necessary data protection and privacy measures for your business.

After all, pen testing will help you uncover the vulnerabilities in your payment systems, web applications, networks, and more that you need to resolve to secure highly-sensitive data.

For instance, penetration testing can test vulnerable web applications for local file inclusion, server-side request forgery, open redirect, and path traversal.

Pen testing involves real-life attack simulations by hackers in a controlled environment — which helps test the effectiveness of your security systems or patches to ensure your vulnerabilities have been fixed. 

By uncovering your system vulnerabilities, the test enables you to establish a security checklist of sorts, comply with PCI DSS regulations, protect your customers’ data, thereby your company’s reputation as well. 

If you don’t identify the weak spots in your system, you won’t know what you need to improve to establish a reliable defense system that can take on data breaches and other potential threats. 

What happens when you don’t assess security vulnerabilities?

According to reports, more hackers will target online payment systems in 2020. 

Plus, with the average cost of data theft at $1,343 per person (not to mention the price you have to pay for repairing the damages to your system and operation downtimes), this could mean thousands of dollars lost for your business following a single data breach. 

Without determining your vulnerabilities through pen testing, a hacker could easily exploit your weak areas, gain unauthorized access to your payment systems, website, and more — and steal your customers’ data and other critical information.

If your highly-sensitive data is breached, you can lose your credibility among your customers, suppliers, and more. 

Fast Retailing, the company behind the Uniqlo retail chain, announced that unauthorized users accessed more than 460,000 of its customer data on its online shopping website from April to May of 2019.   

The breach allowed hackers to get customer data — including names, addresses, and contact details. 

The company did state that partial card information may have been accessed as well, although the company said that there was no possible leak of credit card security codes. 

This incident may have also affected Fast Retailing’s shares to trade down by 0.6% following the security incident. 

A data breach like this can have some severe repercussions to your business — which is why pen testing should be part of your security measures to help reduce the risks of hackers compromising your sensitive information. 

How often should you run pen testing?

Penetration testing, like most of your security controls, needs to be conducted regularly. 

On average, testing should be performed at least annually — although there are pen tests that you might need to do monthly. 

The testing frequency will also depend on many factors, such as your goals and the kind of test you want to run. 

Other instances where you will need to run pen testing are following a breach, when you’re adding significant modifications or upgrades to your networks and systems, after applying security patches, and if you’re modifying end-user policies (among other things). 

By conducting pen testing regularly, you can update your protection measures and develop ways to reduce the risks of more sophisticated attacks like new malware. 

So the next time you get some redesigning ideas to attract more customers, you should consider throwing penetration testing and assessing your security controls into the mix. 

What to ask your pen testers or service provider.  

Whether it’s your first time to implement a pen test or not, it always helps to understand the process, or at least ask questions from your tester to see how they will go about reaching your testing goals.

You can ask for the certain tools or methods your pen tester use to get to a specific result – such as for collecting evidence from the test. 

For instance, if your pen test involves a simulation where your server containing credit card data is compromised, to avoid unethical practices like using your real customers’ card information, your pen tester should use scripts that generate fake data instead.

You can also discuss with your penetration testing service provider about the real value that your business can get from the test. 

When done correctly, a penetration test dives deeper into your company’s network and system infrastructure — and give you insight about vulnerabilities that application and automated scanners might miss. 

Pen testers then look for network misconfigurations that might allow malicious entities to gain a foothold. 

Keep in mind that penetration testing is a collaborative undertaking, so communicating with your service provider and asking questions open opportunities for you and your team to learn along the way. 

Doing so helps you ensure you get the best out of your pen testing and fortify your security measures against the risks of a data breach and other threats — which helps maintain the integrity of your business. 

Final Thoughts

Penetration testing is one of the most effective preventive controls you can have in your cybersecurity plan, and when done right, it will help you fix your vulnerabilities and patch up holes in your system. 

Because of how prevalent hacking has become, regardless of the type of business you are running, whether you’re into dropshipping, you’re an Amazon seller, or you’re selling instructional online courses, you need to bolster your website’s security against attacks.

By taking preventive security measures against attacks, you can protect your business-critical and customer data and establish the credibility of your company.

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