You may hear the term ‘penetration test’ banded about when talking about cyber security or network security of your business. But why is it really a necessity?
The 4 reasons below will give you a quick insight into the importance and 4 fundamental reasons why you need penetration testing to help secure your business.
A quick introduction into penetration testing
A penetration test, or pen test as it is often shortened to, is an authorised simulated attack on a computer system, performed to evaluate the security of the system. The test identifies both weaknesses (also referred to as vulnerabilities), where there is the potential for unauthorised parties to gain access to the system’s features and data; as well as strengths, enabling a full risk assessment to be completed.
Now that we know what a pen test is, let us look at the 4 most important reasons why it is crucial for any business that has any sort of IT infrastructure to perform penetration testing on their systems:
1. Risk management
Testing new products, websites, applications, mobile apps, wireless networks for security vulnerabilities before they are in operational use is vital to allow you to understand and manage the risks your assets may face. A pen test will highlight flaws and from this you can assess the business risk of exposure to customers if the asset is not secure, and determine the course of action to take prior to release to remediate the issues.
Your company’s reputation will suffer should a data breach occur, and it is subsequently publicly announced. This will cause a loss of customer confidence and lead to a drop in revenue and profit.
As people are now understanding more about data privacy and how it affects them, the impact of a data breach will increase tremendously, which could cause significant loss to your company; as clients or users are likely to choose the alternative services of your competitors upon realisation that their data is not safe with your company.
Your company’s share price will also be affected, as investors may worry about such impact. Your product or service might well be objectively better, but if users feel their privacy is at stake, they may well opt to use competitors’ or other services anyway.
“In the UK, 44% of consumers claim they will stop spending with a business for several months in the immediate aftermath of a security breach, and 41% of consumers claim they will never return to a business post-breach.” (PCI Pal)
By regularly pen testing your system and assets, not only will it help you to reduce the risks of a breach, it will demonstrate to customers, key stakeholders and any legal investigations that you have done you up most to prevent an attack.
To calculate the cost of cyber crime, Frost & Sullivan has created an economic loss model based on macro-economic data and insights shared by the survey respondents. This model factors in three kinds of losses which can be incurred due to a cybersecurity breach:
- Direct: Financial losses associated with a cybersecurity incident – this includes loss of productivity, fines, remediation cost, etc.
- Indirect: The opportunity cost to the organisation such as customer churn due to reputational damage loss.
- Induced: The impact of a cyber breach to the broader ecosystem and economy, such as the decrease in consumer and enterprise spending.
“Although the direct losses from cyber security breaches are most visible, they are but just the tip of the iceberg,” said Edison Yu, Vice President and Asia Pacific Head of Enterprise for Frost & Sullivan. “There are many other hidden losses that we have to consider from both the indirect and induced perspectives, and the economic loss for organisations suffering from cyber security attacks can be often underestimated.”
As mentioned, pen testing can reduce this impact by highlighting the exposed areas that a hacker could exploit or where a breach could occur, and provide information you can act on to reduce these vulnerabilities through patching.
4. Regulations and Compliance
By carrying out a risk assessment, you will be able to assess the impact of not complying to certain laws and regulations if you do not perform a penetration test on your IT systems and assets. Non-compliance to certain regulations will potentially come at a high cost; a hefty fine, loss of your license to operate, or even worse, time in prison.
From this it is also important that you seek legal counsel to assess local laws and regulations of countries and states you are supplying to and ensure that your company complies with those regulations.
Data protection laws around the world are continually being updated or newly introduced to include online risk. Each law differs in compliance and regulation requirements and not only depending on where you carry out your business but where your customers are could mean you can easily fall foul of not complying.
Examples of new or recently updated privacy laws;
Demonstrating actions of preventative measures and showing your commitment to cyber security has become as important as business insurance.
For UK businesses or organisations wanting to do business with the UK, considering a Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus certificate can help and for some tendering processes is a requirement.
Penetration testing can help by exposing areas that you need address to be able to mitigate the threats of the above risks that your business may face. Regular, good security practices (cyber hygiene) should be adopted in order to secure your business. (The NCSC offer sound cyber security advice to businesses of all sizes). By taking a risk-based approach on cyber security, you can recognise and address the prioritized threats and then review your business risk exposure continuously.