Do I Need a Penetration Test?

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In today’s increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, it’s not enough to install your cybersecurity and be done with it. Instead, find out if you need a penetration test for your company, and if so, what kind. 

Before getting into the “why” of penetration testing, there is a good chance you’re asking yourself a big question: what is a penetration test?  If so, click the link to answer that question before considering if you need a penetration test. 


Does my company need a penetration test?

At its core, penetration testing, also called a pen test, uncovers your security system’s vulnerabilities. It helps you identify and fix weaknesses before malicious actors can exploit them. But do you genuinely need one? Here are a few things to consider when asking if you need a penetration test:

That type of data you handle: If you handle sensitive data, such as personal information, financial records, or classified documents. Cybercriminals often target these types of systems.

The level of security you need: If you have strict security requirements, say by regulatory agencies or industry standards.

The consequences of a breach: If a breach could have serious consequences, such as financial loss, reputational damage, business disruption or legal liabilities.

Your current level of security: If you are unsure about the security of your system or network or have not conducted a recent security assessment. Pen testing can give you peace of mind that your system is secure (or shake complacency if not).

There are stories of ransomware attacks and exploits making the news daily—your customers, investors, and insurers need to know that you’re on top of your cybersecurity. But, unfortunately, with today’s risky environment, it’s no longer enough to tell them that you are diligent; you also must demonstrate that you are. That’s where penetration testing comes in. It is an essential tool to increase confidence in the security of any organization that handles sensitive data.


Do I need a penetration test for cyber insurance?

Cyber insurance helps protect organizations against financial loss from cyber attacks, data breaches, and other cyber incidents. Many cyber insurance policies require organizations to have specific security measures to be eligible for coverage. Conducting a pen test can be an effective way to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in your systems and applications and may be required by your cyber insurance policy as a condition of coverage.

It is wise to review the terms and conditions of your insurance policy to see if you need a penetration test. Further, some cyber insurance policies specify the frequency or scope of the test. If your policy requires a penetration test, you must follow the specified requirements to ensure that your organization is adequately covered.

Overall, while a pen test is not necessarily required for all cyber insurance policies, it can be an effective way to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in your systems and applications and may be required by your policy as a condition of coverage.


Do I need a penetration test for compliance?

Many organizations must conduct regular penetration testing to stay compliant with industry regulations.  For example, businesses conduct routine penetration tests to comply with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). Penetration tests are detailed in section 11.4 of PCI DSS Requirements and Testing Procedures version 4.0.  In addition, penetration testing is required under ISO/IEC 27001.  And penetration test keeps organizations compliant with article 32 of  GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which calls for “regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organizational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.”

You may also have compliance requirements specific to your industry, investors, or customers.  That’s why speaking with a security professional about your particular needs is best.


What kind of penetration test do I need?

Many businesses don’t know and don’t ask about different pen test options. Yet, different types of tests evaluate different risks. So, the type of test you need will depend on a few factors. So first, let’s review the different kinds of penetration tests:

External network penetration test: An external test focuses on the security of your perimeter systems from attackers trying to gain access from the internet. It simulates an attack from an external actor attempting to gain unauthorized access to your systems from the outside. It’s like testing your front door and back doors.

Internal network penetration test: An internal test looks at risks from an attacker already inside your systems. This could be a rogue employee or, more often, a criminal with a stolen password. Internal pen testing identifies vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain greater access. For example, a cybercriminal with a salesperson’s password will try to get to the CFO’s system and data. It’s like double-checking that your drawers, closets, and safes are locked before hosting a party.

Web application penetration test: A web application test examines your web-facing applications to find weaknesses that could compromise their integrity. This is vital for companies with e-commerce, client portals, or other internet-facing services.

Wireless network penetration test: A wireless network test looks at the security of your wireless network to find vulnerabilities that could be used to gain unauthorized access to or compromise your wireless network.

In short, the type of penetration test right for you will depend on your specific needs and risks. It is a good idea to work with a qualified security specialist to determine the best approach for your needs.


How often do I need a penetration test?

How often you should get pen testing depends on your data, security requirements, and rate of change within the environment. However, here are some general guidelines when asking how often you need a penetration test:

Annually: For most organizations, we recommend at least one external and one internal penetration test per year. This annual checkup helps identify and fix vulnerabilities that crop up over time. It is the minimum cadence to help your organization remain secure.

Periodically: If your system or network handles sensitive data, such as personal information, financial records, or classified documents, you should consider more frequent penetration testing. Additionally, suppose you make frequent changes to your network, such as adding new servers or applications. In that case, we recommend more frequent testing to ensure that the changes have not introduced new vulnerabilities.

Continuously: Some organizations opt for continuous testing to have their systems and networks tested on an ongoing basis. They can get continuous testing by hiring a managed IT service provider specializing in security. Continuous testing can help find and fix vulnerabilities as soon as they are introduced, but it can also be more expensive and resource-intensive than annual or periodic testing.

In summary, how often you conduct penetration testing will depend on your specific needs and risk profile. Therefore, it is a good idea to work with a cybersecurity expert to determine the proper testing frequency for your needs.


Where can I find a penetration tester?

After you have determined that you need a penetration test, you must find the right cybersecurity firm to perform the test. There are several ways to find a qualified and reputable penetration tester:

Referrals: One of the best ways to find a reputable penetration tester is to ask for referrals from trusted sources. A few good sources for pen testers are colleagues, industry organizations, or your existing IT partners.

Professional organizations: Many professional organizations, such as the International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology (IACSIT) and the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), offer directories of certified or accredited penetration testers.

Online directories: Several online directories list penetration testers, such as the Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES) directory and the SANS Institute’s “Penetration Testing Consultants” list.

F12: F12 offers robust penetration testing services delivered by certified security experts. In addition, we partner with excellent cybersecurity firms for boutique needs. A quick consultation will help us point you in the right direction.

F12 is a leader in the Canadian cybersecurity community. Our team includes Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) experts. They have real-world experience combating cybercrime in the corporate world—so they know how to discover holes in your security.

F12 has been creating streamlined technology solutions for more than 20 years. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation with one of our cybersecurity experts to determine if F12’s penetration testing is right for you.