Penetration Testing: What It Is and Why You Need It

Penetration Testing: What It Is and Why You Need It
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This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of New England Cyber Defender, which you can read here.

Regular network penetration tests play a critical role in how strong your cyber defenses are, and these tests are precisely what cybersecurity insurers will look for when assessing your policy.

So, what exactly is a “penetration test”? Well, it is like a simulated attack on your computer network—a “mock” hack. Its primary goal is to discover vulnerabilities before real hackers can exploit them.

During these tests, Direct iT will replicate real-world threats to exploit weaknesses such as patching deficiencies, authentication flaws, and misconfigurations. Penetration testing can help organizations prevent data breaches, comply with regulations, and enhance customer trust.

Benefits Of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing can provide many benefits for organizations of any size and industry. Here are some of the benefits:

⦁ Identify and prioritize security risks: Penetration testing can reveal the most critical vulnerabilities that could compromise your system or data. This can help an organization prioritize its remediation efforts and allocate resources accordingly.
⦁ Validate security controls: Penetration testing can validate the effectiveness of existing firewalls, antivirus, encryption, and authentication implementation. This can help your organization identify any gaps or weaknesses in security architecture and implement the necessary improvements.
⦁ Improve security awareness: Penetration testing can increase the security awareness of the organization’s staff, management, and stakeholders. By demonstrating the potential impact of a cyberattack, penetration testing can foster a security culture and encourage the adoption of best practices.

What Is An Internal Pen Test?

An internal pen test is performed from within the organization’s network. An internal pen test can help the organization identify weaknesses such as network segmentation, access control, encryption, authentication, and monitoring. An internal pen test can also help the organization detect and respond to lateral movement, privilege escalation, and other malicious activities that an insider might perform.

What Is An External Pen Test?

An external pen test is performed from outside the organization’s network. The pen tester has no prior access or knowledge of the network and relies on publicly available information such as domain names, IP addresses, and web pages. An external pen test aims to simulate an external threat, such as a hacker or a cybercriminal. An external pen test can help the organization identify vulnerabilities in its external-facing systems and services, such as web applications, email servers, firewalls, routers, and VPNs.

Which One Do You Need?

Both types of pen tests are valuable and complementary, as they can provide different insights and recommendations for improving your security. However, if you must choose one, you should consider the following aspects:

⦁ The nature and frequency of the threats you face. If you are more concerned about external threats, such as hackers or cybercriminals, you might want to prioritize an external pen test. If you are more concerned about internal threats, such as insiders or compromised accounts, you might want to prioritize an internal pen test.

⦁ The maturity and complexity of your security program. You might want to challenge it with an internal pen test if you think you have strong policies, procedures, and controls and want to confirm this is so. If you have a less mature or complex security program, with gaps or weaknesses in your security controls, you might want to start with an external pen test.

⦁ The scope and objectives of the pen test. If you want to test a specific system or service, such as a web application or an email server, you might want to opt for an external pen test. If you want to test your entire network or a large segment of it, you might want to opt for an internal pen test.

⦁ What do you need to stay compliant or get insurance coverage? Penetration testing can also help the organization comply with regulatory standards.

Penetration testing is a valuable tool for assessing and improving the security of a system or network. By simulating a real-world cyberattack, penetration testing can help the organization identify and prioritize vulnerabilities, validate and enhance security controls, and improve security awareness.

Don’t wait for a cyber incident to strike. Be proactive in securing your business today. Schedule a consultation with our experts at Direct iT and give us permission to hack your network.

Are you curious to explore more? Connect with us at 781-996-4918 or fill out a form at We’re enthusiastic about collaborating with you on your IT journey!

Safeguard your future, starting now.