Adopting new technologies is a step in the right direction for any business. Innovations are designed to make core functions more manageable and efficient. That said, new additions to your operational process come with their fair share of risks. An online presence and a functional network system open your company to a multitude of cybersecurity risks. A singular instance of a successful data breach or cyberattack can compromise your entire operation.

Taking cybersecurity threats seriously is crucial now more than ever. 2021 logged the greatest average damage for a data breach in the last 17 years. Data breach costs rose from $3.86 million to $4.24 million. With COVID-19 still very much an issue, the upward trend is poised to continue well into 2022. 

Thankfully, you can have a company of the 21st century without concerns over cybersecurity. There is a multitude of ways to protect your digital assets from malicious individuals. Arguably, network penetration testing is one of the best ways to identify your network’s vulnerable points. 

What is Network Penetration Testing?

Otherwise known as a pen test, network penetration testing is a process that entails a simulated attack on a company’s network. The main goal of a network penetration test is to identify and exploit the vulnerabilities of the available digital assets. Contrary to popular belief, penetration testing and vulnerability testing are similar, but they aren’t the same. 

Network Penetration vs. Vulnerability Testing

People, even those within the cybersecurity industry, often mistake penetration testing for vulnerability testing. While the two processes have intersections, they aren’t necessarily interchangeable. 

Vulnerability scans involve automated tests designed to identify the weaknesses in a network. They work by running a series of “if-then” protocols that sifts through network settings and highlights possible vulnerabilities. 

Network penetration testing is a much more complex take on vulnerability scans. It is done by simulating an attack on the network. This demonstration shows precisely how a criminal can execute an attack. 

How to Perform a Network Penetration Test

There are several ways to perform a network penetration test. However, regardless of the ethical hacker involved in the testing, the process can be broken down into five steps. 

  1. Planning and Reconnaissance 

The first step of penetration testing involves planning the process and defining the terms of the test. This step should include identifying the specific systems that would be a part of the test as well as the methods that would be implemented. Planning and reconnaissance also entails gathering imperative information about the test. 

  1. Scanning

Now that the parameters of the test have been defined, the next step is where the bulk of the scanning happens. In step 2, various attempts would be made to gain access to the target application. These attempts can be static or dynamic depending on the goals of the test. Static analysis inspects the network’s coding and predicts how it’ll behave while running. Dynamic analysis, on the other hand, scans the network while it is running to give a real-time view of its performance. 

  1. Gaining Access

The gaining access step uses various web application attacks to exploit the network’s known and unknown vulnerabilities. This step can be accomplished through several means including stealing data, intercepting traffic, and exploiting privileges. 

  1. Maintaining Access

The goal of the fourth step, maintaining access, is to understand how long a hacker can remain in a system without being detected. 

  1. Analysis 

Unsurprisingly, the last step of the network penetration testing process is analysis. All the information from the first four steps is compiled into a report. This report contains the following information:

  • Vulnerabilities identified and exploited
  • Sensitive data that were compromised
  • Duration the attacker stayed on the network without being detected

Different Network Penetration Testing Methods

As with most parts of network penetration testing, there are various testing methods companies can use to implement the process. Ethical Hackers can choose to implement some or all of the methods below:

  • Black Box

A black box penetration test is implemented without any information about the network. This test requires hackers to explore the network before identifying and exploiting its vulnerabilities. This method is the most realistic form of network penetration testing. It is often used by businesses that are proactive about their cybersecurity protocols. 

  • White Box

The opposite of the black box method, white box is a type of network penetration testing that hands over all gathered network data and information to the ethical hackers. This testing is considered more like an audit and less an orchestrated attack on the network. It is a step taken by businesses that want to sift through every aspect of their network for vulnerabilities. 

  • Grey Box

As the name suggests, grey box testing is a combination of black box and white box methods. It is performed with internal information about a network. 

The Importance of Network Penetration Testing to Your Operation

Network penetration testing is an invaluable part of a company’s security protocols. This in-depth analysis allows companies a clear picture of the efficacy of their current security protocols. It establishes a solid baseline and identifies security strategies that are working well. Likewise, penetration tests are designed to fully exploit a network’s vulnerabilities. Through this process, a company can understand the faults in their system and develop plans as to how to improve them. 

The most important benefit that comes with network penetration testing is its ability to prevent costly data breaches. Through the test, businesses can develop better security strategies without having to suffer through a successful attack. 

Network Penetration Testing is a vital tool in your company’s cybersecurity toolbox. Endeavoring on the process properly provides your digital assets with an added layer of defense. In this day and age, when a successful attack can cost at least $4 million, cybersecurity protocols are no longer optional. 

That said, not all cybersecurity solution providers are created equal. Working with the right partners can take your operation to the next level. If you are looking to up your game without concerns about the risks, SecureBrain is here to help! We offer a cloud-based website scanner, a vulnerability assessment tool, endpoint security software, and fraud detection software that can elevate your security protocols. Learn more about our offers and contact us today.