Penetration testing must be proactive, but many organizations often do theirs in response to an incident. Since the worst time to learn how to fight a fire is amid an inferno, the right security partner can help create an effective program to ensure regular testing that improves cybersecurity posture.
Before you even select a security partner for network penetration testing, you should set up guidelines for what might prompt such a test—and it’s not an emergency such as a data breach. Instead, think of milestones within the organization that might require a test of your information security. Aside from compliance obligations, common examples include a new web-based application that allow employees to access data remotely, a desktop or operating system refresh, or new network access points such as routers.
All these potentially can be misconfigured and present vulnerabilities that may not be immediately obvious to internal IT teams, who already have a lot on their plate.
Get a second security opinion
A security partner with deep and extensive penetration testing capabilities has experience that enables it to poke holes in information security and find vulnerabilities their customers won’t. It’s their business to be up to speed on the misconfigurations and current threats, including those in the latest software and hardware that might allow a threat actor to steal data or take control of a system.
An outside security partner can put together a penetration testing plan that considers your infrastructure, including new switches and servers, as well the motivations for doing the test: Is to meet compliance objectives? Satisfy a potential customer? Meet industry standards? If you’re not sure why you’re doing penetration testing but do understand it should be part of your information security program, a partner can help you understand the benefits.
Partner for the long term
Just as all penetration tests are created equal, neither are security partners who perform them, so you need clear selection criteria.
Ideally, you want partner with an organization over the long term, so you should take the time to evaluate the methods of a potential service providers, as well as the skill sets of the testers they employ. Understanding your compliance requirements to guide penetration testing is a good start, but you should work with your security partner to define your goals and make sure their capabilities are in alignment with them.
You also need to be prepared for them to find problems—set your ego aside. The whole point of penetration testing is to be able remediate problem areas and improve your overall security posture. Most of all, remember that testing shouldn’t be an occasional, scheduled, tactical activity to tick off boxes on a compliance checklist. It’s part of a broader exercise for protecting sensitive data and is a contributor to your competitive advantage—documenting and certifying your penetration testing can differentiate you in your industry and build trust and credibility with customers.
The right security partner can help you develop a penetration testing regime that’s driven by milestones in your IT environment as well as compliance requirements and critical business information that allows you to remediate threats iteratively and effectively.