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  • Foluwa T. Rewane

Understanding Cybersecurity Through a Penetration Test

A penetration test, is quite often colloquially referred to known as a pen test. It can be described in the following terms. “This is a duly authorized but otherwise a completely ‘simulated attack’ on any computer system, or network that is per

formed in a bid to evaluate the overall security of the system.”


This test is typically performed so to identify both the weaknesses o


r vulnerabilities with regard to cyber security of the network.


In such a test, special emphasis is placed on identifying and gauging the risk (or potential) for unauthorized parties to be able to gain access to many of the system's data and features. It also helps identify the core strengths of the entire system, thereby enabling a comprehensive risk assessment of cyber security to be effectively completed.


Penetration Tests: An overview



Every few days, it seems that there is a fresh new virus that is making headlines especially when it comes to the very latest cybersecurity attacks. In fact, hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and thereby, are now both willing and able to steal literally tens of millions of records, not to mention, billions of dollars’ worth of data at an absolutely alarming frequency. One of the best possible ways of combating the efforts of such unscrupulous people is to conduct extremely thorough and highly professional penetration tests all the year around.


The main purpose of conducting penetration testing is to be able to assess the overall security of any particular network, before an attacker does t


he same. Virtually all ‘penetration testing tools’ essentially simulate an actual attack in a real-world scenario so as to be in a position to discover and thereby exploit the various security lapses that could potentially lead to compromised credentials, stolen records, and violation of intellectual property. Apart from that, gaping holes in the security structure of a system can also mean that crucial information can be potentially pilfered. When it comes to violations of cyber security, such information may include the following:



o Classified personal information

o Cardholder data

o Data ransom

o Personally Identifiab


le Information or PII

o Any other sort of otherwise harmful business outcomes.


By exploiting such security related weaknesses as well as vulnerabilities, different kinds of penetration testing can help t


he client to easily determine precisely how to best alleviate and thereby protect their most important business data and information from being compromised, in any future cybersecurity attacks.


How penetration testing can help exploit real or potential vulnerabilities?

Penetration testing can essentially be conducted in one of two different ways. Either with the help of an ‘in-house’ expert who may be an employee of the organization where the computer system penetration testing is being conducted, or alternatively, this critical job can be outsourced to a high end professional penetration testing services providing outfit.



How does it work?

A typical computer network penetration test usually starts with a top-notch security professional outfit enumerating the (client’s) target network so as to find any vulnerable systems as well as accounts associated with the same. This effectively means scanning each and every system that may exi


st on the entire network and to look for any open ports to the outside world, that may be running critical services.


Most cyber security professionals do not just simply target only that computer from the network. As a matter of fact, quite often, a penetration tester will target the users on the network itself, via ph




ishing emails, (including mass mailing) onsite social engineering, or even pre-text calling.


Testing the "User Risk" to the entire IT related Security Chain

The users of a system also presen


t a clear and present risk factor to the whole IT exoskeleton and as such they too, should also be taken into consideration as well. This is due to the fact that attacking a network courtesy a human error or for that matter even any compromised credentials.


This is in fact, one of the olde


st techniques in a cyber hacker’s book. In fact, it is widely considered to be one of the easiest means of ingress for any hacker armed with evil intentions,to enter the targeted network and thereby steal,either the data or the funds through its extensive network of users.


Since ‘compromised credentials’ (such as user logins and passwords) are some of themost common attack vectors i


n most reported attacks, it is part and parcel of a penetration tester’s job to help resolve the just such security threats,as soon as humanly possible. The pen tester will likely attempt something known as a ‘brute force password’ guessing application of any discovered accounts in a bid to gain ingress to the sensitive systems and by extension, their applications as well.



Conclusion

In the light of the above, we can easily conclude that it is only through penetration testing, that expert cyber security professionals can both effectively find and also subsequently test the security of any single or even multi tier network architecture, web services custom applications amongst other IT b


ased components.


Ultimately these penetration testing services as well as tools will help the client organization of such penetration testing outfits, gain much need insight into some of the zones at higher risk so that they could be well prepared to handle any such emergencies.


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