Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, cybercrime has increased dramatically, giving rise to an urgent need for better network security measures.1 Remote workers are a particularly attractive target as they often have to use unsecured networks at home or in hotels. Furthermore, the rollout of 5G has drastically increased bandwidth and connectivity, making systems even more vulnerable than before.
Cybercrime Stats in 2021
Cybersecurity training firm Cybint found that 95% of all cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error, with 75% of organizations around the world falling victim to phishing attacks in 2020.2,3 Examples of recent high-profile cybersecurity attacks include the 2020 hacking of Donald Trump's presidential campaign website and the ransomware attack on America's largest fuel pipeline, the Colonial Pipeline.4,5 Successful attacks at this level illustrate how significant the threat is and how no organization, no matter the size, is immune to intrusion.
What could go wrong in a cyberattack?
Cyberattacks can be very costly for an organization, not just financially, but also reputationally. If a data breach exposes sensitive personal and financial information, this can result in a loss of customer trust and the eventual failure of the company. To maximize an organization’s cybersecurity defenses, it's vital to highlight and prioritize the most urgent vulnerabilities within the IT infrastructure.
On the base level, this starts with designing and implementing strong network security—but it doesn't end there. Businesses need to consistently test, upgrade, and rethink their security systems to stay ahead of the hackers. They also need to consider external connections like web servers, virtual private networks (VPNs), and online applications that link to their network. Penetration testing (pen testing) is one of the most effective ways to find the weak points in a company's security systems.
What is pen testing?
Pen testing is a way of checking if an organization has any flaws in its cybersecurity defenses. This is typically done by hiring professional "white hat", or ethical, hackers, to try to break into the system.6 These hackers are familiar with the type of attacks that real hackers typically use and know where to look for vulnerabilities.
In this way, pen testing is the assumption that an IT system will inevitably be hacked at some point, so it's best to get ahead of the competition and “hack” it yourself. While high profile organizations are a more obvious target, no company is considered 100% safe from hacks or ransomware attacks. Any company that processes sensitive customer data like credit card numbers or personal identification is at risk.
What types of pen testing are there?
Depending on how large or complex an organization is, there are several different types of penetration testing that may need to be conducted.7
Network penetration testing attempts to break into the network by connecting to a building’s Wi-Fi system, gaining access to on-site servers, or hacking in via the Internet. Social engineering pen testing checks if hackers can gain sensitive data from employees, such as passwords or network information. This is most commonly done through email phishing attacks but can also involve dating sites, eavesdropping, or even stealing physical mail.
There are several other types, such as physical and firewall pen testing, but as more and more organizations move into the cloud, web server pen testing is quickly becoming the most urgent concern. This involves testing the security of websites and files servers hosted in data centers around the world. Hackers use a variety of methods to attack web servers, including DDoS attacks, DNS hijacking, manipulation of web applications, and sniffing attacks. To guarantee the safety of their systems, organizations should pen test servers regularly with the help of a qualified third-party security firm.8
Who performs pen testing?
Pen testing is best done by someone with no prior information regarding the target organization. Cybersecurity firms usually employ ethical hackers who know how to pen test a website and often only provide them with the name of the client. This ensures that the test conditions are as close as possible to a genuine attack scenario.9
These days, ethical hackers often have high-level degrees and an extensive background in IT, but many remain self-taught and come from a criminal (“black hat”) background. Some “grey hat” hackers have even been known to infiltrate an organization’s network illegally and then offer to show them how they did it in exchange for payment.10
What happens after a pen test?
Once complete, the hacker reveals any vulnerabilities that they found and documents their work. The organization can use this information to implement upgrades, make network changes, and better plan its cybersecurity strategy going forward. Even the most seemingly insignificant discoveries can help an organization avoid a situation that eventually leads to a major hack.
The Growing Need for Effective Web Pen Testing
As hackers grow more and more advanced by the day, cybersecurity attacks show no sign of abating. Eighty percent of businesses have experienced a cyber incident in the past year, and 84 percent of executives believe their companies are not prepared for today’s cyber risks.11,12 Comprehensive and consistent penetration testing has proven time and time again to be the most effective way to avoid a serious security breach, so it’s crucial that cybersecurity specialists master the process.
Answer the Call at Yeshiva Katz
If you want to help protect organizations from the undeniable threat of cyber attacks, apply for an Online Master's in Cybersecurity from the Katz School of Science and Health. Not only will you learn how to become a successful pen tester, but you’ll also be eligible to acquire two critical professional certifications: the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the CompTIA Network+.
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from cbsnews.com/news/ransomware-phishing-cybercrime-pandemic/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from cybintsolutions.com/cyber-security-facts-stats/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from proofpoint.com/us/resources/threat-reports/state-of-phish
- Retrieved on August, 18 2021, from nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/trump-campaign-website-hacked-n1245038
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from csis.org/programs/strategic-technologies-program/significant-cyber-incidents
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from varonis.com/blog/white-hat-hacker/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from cipher.com/blog/the-types-of-pentests-you-must-know-about/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from medium.com/swlh/web-server-attacks-penetration-testing-a0cc7a0790ff
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from cloudflare.com/learning/security/glossary/what-is-penetration-testing/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from us.norton.com/internetsecurity-emerging-threats-what-is-the-difference-between-black-white-and-grey-hat-hackers.html
- Retrieved on August 23, 2021 from securitymagazine.com/articles/90858-percent-of-businesses-experienced-a-cybersecurity-incident-in-the-past-year
- Retrieved on August 23, 2021 from mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/a-new-posture-for-cybersecurity-in-a-networked-world