What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing, also called pen testing or ethical hacking, is the practice of testing a computer system, network or web application to find security vulnerabilities (weakness which can is threat and cause damage to system or network)  that an attacker could exploit.

Purpose of penetration testing

The main objective of penetration testing is to identify security weaknesses.

The primary goal of a pen test is to identify weak spots in an organization’s security posture, as well as measure the compliance of its security policy, test the staff’s awareness of security issues and determine whether — and how — the organization would be subject to security disasters.

A penetration test can also highlight weaknesses in a company’s security policies. For instance, although a security policy focuses on preventing and detecting an attack on an enterprise’s systems, that policy may not include a process to expel a hacker.

Penetration testing can also be used to test an organization’s security policy, its adherence to compliance requirements, its employees’ security awareness and the organization’s ability to identify and respond to security incidents.

Typically, the information about security weaknesses that are identified or exploited through pen testing is aggregated and provided to the organization’s IT and network system managers, enabling them to make strategic decisions and prioritize remediation efforts.


How often you should perform penetration testing

Organizations should perform pen testing regularly – ideally, once a year – to ensure more consistent network security and IT management. In addition to conducting regulatory-mandated analysis and assessments, penetration tests may also be run whenever an organization:

  • adds new network infrastructure or applications;
  • makes significant upgrades or modifications to its applications or infrastructure;
  • establishes offices in new locations;
  • applies security patches; or
  • Modifies end-user policies.


However, because penetration testing is not one-size-fits-all, when a company should engage in pen testing also depends on several other factors, including:

  • The size of the company. Companies with a larger presence online have more attack vectors and, therefore, are more-attractive targets for hackers.
  • Penetration tests can be costly, so a company with a smaller budget might not be able to conduct them annually. An organization with a smaller budget might only be able to conduct a penetration test once every two years while a company with a larger budget can do penetration testing once a year.
  • Regulations and compliance. Organizations in certain industries are required by law to perform certain security tasks, including pen testing.
  • A company whose infrastructure is in the cloud might not be allowed to test the cloud provider’s infrastructure. However, the provider may be conducting pen tests itself.

Penetration testing efforts should be tailored to the individual organization as well as the industry it operates in and should include follow-up and evaluation tasks so that the vulnerabilities found in the latest pen test are note reported in following tests.

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