Hacking vs Penetration testing

What’s the difference between ethical hacking and penetration testing?

When referring to internal cybersecurity tests, the terms penetration test and ethical hackers are often interchangeable. However, they are not the same.

Anyone responsible for protecting an organization’s assets must be able to distinguish between them. They are often used in different situations to achieve different goals.

It is not a good idea to hire an ethical hacker for a penetration test or vice versa. You will end up paying more than you need and you won’t be satisfied.

Let’s look at each step and see how we can help you decide which one is best for you.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing can be described as a security test where an organization hires a certified professional in order to evaluate the strength of its cyber security defenses.

These usually take place via audits on the premises of the company in question. A certain amount of confidential information will be available to the penetration tester. They will then attempt to use this information until they discover sensitive information.

There are many types of penetration tests that focus on different aspects of an organization’s logical perimeter. These include:

  • External network testing that look for security and vulnerabilities in an organization’s hosts, servers, devices, and network services.
  • Internal network testing to assess the potential damage that an attacker could cause when they gain access into an organisation’s systems.
  • Web app tests that look for insecure design practices in the design, code, and publication of software or websites.
  • Wireless network testing that assesses vulnerabilities in wireless networks, including Wi-Fi access points and weak encryption algorithms.
  • Phishing penetration testing that assesses employees’ vulnerability to scam email messages.

No matter what type of penetration test you do, they are usually conducted at set times. They are often done quarterly or whenever major changes occur to the organization’s networks or applications.

Assured security with IT Governance

This green paper provides more information about penetration testing, including the vulnerabilities that you should be aware of and the various types of penetration tests you can use to find them.

What is ethical hacking?

Ethical hacking is similar to criminal hacking in that it aims to discover security holes within an organization’s systems. As the term ‘ethical” implies, the hacker must first get approval from the organization before proceeding.

Why would an organization ask someone to hack it? They know that cybercriminals can exploit weaknesses in organisations and that it is important to be able to recognize them.

Before major system updates or new systems go live, ethical hackers are often hired. They examine the system and look for vulnerabilities that they can exploit, taking notes and making sure to document their findings.

Organisations can also call upon ethical hackers to help them in a “bug bounty” scheme. They offer financial rewards for those who can prove an exploitable flaw within the organization’s systems.

Bug bounties don’t just help organisations find weaknesses. These incentives also encourage recreational hackers to follow the law.

Many hackers are happy to hack into organisations’ systems, regardless of whether they’re offered a bounty. Once they have made a breakthrough, it might be tempting for them to make criminal gains – going from being a ‘white-hat hacker’ to a ‘black-hat hacker.

It’s not just a matter of ethics vs money.

Which one is right for you?

Both ethical hacking or penetration testing can be the best solutions for you at different times. They both aid you in achieving your cyber security goals.

Ethical hacking allows you to do a complete assessment of your security measures and, in the instance of bug bounties can help you identify weaknesses in systems that are already in use.

Its approach to cybersecurity is more varied than penetration testing. While penetration testing is focused on system weaknesses, ethical hackers can use any attack method they choose.

They can use system misconfigurations to send phishing email, perform brute-force password attacks and breach the physical perimeter, or do any other thing they think will allow them access to sensitive information.

This can be extremely useful in identifying how vulnerable your organization is to cyber threats. Crooks are becoming more sophisticated and mixing up their methods, launching multi-layered attacks.

It’s not always possible to go to this extent every time you need to test your security system.

Focused testing allows you to test specific areas of your organization with penetration testing. These results can be extremely helpful in identifying system flaws, which are often only detected through testing. They also highlight the actions that must be taken to correct them.

These are obvious benefits. This is why many data protection laws and frameworks, such as the GDPR and PCI Security Standard, require that penetration tests be performed regularly.

Professional testing using IT Governance

We can help you if you need support with penetration testing or ethical hacking.

There are a number of fixed price testing packages available that can be used by any organization that wishes to find the vulnerabilities that cyber attackers exploit.

Once the test is complete, you’ll receive a report outlining your top priorities and the steps that can be taken to protect your organization.

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