Security Audit vs Penetration Testing

Ransomware attacks such as WannaCry or NotPetya that were launched last year changed cybersecurity forever. WannaCry was the first global multi-vectored attack of its kind. It infected over 200,000 computers in 150 countries and caused havoc.

This fundamental shift is that bad actors now use (leaked) military grade hacking tools created by the National Security Agency to attack just about anyone. The consequences for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are severe as the average cost for a data breach can reach $117,000.

These cyberattacks are still a legacy and it is important to remember that we must take proactive steps to better protect ourselves. The first step in this process is a security audit. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a security audit?

Security audits are a systematic assessment of the security measures in place to protect your enterprise IT infrastructure. Security professionals will evaluate how secure your security protocols are against established criteria.

To protect your digital assets and data, these audits must be thorough and performed on a regular basis. Engaging in this activity can help you ensure compliance if your industry is highly regulated (such as HIPPA, GDPR and PCI-DSS), SOX, SOX, and so on. ).

The security team must decide the scope of the audit before you can conduct one.

The following are the most common areas of security audits:

  • Bring-your-own-device initiatives
  • Access- and data-related items (such as cards, passwords and tokens),
  • <Email
  • Configurations of hardware
  • Information-handling processes
  • Network
  • Environment and physical configuration
  • User practices
  • Smart devices
  • Software configurations

Each of these should be evaluated against potential future and past risks. Your security team must be informed about the most recent security trends and how other organizations have responded to them.

An in-depth report covering your security measures will be prepared after the audit. It is important to compare the cost of security measures against the risk of a breach when a vulnerability is discovered.

It’s crucial to quickly act if your security protocols are not up to par with the latest hacking trends.

It can be tempting for SMEs to ignore this issue because they don’t have the personnel or resources to devote to cybersecurity. This is exactly what makes these businesses prime targets.

Businesses that don’t adopt a proactive approach towards cybersecurity can allow bad actors to penetrate your system and remain undetected for a long time.

No matter how much money you spend to secure your enterprise systems there is no foolproof way. In order to ensure business continuity in the face of active security threats, it is important to have a solid plan and controls.

Security Audit vs. Vulnerability Assessment

A security audit, as described above, evaluates the security of your company against a set list security standards, policies and procedures.

The vulnerability assessment however, examines the weaknesses in the information system (often using automatic tools), but does not provide any indication as to whether they can be exploited, or how much a successful ransomware or breach could cost the company.

This approach has many limitations. Vulnerability scanning software does not look at your system based only on known vulnerabilities. It is essential that your software is always up-to-date if you are conducting a vulnerability assessment. This makes vulnerability assessment software less effective than the maintenance done by the software vendor.

Software can be vulnerable to hacking and may have flaws in its design. It is possible for the methodology used to detect vulnerabilities to have an impact on the results. Security audits can therefore override vulnerability assessments.

What is a Penetration Test?

Penetration tests are more than security audits or vulnerability assessments. They attempt to hack your system like hackers. A security expert will attempt to reproduce the same techniques used by bad actors in order to assess if your IT infrastructure can withstand an attack similar to theirs.

Penetration testing can often involve multiple methods to attempt to breach the system. It is highly effective because you are mimicking the methods used by bad actors in real life.

Participating in penetration testing will provide you with in-depth insight into vulnerabilities and help you to exploit them.

In some cases, however, it is possible to find minor vulnerabilities that cannot be ignored. A penetration test will show you that multiple minor vulnerabilities can be combined to compromise the entire network.

Penetration tests can be used to find security flaws in security models using both open-source and commercial tools. These tests also include targeted attacks on specific systems, using both automated as well as manual techniques to make sure that vulnerabilities are not overlooked.

Although there are many types of penetration testing, they tend to be divided into three main categories.

External Penetration Tests

External penetration tests are focused on publicly accessible systems, as the name implies. To uncover vulnerabilities that could expose internal systems, these tests will be performed from the perspective a hacker.

Internal Penetration Tests

As the name implies, internal penetration tests are focused on all your internal systems. Penetration tests will be performed on any internal system that can be accessed remotely by a bad actor.

This activity will allow you to determine if hackers are able compromise your internal systems, and bypass your internal security protocols.

Hybrid Penetration Tests

Hybrid penetration testing combines both internal and external attacks to see if a hybrid approach can lead to data breaches. It’s actually the best way to determine if your security measures can protect against remote and local intrusions.

Cybersecurity professionals use three methods to attempt to breach the system in these types of penetration tests.

Black Box Tests

Black box penetration testing is an external penetration test that the tester does not have any prior knowledge about your system. They will attack your network as any other bad actor would and try to gain access to your internal network.

This simulates real-world attacks, which helps to reduce false positives. This is a great way for IT teams to evaluate the actions taken to prevent active breaches.

White Box Tests

Black box penetration testing can be reversed by white box penetration testing. Both testers and security auditors will gain a detailed understanding of your company’s IT infrastructure as well as current security measures.

Security professionals will be able to gain in-depth knowledge of the following:

  • Application source codes
  • IP addresses
  • Network environment
  • Operating system (including current version)

Your audit team and your internal security team will need to coordinate white box tests. This activity will simulate an insider attack, giving you unlimited access to the target system and full privileges.

Gray Box Tests

Gray box testing is a compromise between white and black box testing. This scenario will give penetration testers some insight into your internal and externe infrastructure.

This simulation simulates attacks in which bad actors (internally or externally), breach the system using restricted access privileges. This will reveal vulnerabilities and identify weak points in your internal and externe systems.

The Key Benefits of Security Audits & Penetration Tests

Routine security audits, penetration tests and other security measures play an important role in improving the security of enterprise networks and systems. You can stay ahead of cybercriminals by conducting regular comprehensive risk assessments of your infrastructure.

Security audits and penetration testing allow security teams to identify high-severity weaknesses and validate security measures. This approach emphasizes security issues at the application level for both management and development teams.

Bottom line: Conducting both security audits or penetration tests can save your company money and ensure business continuity.

It’s actually a smart way to manage and react to vulnerabilities, to ensure compliance, while also maintaining brand value, brand reputation and customer loyalty.

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