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Measuring/certifying security programs Risk management Measuring/certifying security programs Risk management

What is a network security test?

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You’ve spent years developing your software, building your business, and planning for the growth of your organization. You’ve poured your energy and passion into making your vision a reality, and you’re thrilled to see it moving forward. 

But how do you keep business from getting slowed down by security lapses? How do you know that the sensitive information you’ve collected from your clients isn’t vulnerable to hackers? How exactly do you protect your business, employees, customers, and reputation?

A network security test is crucial to any business in the tech industry, and it is key to peace of mind around these types of concerns. These tests help to discover vulnerabilities in a company’s network and internal systems that can be accessed through the internet. Then the organization can plan the steps they’ll take to mitigate these issues. And, they’ll ultimately create a robust security stance that will keep business running safely and moving forward.

There are many benefits to conducting regular network security tests. At the top of the list is that it will provide a solid understanding of your network’s internal security strength against all external threats. But more specifically, all of the following benefits are reasons to make network security testing a key priority:

  • Build trust with your current and future client base by showing data protection is a priority with regular testing.
  • Prevent future attacks (and fines) by identifying security risks in your networks, predicting the entry points a hacker could potentially find, and implementing changes to address these weaknesses.
  • Move through complex auditing processes with the confidence that your security posture is top notch.

The bottom line in the tech industry is that security threats are everywhere. Malicious parties are constantly looking for ways to break into your network. But, our technology to keep up with these threats is evolving just as quickly – and you don’t even need to do much to get ready for network security tests. According to this interview with a penetration tester, you only need to take minimal action to prepare since the goal is to gain a real understanding of your security status as it is. 

The payoff for regular network security testing is huge. It will keep your network strong against all those lurking threats and will help you and your business focus on reaching your goals. 

So how are network security tests actually performed? 

There are a handful of methods available that vary in approach and level of rigor. Sometimes, these methods are used together, depending on how aggressive businesses want their testing to be. If you test regularly, one test done at a reasonable frequency may be enough. If you’re in the first stages of security testing or preparing for an upcoming audit, you might lean toward a more thorough approach.

All of the following are approaches that businesses can consider for their network security testing:

Network scanning

A network scanner is a powerful device that searches for and retrieves information about your network. The scanner will reveal all hosts that are connected to the network, all services that are being utilized on the network, and the operating system (and version) that are running on the host. The scanner will also monitor the network for additional activity and will help to confirm that ports have the correct configuration to allow secure network services. 

Vulnerability scanning

Another security test that exposes and examines flaws or loopholes in the network, computers, and systems. The data collected from these tests help system administrators create security patches, update weaknesses, and understand their overall security status. While these tests have existed for decades, they are continually evolving with new technologies to keep them effective and, many would argue, are essential in helping organizations achieve compliance. 

Ethical hacking

The process of test “hacking” a network in order to identify holes or lapses where real malicious hackers might break through. The goal of these tests is to locate weaknesses before someone else does. 

Password cracking

Different methods are used to uncover weak passwords in the system. Sometimes a word list (dictionary) helps reveal passwords used within the network. Or, a brute force password attack blends all potential combinations of characters until it discovers actual passwords. Revealing weak passwords helps inform the types of organizational policies that need to be in place for strengthening them.

Penetration testing

“Pen testing,” similar to ethical hacking, is a simulated attack on an organization’s network, computer system, or web application that aims to expose vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could exploit. Once in the network, the professional conducting the pen test moves around the network and attempts to gain access at the most restricted levels. The tester also reveals how long it takes the security team to realize a hacker is in the network and whether or not they can clear all of their traces once they’re out. 

The goal of each of these tests is to reveal what weaknesses are in your network so that you can begin the work of closing those gaps. While network and vulnerability scanning are more passive types of tests that will identify issues, ethical hacking and penetration testing use more aggressive tactics to simulate the actions and thought processes of real hackers.

Strike Graph is here to help when it comes to testing the strength of your security and getting you on the path to compliance. Our penetration testing is an important part of our all-in-one certification approach that takes the guesswork out of the compliance process. 

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