It’s hard to overstate the importance of cybersecurity, especially since so many companies rely on digital systems to protect their resources. Choosing the perfect security system takes time; what works for one company might actually hamper another, which is why researching multiple systems before settling on “the one” is important.

That said, no matter what method of protection you choose, you need to test your system regularly to ensure that it is as robust as it needs to be. One of the most practical ways to protect your website is through a penetration test.

Many people confuse penetration testing with vulnerability testing. A vulnerability test is designed to identify and report any problems a scan can find on the website. A penetration test, on the other hand, is a bit different. Depending on your system and the quality of the test itself, a vulnerability test can often result in false positives–that is, the test might report that you have protection in place that isn’t actually there. A penetration test tends to be notably more accurate.

Most important, a penetration test is actually a simulated cyber attack against your system itself to determine whether an attacker could fight through your cybersecurity system. By running an actual (although controlled) attack, you’ll have a very thorough understanding of what your tech system can withstand. This penetration test often includes network and application security testing, and should ideally be run both internally and externally to ensure your system has maximum protection.

There are a few general stages to your average penetration test, which begins with general planning. First, you’ll establish the scope of the test, and gather general information like the mail server and domain names. The next step is scanning, which is meant to give an understanding of how an application will react to invasion attempts. After this, the controlled attacks begin. The penetration test will use backdoors, cross-site scripting, and other tools to attempt to access protected data.

After the attacks, the penetration test will attempt to maintain a presence in a weakened security system. This is meant to replicate how an aggressive malware might act; it will want to stay hidden in your system as long as possible. Remember, none of these attacks are real, but they will closely imitate exactly what a cybercriminal is capable of doing to your system! 

Finally, all the information gathered by this test will be compiled into one location for the user to interpret. You will have an extremely thorough look into exactly what went right, and what went wrong, in your security system.

The frequency of your penetration tests depends on your security system and what it is you’re protecting. At a minimum, it’s recommended that you run a test once a year. You should also consider running a test after any major changes to your infrastructure or applications, which could include software patches or upgrades, application installations, firewall updates, and more. 

Essentially, you should always keep your security in mind, but your penetration tests can be saved for specific moments. By making cybersecurity a priority, you’ll be creating a safer future for your business and your customers.

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