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What is a Penetration Test and Why Do I Need It?

What is a Penetration Test and Why Do I Need It?

Every organization wants to have good cybersecurity, and people tend to believe what they want. As a result, most organizations think that their cybersecurity is good enough. Unfortunately, this sense of security is usually a false one. Information technology is a very complex and multifaceted thing, and that means there are a lot of variables to consider. Because of this, it is extremely difficult to have good cybersecurity without regular testing.

What Is Penetration Testing?

This is a specific type of security testing, and it is probably the most effective. You basically hire some computer experts to see if they are able to hack or bypass your security and gain unauthorized access. Needless to say, this should only be undertaken with testers that have been certified and authorized properly.

The whole point of penetration testing is to learn from the experience. By thoroughly testing your defenses, a team of penetration testers can find the flaws and loopholes before a criminal does. Thus, you can close those loopholes and possibly prevent a major incident.

Is Penetration Testing Required?

Common sense requires that you employ penetration testing to one degree or another. However, the regulations of your industry might also demand the same. If you work in an industry that handles sensitive data regularly (such as healthcare, finance, government, etc.), then your security standards are probably mandated by law.

From a compliance-minded perspective, penetration testing is definitely needed. Many pen-testers can and will check for compliance issues while they are checking out your security situation. Obviously, they are unlikely to report you for these issues, but auditors from a regulatory body aren’t going to be so discreet.

Penetration Tests Vs. Vulnerability Scans

It is important to understand that a vulnerability scan is not a penetration test, nor is it anywhere near as effective. A vulnerability scanner is an automated tool that looks for well-known and easily-identifiable system vulnerabilities.

When evaluating your security, an automated scan isn’t a bad way to start. However, it will never be as effective as a full penetration test. A full penetration test involves an expert human mind trying its best to circumvent your security measures and there is no AI that can properly simulate that.

What Else Can Penetration Testing Do?

Apart from helping you to uncover your system’s strengths and weaknesses, penetration testing can also be a great chance to gather information and get some expert advice. The penetration testers will, as a part of the job, gather all sorts of information about your system and how it is running. This will include things that very few others would ever see. So, as long as you’ve got an expert doing a “deep dive” in your system, you might as well see if they can help you optimize things and make the system more efficient as well.

Penetration testing also creates a good opportunity to evaluate your employees and their state of security readiness. Most hacking incidents begin with a social engineering attack…in essence, they trick an authorized user into revealing credentials. These methods don’t usually work against those who understand them, so hackers have to seek out those who are less tech-savvy. Your penetration testers can (hopefully) identify those people first so that they can be properly educated.

Tools Used By Penetration Testers

Of course, hackers have specialized software tools that they use to carry out their crimes (most of which are illegal). Penetration testers, on the other hand, will normally use an operating system known as Kali Linux. It is a Linux-based OS that is built entirely for this purpose and includes all the necessary tools. The older version was known as Backtrack Linux.

Wireshark and Nmap are also frequently used. These are network scanners that allow you to get a better idea of what is coming and going across those cable lines. Password-cracking tools like Hashcat and John The Ripper may also be used. Finally, there is Metasploit, which finds and exploits all sorts of bugs, flaws, etc. its purpose is to automate things that once took a lot more expertise.

Needless to say, these tools can also be used by illegitimate (i.e., “black hat”) hackers. That’s exactly why penetration testers use them! By using some of the same tools (or similar ones, at the very least), they can more accurately simulate a real attack.

Potential Problems

When it comes down to it, the only potential problem of penetration testing lies in the trust issue. If penetration testing is done by someone who isn’t competent enough (or worse yet, someone with criminal intent), it can cause more harm than good. However, none of these things will be an issue as long as you employ the right people for the job. A company that employs bad pen-testers will likely have a bad record in one way or another, so always do your homework! At PCH, we only employ the best, so we are not afraid of being evaluated by anyone.


Penetration testing is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to have good cyber-security. You never really know if your security is good enough until you put it to the test, and penetration testing is the only surefire way to do that. Everything else is just theoretical, and so you never know what you will learn until these tests are performed. If you would like to learn even more, you can call the good folks at PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500. Whether you need computer IT services or just an IT support provider in general, we are always ready to help.