How to Prevent Cyber Attacks Using Network Penetration Testing: All You Need to Know

How to Prevent Cyber Attacks Using Network Penetration Testing: All You Need to Know | Cybersecurity | Emeritus

Cybersecurity is a crucial consideration for any modern business, with companies across sectors facing constant threats from cybercriminals. Network penetration testing is a vital tool in the arsenal of an organization that is serious about securing its networks. Additionally, it proactively helps identify exploitable vulnerabilities and plays a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive data. By simulating attacks, companies can better understand their weaknesses and strengthen defenses accordingly. This ensures they are well prepared to fend off real-world cyber attacks. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of information security analysts is projected to grow by up to 32% between 2022 to 2032. This displays incredible scope for aspirants seeking out jobs in cybersecurity. Furthermore, if you’re interested in network penetration testing or want to build a career in cybersecurity, this blog is for you.

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What is Network Penetration Testing?

Network penetration testing, commonly called “pen testing”, is an essential practice in cybersecurity that involves simulating cyber attacks on a computer network. Firstly, it helps identify security vulnerabilities that malicious threats can exploit to steal your sensitive data or gain access to your devices. Additionally, network penetration testing is designed to test how robust an organization’s secure networks are by exposing their flaws and weaknesses. This allows security teams to address them before they can be used against the company. 

ALSO READ: What are Cybersecurity Frameworks and Why do They Matter?

How Does Network Penetration Testing Work?

Network penetration testing involves several detailed steps to uncover and exploit vulnerabilities within a network. Essentially, the process consists of five distinct steps: 

1. Planning and Reconnaissance

This initial phase involves defining the scope and goals of a test, including systems to address and testing methods to use. Next, penetration testers gather intelligence, such as network and domain names, IP addresses, etc, to help them understand potential vulnerabilities.

2. Scanning

After that, experts use tools to scan the network’s infrastructure to identify live systems, open ports, and available services. Moreover, common tools include network scanners that help identify vulnerabilities in the secure networks that can be exploited.

3. Gaining Access

This phase involves using web application attacks to uncover a network’s vulnerabilities. Additionally, testers try to exploit vulnerabilities, typically by stealing data, intercepting traffic, etc.

4. Maintaining Access

The goal of this step is to see if testers can use the vulnerability to maintain a persistent presence in the exploited system—mimicking persistent threats that can remain in a system for months to gather highly sensitive data.

5. Analysis

Finally, a report detailing the various security vulnerabilities is generated. This covers the data types that could have been accessed, how long the tester remained in the system unnoticed, and more. Hence, this report helps the organization make informed decisions regarding its network security.

ALSO READ: 10 Great Reasons Why Professionals Should Learn Cybersecurity

Why is Network Penetration Testing Important for Securing Networks?

Career in CybersecurityNetwork penetration testing plays a crucial role in any organization’s cybersecurity strategy. Furthermore, by identifying vulnerabilities in a network before they can be exploited by threats, penetration testing provides an essential layer of data protection. Most importantly, instead of waiting for a security breach to occur, penetration testing helps identify and fix vulnerabilities beforehand. This proactive approach is invaluable as it allows organizations to avoid the potentially devastating consequences of data breaches, including financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal liabilities.

What are the Benefits of Conducting Network Penetration Testing?

Network penetration testing offers several key advantages that significantly enhance an organization’s cybersecurity measures and overall resilience against threats.

1. Improves Security Infrastructure

Cybersecurity Professionals use network penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities. Consequently, this allows organizations to fortify their defenses against cyber attacks.

2. Compliance With Regulations

Regular penetration testing ensures adherence to data protection standards, helping avoid legal penalties and fines.

3. Prevention of Damages

Proactive security measures through penetration testing can prevent costly breaches, with IBM noting that the average breach can cost over $4.45 million.

4. Trust and Reliability

Ensuring network security through regular testing builds customer trust and enhances the organization’s reliability.

How Often Should Network Penetration Testing be Performed?

The frequency of network penetration testing can vary depending on several factors, but industry best practices suggest conducting a full penetration test at least annually. Furthermore, more frequent tests may be necessary depending on specific circumstances or emerging threats.

Factors influencing testing frequency include:

1. Changes in Network Configuration

Any significant update or addition to your network infrastructure should prompt a new round of testing to ensure no new vulnerabilities have been introduced.

2. Emerging Security Threats

As new types of threats evolve, regular testing helps ensure that defenses remain effective against the latest attacks.

3. Regulatory Requirements

Some industries have specific regulations that dictate how often penetration testing must be conducted, often requiring more frequent checks. For instance, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has made it mandatory for organizations storing or processing card-holder data to conduct annual penetration testing. 

ALSO READ: What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst do to Protect the Company?

Network penetration testing is an indispensable practice for any organization to maintain a secure network. For example, routinely identifying and addressing vulnerabilities lets businesses enhance their security measures, comply with regulatory standards, and protect themselves against the financial and reputational damage caused by cyber threats. Additionally, the role of penetration testing has become increasingly critical with cybersecurity threats evolving in complexity and frequency. 

So, if you want to deepen your knowledge about this field, or become one of the greatest cybersecurity professionals, consider exploring online cybersecurity courses from Emeritus. They can also help provide you with valuable insights and practical tools to effectively combat security threats.

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About the Author

Managing Editor, Emeritus Blog
Anwesha is our in-house expert on careers, trends impacting the workforce, and what makes content tick. As a journalist and content creator for 10+ years, Anwesha leaves a bit of herself in every story. Her superpower is to take the bare bones and turn it into a winning narrative for brands. Her passion to tell stories of human triumph led her to Emeritus where she continues to weave engaging tales. Anwesha is also a doting dog mom and hopes to make her boisterous canine a pawfluencer.
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