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The Importance of Cybersecurity & Penetration Testing For the SMB


The world today is far different than it was one month ago.  For example, here in the United States, we were at all time stock market highs, and unemployment was at its lowest peak, right around 3.5%.  We had the longest economic boom period, lasting about 11 years in length. But, with the advent of the Coronavirus, that all came to a sudden halt, and now the reverse is happening, to another extreme.

Apart from the tragic toll it is taking on human lives, it has also made a tremendous impact upon the world of Cybersecurity.  For example:

  • The number of Phishing attacks has greatly increased.  Victims are not simply being sent to spoofed banking or other financial institution websites, they are now being lured into a spoofed Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Healthcare Organization (WHO) websites.

  • Since just about every worker is now working remotely, all meetings, calls, etc. are taking place via Zoom.  But now they are becoming a target for the Cyberattacker, given this rise in demand.

  • Many domains are now being registered in order to launch spoofed and illegitimate websites.

  • The remote worker is now also becoming a prime target for the Cyberattacker.  The primary reason for this is that many businesses were in a rush to get their workers, and as a result, many of the laptops and other wireless devices do not have the proper security mechanisms installed onto them.

To demonstrate this, here are some illustrations as to how the Coronavirus impacted the Cybersecurity of Italy, one of the first companies to be hit hard with it:

(SOURCE:  1).

The above diagram represents the sudden spike in Phishing activity just from almost within the last month.

(SOURCE: 1).

The above illustration represents the sheer increase in fake login attempts into various types of websites and other critical resources.

(SOURCE:  1).

The illustration above shows the increased number of Cyberattacks that are taking place on the computers and wireless devices of remote workers.

But whatever the form of the threat variant is, the bottom line is that most of these Cyberattacks are Phishing based, redirecting victims to malicious websites and other types of web-based applications.  This drives home the point that websites need to be made much more secure.

One of the best ways to protect your businesses’ website (and even your business) in these trying times is to make use of what is known as Penetration Testing.

What Is Penetration Testing?

In more technical terms, Penetration Testing (aka Pen Testing) can be defined as follows:

“[It] is a simulated cyber-attack where professional, ethical hackers break into corporate networks to find weaknesses... [in] your network, application, device, and/or physical security through the eyes of both a malicious actor and an experienced cybersecurity expert to discover weaknesses and identify areas where your security posture needs improvement.

This testing doesn’t stop at simply discovering ways in which a criminal might gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or even take over your systems for malicious purposes. It also simulates a real-world attack to determine how any defenses will fare and the possible magnitude of a breach.” (SOURCES:  2 and 3).

One of the keywords to take serious note here is that of “ethical”. Yes, Pen Testers do have the mind like that of the Cyberattacker (or they could have been on themselves in a previous life, but decided to turn over to the good side), but what they engage in is for the good of the client. In other words, they will never step beyond the boundaries or the limits of what the customer wants. If a Tester feels that they need to, by the letter of the law, they have to ask for permission first from the customer and notify them in writing what more they are planning to do.

Pen Testing is actually a lot more complex than what the definition actually depicts. For example, various exercises can be conducted to see where weaknesses lie in just about any aspect of your IT and Network Infrastructure, which ranges all the way from both hardware to software applications. 

Why You Need Penetration Testing in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) of Your Web Application

One of the primary sources in which a Cyberattacker can break through into your company are via the backdoors that are left in the source code of your web-based applications. Or the code itself may be weak in terms of security in different areas, because it has never been tested for that. 

It is important to keep in mind that software developers are very often under very serious time constraints to deliver the app on time and under budget, so testing for this kind of stuff is very often forgotten about. This is where the role of Pen Testing comes into play, and thus it is very important to partner up with a very well-established and reputable firm, such as that of Webcheck Security.

Keep in mind that you should not wait until the very end of the development of the source code (especially just before it is expected to be released into production) to Pen Test it, rather it should be done at different stages throughout the Software Development Life Cycle, or SDLC for short.

Here is why this is so important:

1. To stay one step ahead of the automated hacking tools:

Given just about how everything is accessible on the Internet these days, there is a plethora of online hacking tools that are available online so that even the most amateur of hackers could potentially break into the source code of your software application. By Pen Testing at different phases and continuing to do so even after the application has been released will more or less assure that it will not be vulnerable to all of these hacking tools.

2. Vulnerabilities can be fixed on time:

Let’s face it, just about every product or service out there in the marketplace has some sort of security vulnerabilities and weaknesses in them, whether they are known or not. But by testing the source code ahead of time, you will be able to address them as they come up and fix them before moving onto the next step of the SDLC. This not only helps to ensure a much smoother transition to the production environment, but it will also help to deliver the project on time to the customer. For example, if you wait until the very last minute to Pen Test the source code, and if a lot of vulnerabilities are found that need to be fixed, this will definitely push the delivery date by quite a bit, thus incurring extra expenses not only for the software development team, but for the customer as well.

3. The detection of security vulnerabilities that may have already existed:

In the previous examples, we have examined the importance of Pen Testing at the different stages of the SDLC. What happens if you depend on a third party to develop the source code you need, and they claim that they have tested it in terms of security and that all is “up to snuff”?  Do you put your faith in their word and deploy the application? Well, this is a situation that you never want to be in. If you are in this scenario, it is your responsibility to -make sure that the source code is tested thoroughly for any security gaps and weaknesses that may have already existed, and that are remediated before the actual application is launched. It is also quite important that you keep Pen Testing this source code (as well as for other software applications that you may have) on a regular basis, so that any future vulnerabilities can be detected and patched up quickly. By doing this, you are not only enforcing a proactive mindset with your IT Security Team, but you are also instilling a sense of a high level of confidence in your customers that you take protecting their Personal Identifiable Information (PII) very seriously.

4. To help prepare for the worst-case scenario:

Just suppose that after all of this Pen Testing that you have done, that the software application in question has actually been hit by a Cyberattacker (as previously mentioned, there is no guarantee on anything). Well, all is not completely lost. By having done so many of these exercises, your IT Security Team will be able to respond to that threat and mitigate much quicker than if they have never practiced it before. The result is a much-reduced downtime, and you will be able to bring back up your mission critical business processes in a much quicker timeframe.

5. It will allow you to stay ahead in terms of compliance:

Given the ever-changing dynamics of the Cyber Threat Landscape, pretty much all businesses are coming under the close eyes of government auditors to make sure that any customer data that they gather and retain come into compliance with such regulations as HIPAA, GDPR, the ISO 27001, PCI Data Security Standards, etc. If an organization fails in any regard to this, stiff fines and penalties can be imposed. But by conducting regular Pen Testing on the source code as it is the various SDLC phases and after, that shows to the auditors you are taking these various regulations very seriously, and that protection of customer information/data is of paramount importance.

Finally, as the diagram illustrates below, Pen Testing should be conducted after each and every phase of the SDLC, and one final exercise should be done just before it hits into production:

(SOURCE:  4).

How Webcheck Security Can Be Your Partner

Remember, conducting a Penetration Testing exercise is very serious; it is not something to take lightly at all. Whether you are developing the source code in house or for another organization, you need to partner up with somebody who has done this for a very long time and has the deep experience. Remember, one of the biggest risks of not conducting a thorough Pen Testing exercise is that of a lawsuit. 

If it is discovered later by a forensic analysis that there were security gaps and vulnerabilities in the source of the application in question, you could very well be sued, and because of that, even face financial ruin.

You can avoid all of this by partnering up with us Webcheck Security.  Contact us today for more information!!!


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