Penetration tests and hackers: if you can’t beat them, then join them.

IT systems are business-critical but hard to secure. Criminals work full-time to find ways to bust in and exploit your valuable data. Of course, we all know that no system or infrastructure can ever be made entirely secure. Even with firewalls, email protection and dark web scans in place, security vulnerabilities might still exist.

Hackers remain determined, resourceful and devious. It may sound counter-intuitive, but if your system needs to get put to the ultimate security test, you might want to hire some “white hat” hackers (also known as penetration testers or pen testers). Through penetration tests, they launch their best and strongest attacks on your system. Meanwhile, they will probe for weaknesses and explore every possible vulnerability.

For the best penetration test results, keep the following in mind:

1. Let the hackers be hackers.

It’s not a fair fight if you tie your opponent’s hands behind their back. It’s also not an equitable pen test if your hackers get restricted in their methods. Too many penetration tests get hampered because the client places significant limits on what the pen testers can do. Phishing, social media and other “human intel” attacks often get restricted because the business does not want to inconvenience, distress or embarrass employees.

It’s a noble sentiment, but it means your pen test won’t be able to deliver an accurate measure of your security posture. We all know a careless user can foil even the most reliable security technology. Your security training, culture and awareness are just as important as your hardware and software.

2. Know what you’re testing.

It’s always helpful to clarify what specific aspects of your security you want to test. Are you checking regulatory compliance or testing your existing security systems with an eye on the upgrade cycle? Does your InfoSec team need data to inform and revise your security policy? Or do you just want a view of your security posture and its effectiveness?

Being clear about what you want to achieve from the test, and communicating that information clearly to the pen testing team will help make sure the pen testers do effective work.

3. Be legally smart.

Some businesses, especially those with savvy in-house legal teams, resist pen testing because they’re concerned the results could become part of the discovery process in a lawsuit. It’s a legitimate concern, but there’s a simple way to address it. Let your law firm hire the penetration testers.

If outside counsel hires them and delivers the report to you, then it becomes privileged communication and remains immune from legal discovery. You’ll still get your test results and be able to action any recommendations. Meanwhile, you’ll remain legally covered, and everyone will benefit from the improved security.

Hiring a team of hackers is the best thing you can do to strengthen your network security. Do your homework and follow the tips above, and you’ll end up with a sound picture of your security posture. You will also understand where you should start immediately patching the holes.

If you need more help patching vulnerabilities, contact the IT security experts at Capital Network Solutions at (916) 366-6566.