The (Hidden) Benefits of a Penetration Test
As cybersecurity practices go, you have a lot of options, with penetration testing being just one of them. However, a penetration test has more value than many may initially recognize—in addition to how they serve your compliance initiatives.
As experienced pen testers, we’ve witnessed firsthand how our clients have been rewarded with these more “hidden” benefits of these exercises beyond answering the obvious questions relating to your security posture.
If you’re wondering how, we’re going to explain. There are a few different, additional advantages performing a penetration test can yield, so if you’re considering one, reading on should convince you more completely to move forward.
How Can a Penetration Test Help Your Organization?
At a base level, a penetration test is a great way to better understand the remaining gaps in your cybersecurity program, and there are plenty of specific examinations you can have performed for specific insight, including but not limited to:
- Application Penetration Testing
- Network Penetration Testing
- Mobile Application Penetration Testing
- Cloud Penetration Testing
- Social Engineering
Still, you’re probably left wondering—what other advantages can you glean from going through and investing in these kinds of exercises?
7 Ways a Penetration Test Can Benefit Your Organization
Off the top of our heads, we can think of seven important ones:
1. You Can Improve Your Risk Management
If you’re performing a penetration test, you’re taking steps to improve your cybersecurity, and the first step to that is to better manage your risks—a penetration test could help with that because it does the following:
- Identify Your Risks: Penetration tests from a quality team of experts can uncover new and even obscure risks that your internal team may or may not catch.
- Categorize Your Risks: Risks need to be categorized with respect to the business function of the affected system(s). A vulnerability that may be “low risk” at organization A could be “high risk” at organization B due to the nature of the business—a quality pen test report can help facilitate the accurate quantifying of your specific risks.
- Validate Your Remediation: In an ideal world, you could trust your team when they say a vulnerability has been patched—still, it would provide extra reassurance to get independent validation of such. Whether it be a re-test or an outright new test, having a penetration tester probe the fix helps ensure that it was performed correctly.
2. You Can Increase Client Confidence
Just like you, your customers and vendors have watched the threat landscape evolve, and concern over cybersecurity continues to soar to new heights.
As such—depending on your scenario—a SOC 2 or SOC 3 report may no longer satisfy your customers’ curiosity regarding your protection methods as it’s becoming more common for potential clients to ask for a high-level penetration test report.
Meanwhile, your prospective clients are vetting your organization against competitors. If your advertising of yourself as a security-focused organization comes up during their decision-making process, providing a non-confidential high-level penetration test report before they even ask is a great strategy to show your organization-wide cybersecurity mindset.
3. Your Mergers and Acquisitions Could Proceed More Smoothly
Over time, you may become interested in potential mergers and acquisitions, but these don’t only have financial implications—combining organizations could also be cybersecurity risk-additive, particularly regarding sensitive operations, such as combining internal networks or merging code bases.
A pen test can help you identify and remediate these newly added security vulnerabilities before these sensitive processes begin, saving your organization from further troubles during an already stressful process.
4. You Can Further Protect Your Reputation
It’s hard to think of many scenarios worse than seeing your organization on the front page of the news for a cybersecurity breach—such cases can permanently tarnish your brand in the eyes of your clients, especially if you have contractual commitments to them concerning security, availability, and/or confidentiality.
But it’s not just that pen tests can help you avoid this. Depending on your jurisdiction and the level of compromise, lawsuits ranging from criminal negligence to privacy-oriented class actions could follow a breach. Having penetration tests performed early and often serves as a good-faith preventative measure to these risks.
5. You Can Enhance Your Overall Security Culture
Whether you are the information security manager or you oversee one, you may need more than just key performance indicators (KPIs) to justify budget increases that support your organization’s security posture—you may need the details a pen test can provide.
For example, pen test findings of severe web application vulnerabilities could justify budget increases for code analysis software and a cybersecurity-oriented continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. Additionally, the high-level executive summaries included within penetration test reports can be utilized at C-level meetings to definitively answer risk questions.
6. You Can Better Your Incident Response
If you were to opt for a specific flavor of penetration testing called a Red Team Assessment, this exercise would replicate real-life attacks from the standpoint of a real adversary.
A major driver of the value of these assessments is the validation that your teams and technology are sound should an attack from an advanced adversary occur (as they should be).
7. You Could See Possible Cybersecurity Insurance Advantages
And depending on the nature of your organization and your insurer, the ability to illustrate a mature penetration test process can help reduce your costly cybersecurity insurance premiums.
Of course, we can’t guarantee that your premium actually will be reduced, but we can say that your provider will definitely be happy to see it.
Next Steps for Your Penetration Test
Now that you understand the varied and many benefits performing a pen test can yield, you’re likely more interested in moving forward. While some organizations may have the personnel to perform penetration tests in-house and reap some of these advantages, some may not have the ability due to a cybersecurity skill shortage or a compliance requirement that calls for an independent tester.
If you fall into the latter category, Schellman does offer a full suite of penetration testing services. Should your organization require or desire any of these assessments, we’d be happy to begin the conversation through our brief Penetration Test Scoping Questionnaire.
As you consider your options, you can also get more acquainted with our qualifications and process through some of our other blog content:
About Austin Bentley
Austin Bentley is a Penetration Tester with Schellman, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Prior to joining Schellman, Austin worked as a Penetration Tester for a large financial institution, specializing in Application Security and Internal Pentesting. Austin also led and supported various other projects, including security automation and code review.