Penetration testing, also referred to as ethical hacking, is a powerful, systematic process that enables you to ensure your organization is compliant with renowned cybersecurity standards.
The Connection Between Compliance and Pen Testing
Penetration testing for compliance is performed to get adequate information that is required for remedial tasks that help your cybersecurity team mitigate the exposed risks rapidly.
Pen testing is a necessary part of every compliance standard. When it comes to ensuring compliance with a specific framework, such as ISO 27001, CIS, or HIPAA, pen testing works as a simulated attack to evaluate how well your system’s security controls stand up to cyber threats.
● For these reasons, penetration testing works as an independent assessment of enterprise compliance, and it provides assurance that an organization’s security controls are practical and reliable.
How Penetration Testing Works?
Penetration testing for compliance is an authorized and simulated cyberattack performed by cybersecurity experts to evaluate the security status of an asset.
● Pen testers use the same tools, techniques, and practices as real attackers to unearth threats and demonstrate the actual business impact of a cyberattack that might hit your organization.
Please note that penetration testing is always a requirement for leveling up the security posture of an IT infrastructure, and it’s mentioned as a control in various information security standards, including:
● PCI DSS
● SOC 2
Read more about GDPR Compliance Checklist HERE.
What Do We Mean by Compliance Penetration Testing?
The main goal of every cybersecurity team is to integrate the required security standards into an organization and prevent deadly cyberattacks. Nowadays, many organizations are looking for better ways to constantly assess their compliance posture. Notably, a lack of security compliance is increasingly becoming a major barrier to expanding businesses and improving sales.
● Security Compliance is crucial for the expansion of your business, and pen testing is a critical part of this requirement.
Is Penetration Testing a Necessary Requirement for Cybersecurity Compliance?
Various regulations and security standards exist out there, and they indicate or specify that penetration testing is a necessity to determine vulnerabilities and data security risks in an organization. Depending on the industry type and your organization’s profile, the tests must be performed once a year or more frequently.
● Some regulatory standards don’t emphasize frequency but include a general provision saying that an organization needs to effectively and consistently focus on managing and mitigating security risks through testing.
Different Types of Penetration Testing for Compliance
Penetration testing for compliance varies widely, covering applications, network services, physical assets, wired networks, and wireless networks.
These could include internal and external IT infrastructure testing, APIs, web or mobile apps, and cloud services.
● Network Penetration Testing
Network penetration testing is a security test in which testers check the security of a network and provide a report on the technical details of detected vulnerabilities. This type of testing focuses on finding holes in the system that outside parties could find and exploit.
● The vulnerabilities could be minor flaws in a computer system or a piece of malicious software injected into a network. Either way, these flaws should be detected and fixed through testing.
● Application Penetration Testing
Application penetration testing for compliance consists of various parts, including web app testing, mobile app testing, and desktop app testing. The main objective of this is to explore and find weaknesses in organizational applications and report them to developers.
● Application penetration testing for compliance is mainly carried out to either gain access to sensitive data or disrupt the functionality of a specific application.
● Web Application Penetration Testing
Web applications are one of the main focal points for bad actors since these tools could put the data security posture of an organization at high risk.
● some of the most critical cyberattack techniques that pen testers focus on for performing web app tests are SQL injection, CSS, and CSRF.
● Mobile Application Penetration Testing
Mobile applications are everywhere nowadays, and vulnerable mobile applications can be helpful tools for bad actors to penetrate your systems and network. The testing of mobile applications helps your cybersecurity team identify authentication, authorization, data leakage, session handling issues, and more.
● It should be noted that both the Android and iOS operating systems are included in the scope of mobile application testing to find out all weaknesses related to your organization’s application tools.
● Desktop Application Penetration Testing
Desktop application security is included in the OWASP top 10 security requirements list, and it’s one of the most crucial parts of every cybersecurity program. Using software developers’ and ethical hackers’ experience, high-risk vulnerabilities in desktop applications can be detected to provide optimal solutions at the next step.
● The final report after performing a desktop application test is a worthwhile document, telling software developers which parts of an application should be treated to eliminate the related risks.
● API Penetration Testing
Data transfer has become one of the integral parts of our digital world, and APIs play a crucial role in such an environment. Without making use of APIs, there is no simple and straightforward way to transfer or exchange volumes of important data. However, APIs can have a negative impact if their security is disregarded by the development team.
● API security is a notable requirement in the OWASP top 10 list. According to OWASP, insecure APIs are one of the most important contributors to cybersecurity compliance issues, resulting in data theft and exposure.
● Industrial Device Penetration Testing
Are there a lot of connected devices in your industrial company? So, penetration testing will be a part of your cybersecurity program to test these connected devices. Optimizing your factory means having a seamless and connected network of devices that is safe and protected enough against cyberattacks.
● Industrial device penetration testing involves testing a company’s assets to ensure no outside or inside threat can evade the implemented cybersecurity controls, protocols, and processes.
● SCADA Penetration Testing
Does your company use SCADA systems? Are they connected to an online network? Do you know a small cyberattack on your SCADA systems can cause disasters in your company?
● If you need to provide a level of assurance to your board, customers, and all stakeholders, you need to have the necessary controls secured by reliable pen testing practices.
● Cloud Penetration Testing
Cloud platforms present a wide variety of benefits, and they can improve your organization’s efficiency over time. They offer unique features if all data transfer and storage security standards are implemented and used.
● Cloud penetration testing is designed to find out if your cloud services, architecture, and applications are protected.
Cloud Native Penetration Testing
Traditional penetration testing methodologies are not cloud-native, and they only aim at processes and systems relevant to on-premise environments. Cloud-native penetration testing for compliance is a new approach that helps you detect security issues that may be hidden in your cloud-native applications, APIs, and database systems.
Container Penetration Testing
Containers have enabled developers to rapidly build and share applications. However, like all complex software systems and applications, the container ecosystem is prone to misconfiguration and other security issues. Container security is included in pen testing programs to prevent these types of security problems.
Kubernetes Penetration Testing
If you want to make use of powerful automation tools such as Kubernetes, you will need to consider their security and protection first. Kubernetes security is a subset of cloud-native security that is protected by penetration testing methodologies.
● IoT Ecosystem Penetration Testing
The Internet of Things is changing almost every sector of the economy, from software service providers to manufacturing companies. To maintain the security level of this new technology, you need to provide reliable protection for your IoT devices against cyber threats.
● Smart homes, smart businesses, and smart industries are new terms that you may be hearing these days. Penetration testing for IoT focuses on finding security weaknesses that can open the doors for hackers to conduct cyberattacks.
Penetration Testing Phases for Compliance
Penetration testing for compliance is conducted and finished through 5 main phases: Reconnaissance, scanning, vulnerability assessment, exploitation, and reporting.
● Reconnaissance: Reconnaissance involves a critical process by which testers gather as much information about the system as they can.
● Scanning: Scanning is the process of identifying open ports and checking the network traffic on the target system.
● Vulnerability assessment: Vulnerability assessment helps testers to combine the information gathered in the first step with the scanning process to determine vulnerabilities.
● Exploitation: Once vulnerabilities have been detected by penetration testers, it’s time for exploitation. The testers try to access the target system through these weaknesses and exploit them.
● Reporting: After the exploitation step is done, testers will provide the team with the final report to clearly document vulnerabilities.
Reporting Based on Compliance Requirements
Building a clear and detailed report requires trustworthy penetration testing for compliance. It means testers should be careful in designing the scope of the work and perform all the previous 5 steps carefully and cautiously.
● Your final report includes useful information about the identified vulnerabilities, and also there will be helpful information about how your IT team can fix these vulnerabilities and improve the organization’s security posture.
Comprehensive Reporting of Findings
The most useful penetration testing reports for compliance include sections for a detailed outline of minor and major vulnerabilities, a business impact assessment, an explanation of the exploitation difficulty, and remediation recommendations.
Recommendations for Cybersecurity Remediations
There will be very helpful recommendations included in the penetration testing report. These recommendations are provided by experienced cybersecurity testers who have years of experience exploring vulnerabilities and compliance issues in different IT infrastructures.
Benefits of Comprehensive Penetration Testing for Compliance
● Pen Testing Identifies Weaknesses in Cybersecurity
Performing regular penetration testing allows your organization to evaluate its software and hardware tools, both internally and externally. Pen testing for compliance is a unique practice to understand what security controls for compliance are required at the moment to be put into practice in the near future.
● Pen Testing Improves Security Posture
Prioritizing the identified data security risks after performing penetration testing gives your organization an advantage in anticipating risks and thinking of practical solutions quickly. Note that penetration testing for compliance is much like practicing for real-life cyberattacks. So, there will be a great opportunity after each test to check your organization’s security posture before an actual attack hits.
● Pen Testing Creates Customer Confidence and Trust
As long as your organization complies with cybersecurity regulations, you can benefit from customer trust for your business’s growth. Cybersecurity compliance demonstrates that your company has implemented the necessary controls and has a high level of data security. Penetration testing can provide transparency about how your protected systems and network are working and running.
How Can Pen Testing Help Your Organization Ensure Compliance?
● The Role of Pen Testing in SOC 2 Compliance
SOC 2 Compliance provides a reliable cybersecurity framework to those organizations that are looking to enhance their information security procedures, protect their sensitive data, and demonstrate robust security controls. As an essential part of SOC 2, penetration testing aims to identify potential risks and mitigate vulnerabilities after performing the tests.
Feel free to read SOC 2 Report Comprehensive Walkthrough HERE.
● The Role of Pen Testing in CIS V8 Compliance
Penetration testing for compliance is a fixed part of CIS V8, and it’s included in the CIS list. CIS says that every organization should test the effectiveness and resiliency of enterprise assets through reliable testing practices to find and solve potential weaknesses.
● CIS requires organizations to establish and maintain a penetration testing program appropriately based on their size, IT systems complexity, and maturity level. With a clearly defined scope, penetration testing can help small and large organizations remain compliant and solve cybersecurity issues.
Read more about The Benefits and Challenges of Implementing the CIS Controls HERE.
● The Role of Pen Testing in NIST 800-53 Compliance
NIST 800-53 is a set of standards and guidelines designed to help businesses improve their security practices. It covers several important aspects of cybersecurity, including access controls, encryption, personnel management, and network procedures.
● A NIST 800-53 penetration testing involves a thorough assessment to evaluate the likelihood of critical cyber threats like data breaches and data exposures. Penetration testing for NIST compliance uses different techniques to examine issues that might be hidden in basic, medium, and high controls.
Penetration Testing and ISO Compliance
Does ISO 27001 require penetration testing for compliance? ISO 27001, published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is a set of critical and trustworthy standards given to govern cyber security and protection in small and large organizations.
● Penetration testing is necessary for a company to remain compliant with ISO 27001 since it is used to verify all information security aspects. There are a lot of standard scanning tools used throughout a penetration testing effort that effectively discover weaknesses to be fixed in the next steps.
ISO 27001 Compliance and Pen Testing
ISO 27001 includes both internal and external controls, which are necessary to prove an organization is protected and safe in terms of data security. When it comes to penetration testing for ISO 27001 compliance, a thorough review must be performed on the network infrastructure, including routers, switches, system hosts, and software assets.
● Penetration testing is a critical element for any ISO-compliant IT system, so testing should be consistently performed over time. Automated pen tests can help IT security teams better handle this and save time and effort during penetration tests.
Is Pen Testing an Essential Part of ISO 27001?
From a higher viewpoint, penetration testing for compliance is necessary to remain compliant with ISO 27001. The framework requires small and large organizations to implement and maintain a list of security controls. As a result, tests should be performed regularly to ensure all the implemented controls and practices work well according to the defined security programs.
● PCI DSS Compliance and Pen Testing
Organizations that process credit card payments must comply with PCI DSS, which focuses on protecting cardholders’ data and information. To achieve PCI DSS compliance and maintain it, businesses have to make use of dependable penetration testing methods.
● Non-compliance with PCI DSS can carry a lot of serious consequences for businesses that are working in the financial services industry.
● HIPAA Compliance and Pen Testing
HIPAA is a compliance standard for health organizations. It means healthcare organizations are tasked with improving their data security and protection efforts through HIPAA compliance and preventing data breaches and exposures.
● HIPAA requires organizations to take the necessary steps by identifying flaws present in their IT environment, understanding the relevant risks, and fixing the identified flaws. Penetration testing for compliance helps healthcare organizations to achieve all of them.
Let’s Make Cybersecurity a Priority
Cybersecurity compliance: wise organizations always prioritize it and take the necessary steps before cyber threats hit their IT infrastructures.
Penetration testing for compliance identifies and documents potential threats and vulnerabilities, and also outlines the likelihood of cyber threat occurrence and business impacts. If you want to deploy a comprehensive cybersecurity program in your IT infrastructure, Nordic Defender can help you by providing a professional and certified team. Our unique innovative services offer you an opportunity to benefit from managed security programs and remain compliant with the necessary cybersecurity regulations. Feel free to contact our team if you want to protect your business against cyber threats.