Penetration testing attempts to exploit potential vulnerabilities to identify whether unauthorized access or other types of malicious activities are possible. Also known as a pen test, it is an authorized and controlled attack against your network or computer system to discover susceptible vulnerabilities.
A penetration test may involve attempted breaching of application systems such as frontend/backend servers and application protocol interfaces (APIs). Such targeted security breaches help expose vulnerabilities such as unsanitized inputs that are vulnerable to security breaches (e.g., code injection attacks).
With context to web application security, a pen test is often used to penetrate the application and to try to evade any web application firewall (WAF).
A pen test uncovers different aspects of security testing that may be lacking such as having proper security policies in place, for example, the lack of strong password policies or multi-factor authentication. A pen test provides the simulated experience of dealing with a security breach or an intrusion. It is similar to a fire drill, during which employees are trained to be wary of the possibility of security attacks and threats.
Here are some of the key benefits of penetration testing:
Uncovers existing weaknesses in your application(s), configurations, network infrastructure, and your system(s), etc.
Tests your cyber-defense capability to deal with cyber attackers and malicious activities.
It has a great impact on the operations of a business as it exposes potential threats that may cause loss of accessibility or downtime.
Maintains the credibility and trust of your stakeholders.
All of these benefits seem to justify the effort that organizations put into penetration testing. Moreover, many companies conduct a pen test to adhere to the guidelines set by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council to become PCI compliant.
Penetration testing has an array of benefits and helps identify any potential vulnerabilities, however, it alone can’t prevent data breaches. In reality, even the most carefully tested and analyzed infrastructure or applications could fall victim to security breaches or attacks.
The Limitations of Penetration Testing
With the existing cyber threat landscape increasing with evolving threats, and opportunistic exploits of faulty deployments and simple misconfigurations, pen testing alone is not sufficient.
Despite offering a gamut of benefits, there are some major limitations of penetration testing that can drastically impact your business.
Here are some of the major limitations of penetration testing that you should know:
Limitation of Time
Often, penetration testing is carried out as a timeboxed assessment that needs to be completed in a predefined time period. The testing team has to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, and produce results within this specified time period.
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