Penetration tests are indispensable for identifying vulnerabilities in IT systems and subsequently remediating them. Often, companies think that a single pentest before rolling out a system is sufficient. In this article, we explain why this assumption is a mistake and how often you should really perform penetration tests to best protect your systems.
Identify Vulnerabilities early with Pentests
Wherever information is exchanged, there is a risk that third parties will access that information. This risk can never be categorically ruled out from the outset. Systematic tests are therefore a crucial tool for identifying security vulnerabilities. It provides the company with a holistic view of potential attack opportunities and provides the necessary information to close security gaps. The BSI defines penetration testing as "the controlled attempt to penetrate a specific computer system or network from "outside" to identify vulnerabilities.'"
How Secure is Secure Enough?
High IT security costs are among the biggest barriers to improving IT security. Accordingly, many companies wonder how many penetration tests are really needed to make a system secure. In penetration testing, we put ourselves in the attacker's shoes. We systematically run through various attack scenarios and thus practically check whether the system can withstand the attacks. Once the system has gone through a penetration test, all security vulnerabilities have been found and closed. So is a single penetration test at the beginning sufficient?
Why one Pentest is not Enough
IT systems are not static. Web applications are constantly updated, just like mobile apps or other systems. Every change to the code or configuration potentially opens new doors for attackers. Attackers are not asleep either. An API that is considered secure today may be used by an attacker tomorrow.
Pentests not only uncover security vulnerabilities, they also raise security awareness within the team. After all, the user is often one of the weakest links in the security system. So awareness of the dangers is essential for improving IT security in the company. The biggest enemy here is routine. The longer employees work without incident or pentest, the more likely they are to become careless about security standards and procedures.
How Often you should Conduct Penetration Tests
So how often should you perform penetration testing? Penetration testing should be performed often enough to identify any vulnerabilities that have developed before they can be exploited. How often that is depends on a number of factors. A young web application that is constantly updated needs to be penetration tested more frequently than systems with few changes. But even then, regular testing at intervals of no more than a year is critical to a system that can withstand attacks.
Testing Systematically and on Demand
Systematic and efficient penetration testing requires an accurate inventory of the various assets (databases, servers, applications). On the one hand, this ensures that no assets and thus potential attack vectors are overlooked. On the other hand, you can then categorize the assets and create a separate plan for each asset class. By regularly repeating the tests closely, you ensure that new vulnerabilities are identified before they can be exploited by an attacker.
Regular Pentesting Protects your Assets
Regular penetration tests are essential to best protect IT systems in the enterprise, which is also described in the guideline of the NCSC. This is because these tests enable them to find security vulnerabilities, the exploitation of which could potentially result in major damage. In principle, penetration tests should be carried out at least once a year. Depending on the assets in the company, however, more closely meshed penetration tests make sense. Even though these tests represent an additional cost burden, they pay off in the long term. This is because you secure access to your company's most important information.