Technology

Hacking Your Own IT System: The Benefits of Cyber Penetration Testing

There are more than a few stories floating around the ether — otherwise known as the internet — of individuals who hacked major corporate and public entities and were hired as a result. From Apple to Facebook, Google to the US Government, it became almost habitual for organisations to reach out and acquire the hackers that were so arrogantly and systematically tearing down their precious IT systems only a short while before.

On the surface it seems counter-intuitive. Why bring somebody into your team that has a somewhat ambivalent feeling towards respectful contact with your company?

Why not take legal action instead?

The answer — as with most things in life — is really quite simple. There is value in hiring these people. And it’s not just because if they’re on your side, they won’t be wreaking havoc with your IT systems.

The value of a hacker 

For a hacker to enter an IT system, they need to find a hole in the security. If we take the idea of a very literal wall, they’ve found a way through, under or over it. This entry point may have existed already and they’ve merely spotted it, or they may have found a way of creating it. 

Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: They’re in the system.

Bad news, right? Well, kind of. Since they know the hole exists, they also know why it exists and, more importantly for an organisation, how to plug that hole. 

Plugging up your IT security flaws ensures people can’t get in. So when hackers start breaking down these walls, a swift hire has them not only finding these problems but also helping to fix them. Getting hackers onboard stops more hackers getting in. What better way to build a gate capable of repelling a battering ram than by hiring the person who made the battering ram? 

There is nobody else more capable of creating an impenetrable system.

But how does this translate to you? 

We’re not all Google or Facebook-sized businesses. We don’t all have the resources to find hackers if they manage to crack our systems, nor do we necessarily want to hire said person. It may be a great idea for a large business to have a hacker on the team, potentially less so for an SME of 12 employees. 

But at the same time, learning about security flaws from hackers is a useful thing to know. There is a service that offers the best of both worlds: Insight into security flaws without actually being targeted by a cyber-criminal. 

Cyber penetration testing involves hiring a professional to purposefully and willfully attempt to hack into your system. They do as the hacker does typically. They’ll look for vulnerabilities, exploit weaknesses and attempt to do everything from steal data to wipe your systems clean.

What cyber penetration testing means for your business 

The benefits of cyber penetration testing stack up pretty quickly. There are a lot of reasons to invest in this kind of IT service. 

  • Know your vulnerabilities — You may be under the impression that you’ve got a watertight security system — top of the range firewall, excellent antivirus, premium encryption and state-of-the-art authentication. But rarely is any security system without fault. World-famous car manufacturer Tesla, known for being a leading player in the tech space, launched a competition to see if anyone could hack their Tesla Model 3’s software. They did. Tesla gave them a car as a reward and learned valuable lessons about security flaws in their electric vehicles.
  • Fix your vulnerabilities — What did Tesla do with the information the hackers presented to them? Why was this information worth the price of the car they hacked? Because armed with the knowledge of security failure, Tesla built more robust systems. This is precisely what cyber penetration testing offers you. It’s not just about knowing what your issues are; it’s about being able to then take action to fix them.
  • Experience a cyberattack without being attacked — A real cyberattack can leave your business reeling. Cybercrime costs the global economy $445 billion per year. Individual businesses can be hit by attacks that result in data breaches or temporary closures. Reputations can be tarnished, information destroyed, processes ruined and, in extreme cases, businesses lost entirely. Fortunately, cyber penetration testing is not a real attack. It allows you to see the extent of your problems without ever facing actual risk. Hindsight is an amazing thing; imagine being able to use it without the consequences that usually surround its existence?
  • Stay compliant — GDPR legislation showed the world how serious governments were taking cybersecurity. Data breaches can now be catastrophic, particularly if you didn’t take the necessary steps to protect your customer’s information. Cyber penetration testing is not only a powerful tool for finding flaws that could be leaving your business non-compliant to data safety regulations, but the practice is also evidence of how serious you take the law and can be used to demonstrate your commitment to keeping data secure. 

What’s the next step?

Finding people to hack your system is much easier than you might think. IT consultancy is often based around improving your current IT structure. Some expert cyber-security services will take a step beyond the norm and include cyber penetration testing as part of their core product base. You needn’t take to the dark web to source shady hackers to try and tear down your IT security; there are plenty of opportunities available to secure this kind of service from legitimate and trusted sources.