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Is Your Business Vulnerable? How to Test for Cybersecurity Weaknesses

To help keep your company protected from cyber attacks, it is first essential to ascertain where vulnerabilities lie so that they can be dealt with as soon as possible.

Many small business owners are surprised to learn that cyber attacks are not something that only affect large companies — businesses of all sizes are routinely the victims of hackers and cyber criminals. But what may be truly shocking is the scale of these attacks, and just how common they really are.

Data from 2015 to 2016 revealed that 55% of U.S. companies had experienced a cyber attack over that period. If your business is connected to the internet and processes data of any kind, it may be vulnerable to cyber criminals.

To help keep your company protected from cyber attacks, it is first essential to ascertain where vulnerabilities lie so that they can be dealt with as soon as possible. This is just as true for security integration businesses as any other. After all, your customers are putting their safety and valuables in your hands — shouldn’t you make sure your business is protected as well?

There are multiple methods you can use to identify and assess the weaknesses in your defenses. Let’s examine the best ways to test your systems:

Invest in penetration testing

To protect your business from hackers, it is essential that you have appropriate and effective cybersecurity — it simply is no longer good enough to have a firewall in place to keep your private files secure. But even if you have security measures in place, how do you know that they are strong enough to contend with the latest cyber attacks?

This is where penetration testing comes in. During pen testing, cybersecurity professionals will utilize the same methods as criminal hackers to attempt to gain access to your systems. This could involve attempting to bypass infrastructure security or exploiting hidden backdoors within networks and applications.

Penetration testing is not designed to cause damage or disruption to business operations and helps to address risks by providing the advice needed to help address any identified exposures.

Carry out a full red team operation

Some cybersecurity specialists can go a step further than penetration testing and offer you a full-scale red team operation. During this form of testing, a team of specialized experts will simulate, over an extended period of time, a real-world cyber attack to see how effective your systems and personnel are in combating it.

In this case study, a team from London conducted a three-month long, covert and exhaustive operation to identify the weaknesses of a global trading organization. This form of testing is as close as possible to a true malicious attack, challenging every aspect of your defenses with a systematic and focused attempt to exploit the vulnerabilities of your system.

Red team operations will push your defenses to the limit — and if you are serious about improving your cybersecurity, this is the best way to do it. Remember that your business could be compromised at any time through a sophisticated attack with multiple different techniques used at once. This could go as far as different forms of social engineering, and even physical intrusion.

This is the most advanced form of cybersecurity testing available and should be considered by any business that wants to be as prepared as possible to prevent, detect and respond to targeted attacks.

Quiz and test your staff

It doesn’t matter how strong your cyber defenses are if you have staff that don’t understand how to be security conscious. Training can be carried out to ensure that your team understands the potential threats as well as the techniques used by criminal hackers to break into systems. However, paying for training and also having your staff away from their normal duties can be expensive.

So it may be more effective to first test your staff on their current level of knowledge. This can help you to establish whether they will require training, as well as which departments are most in need of the knowledge that can keep the company safe.

It might be the case that overall awareness of security precautions is satisfactory and it is just a few isolated individuals who need more information on the risks of having a system that is not secure. Alternatively, you might find that across the business there are multiple weaknesses that could potentially be exploited.

You can test your employees on how easily they can spot phishing emails and how to set strong passwords. Additionally, carry out random checks on work areas to understand how well your staff is protecting confidential information and whether they leave their computers unlocked.


Mike James is a cybersecurity professional based in Brighton, UK. Mike writes as a guest author for a number of leading online and print publications covering penetration testing, ethical hacking and a wide variety of general cybersecurity issues – and how they affect businesses of all sizes.

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