Five Reasons Internal Pen Testing is Necessary

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. In cybersecurity, you need to think like real-world attackers. Security practitioners do this via penetration (pen) testing to find vulnerabilities that attackers could potentially exploit. 

Internal pen testing means the simulated attack starts inside your network based on the premise that the attacker already has access to your internal network. But your attackers are outside, right? You have firewalls, IDS and IPS, and other perimeter security. You may be asking, is internal pen-testing necessary? 

The fact is that more of today’s cyberattacks look like internal users who are accessing systems and services abnormally.  

The Threat of Malicious Insiders 

“The costliest attack vectors on average in 2021 were Business email compromise ($5.01 million), phishing ($4.65 million), malicious insiders ($4.61 million), social engineering ($4.47 million), and compromised credentials ($4.37 million).”  – IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute 

From a cybersecurity perspective, the primary objective of the top five costliest attack vectors is to enable an attacker to move through your network as a privileged insider. Once an external attacker breaks in, they become a malicious insider with the same access and privileges as the employee whose credentials they stole.  

Breach Lifecycle 

The breach lifecycle is the average time to identify and contain a data breach. The longer it takes to identify and contain, the more costly the breach. 

According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, the five costliest attack vectors are also the most difficult to detect and contain: 

  1. Business Email Compromise (317 days) 
  2. Phishing (293 days) 
  3. Malicious Insiders (306 days) 
  4. Social Engineering (290 days) 
  5. Compromised Credentials (341 days) 

Real-world, Real-time Advanced Persistent ‘Insider’ Threats 

State-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) actors have used common but effective tactics to gain internal access to target networks, including spear phishing, brute force, and exploiting known vulnerabilities. The actors have also demonstrated the ability to maintain persistent, undetected, long-term access in compromised environments—including the cloud —by using legitimate credentials. – Source: CISA January 2022 alert on Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Threats. 

What is Internal Pen Testing? 

All internal pen testing is white box since it presumes the attacker has acquired prior knowledge of the organization’s network assets and controls. As such, it provides a preview of late-stage vulnerabilities which could be exploited by: 

  • Bad actors who gain inside access via one or more attack vectors 
  • Current personnel, clients, or other associates 
  • Former associates with lingering access 

Since the attacker has already gained access to the system, the internal pen test tries to determine how they might cause harm from there. The test probes for assets at risk and how attackers could target them.  

Following the test, the final report should give you actionable information which you can use to bolster your inner defenses before an actual attacker does. 

The goal of penetration testing is for the offense to inform the defense. Knowing what an attacker may do enables you to formulate and execute a plan to thwart them. 

Why Truvantis® 

The Goal of Internal Penetration Testing is to Harden Your Organization against malicious or fraudulent inside actors. IT security departments are increasingly tasked with performing pen testing operations on their organizations to shore up operational security. Many businesses do not have in-house expertise and outsource pen-testing operations. 

When you select Truvantis as a trusted third-party security partner, you get intelligence-driven operations designed to uncover vulnerabilities associated with real-world risk exposure. Truvantis penetration testing and red team engagements include Attack Surface Analysis, evaluating insider threats, and comprehensive, full-spectrum testing. 

Our accredited penetration testers are highly skilled specialists who have mastered the same skills used by cybercriminals. The Truvantis team of senior-level security engineers deploy our penetration testing services to help your company achieve compliance, understand the real threats to your system, and create a realistic, actionable plan to mitigate risk.  

Truvantis pen testing services: 

  • Minimizes business disruption 
  • Identifies vulnerabilities and root causes 
  • Yields actionable results 

Truvantis is a cybersecurity and privacy consulting organization with comprehensive expertise in implementing, testing, auditing, and operating information security programs. We specialize in helping our clients improve their cybersecurity and privacy posture through practical, effective, and actionable programs—balancing security, technology, business impact, and organizational risk tolerance. Contact us to get started today. 

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