Cyber-attacks and threats are a real-world problem today with thousands of networks and websites and being compromised every day. Most of the time you cannot defend against an unknown enemy because these attacks leverage on anything.
Attacks mostly exploit a flaw in the system, the flaw is either a result of human error or flaw in the source code during software development. Typically, the anatomy of a cyber-attack is an attacker leveraging a flaw to gain access. A flaw or weakness is what is mostly called vulnerability. The attacker then exploits this vulnerability to gain access that is to systems, data, or even physical spaces. Think about it in this case you leave your system with default credentials i.e., the username and the password the hacker will use to gain access to your system the vulnerability in this case is the default credentials. Essentially a cyber attack is turning a vulnerability to access.
So, to try reduce the attack surface organizations conduct VAPTs to see the extent to which the vulnerabilities in the Information Technology infrastructure can be exploited. More so reasons for conducting VAPTs are Security validation – Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing (VAPT) helps validate your security controls and measures against real-world attacks. Best-practice & data security – As attackers scale and threats evolve, there is a need within organizations to carry out proactive security audits to protect their data and systems from evolving threats.
VAPTs have two components which are both crucial to cyber defense, that is the vulnerability assessment aspect and the penetration testing. Vulnerability assessment involves the identifying, measuring, and ranking of weakness/flaws that have been found in a system. Typically, you identify the vulnerabilities using a vulnerability scanner and the severity is measured using the Common Vulnerability Severity Score and then there are ranked as either Critical, High, Medium, Low, or Informational. Priority is then given to the critical and high-ranking vulnerabilities. Penetration Test focuses on identifying possible routes an attacker could use to break into the network.
By exploiting the vulnerabilities, penetration test identify the potential damage and internal compromise an attacker could carry out once they are past the perimeter. Penetration tests simulate a real-life attack and goes further ahead to test the defenses and map out paths a real hacker could take. The outcome of a penetration test is, generally evidence in the form of screenshots or a log, which substantiates the vulnerability and can be useful when conducting the remediation.
Essentially VAPTs help to protect your organization by providing visibility of security weaknesses and guidance to address them. It also helps show how strong your defenses. VAPTs also show you how your SIEM will react in the event of an attack. By showing an organization what is their attack surface and showing them how strong the network defenses are VAPTs play a crucial role in cyber defense.
Vulnerabilities Your Organization Should Probably remediate even before calling a pen test team;
- Default usernames and login passwords
- Unpatched servers/systems i.e servers/systems that are not updated with the latest security updates
- Open services that may be a vector to attacks such as denial of service