Many businesses will test their network to make sure it’s functioning properly and providing the right level of service for users. It therefore serves to guarantee working efficiency for internal processes and, where products and services are sold online, ensure a smooth customer experience. However, network testing is also important for business cyber security.
In this blog, we’ll be delving into network security testing – what it means, why it matters, and the types of tests available today.
Why test a network?
A network can pose a significant security risk to businesses due to the amount of software and devices it interacts with. Vulnerabilities arise when a network has weaknesses that can be exploited by cyber attackers. These weak points can be found in a variety of places, such as servers, firewalls, routers, modems, physical connection ports, operating systems, and software updates. Any one of these could serve as a way for criminals to gain access to the network and cause damage to the business’s systems.
Networks can face a range of threats. As such, it’s not possible to recognise a network cyber attack by only monitoring a certain piece of the infrastructure or a particular type of data. On top of this, networks often face multiple attacks employing different techniques at the same time. Potential network security threats include:
- SQL injection attacks
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Phishing attacks and social engineering
- Physical surveillance and sabotage
Network security is important as it protects personal data of employees and customers, as well as other information that can used to damage the business. Securing this data is vital, as it is often essential to everyday operations. In addition, if user data becomes compromised it can damage the integrity of the organisation, possibly leading to customers going to other providers.
The process of a network test
The purpose of the test is to simulate how an attacker would go about gaining access to the network. In this, it aims to reveal any potential weaknesses that could be used as entry points. The information provided by the network test can then be used to devise targeted reinforcement plans. This will strengthen security in specific areas and implement targeted measures.
When you run a test on your network with the help cyber security professionals, it will typically follow these steps:
We’ll first discuss with you what methods will be used in the test and how the results will be measured. Both these aspects will vary depending on the scope and goals of the test. At this stage, an ethical hacker will also identify the critical areas of your network that could contain vulnerabilities.
The ethical hacker then starts using testing solutions to examine how the network responds to cyber attacks. For example, if there is an endpoint threat detection system the tester will become aware of it. This allows them to gain an understanding of how various parts of the network communicate, along with the nature of the response. The result is the ethical hacker now knows to operate in the way that’s most likely to bypass any automated defences.
3. Mock attacks
Following the appropriate network research, an ethical hacker will simulate a range of attacks. This can include any of the types of network threats already discussed. If a network vulnerability is found, they will then take actions to exploit the weakness such as attempting to disrupt traffic, increase privileges, and stealing data.
The tester can then measure the vulnerability by how much theoretical damage they would be able to inflict. Time can be a factor here too. After gaining access, testers can try and make changes that lock internal administrators out of the network.
4. Analysing the results
The test concludes once the tester is confident there isn’t any more information that can be gleaned about the network’s security. Following this, a report will be created to show their findings to the business owner. Testing reports contain insights into the vulnerabilities found, details of recommended remedial action, and the likely timeframe for solving any network problems.
Different types of network testing
All network tests will follow the general structure outlined above. However, there are variations based on the approach of the tester and the aspects focused on. These are:
- White box testing – testers have an intimate knowledge of the network and how its infrastructure has been constructed. They’re therefore primarily concerned with examining code implementation, control flow, data flow, error handling, and other technical features.
- Black box testing – the tester lacks any prior knowledge of the organisation’s network or systems. As such, this method is the most effective at simulating the effects of an actual cyber attack.
- Grey box testing – unsurprisingly, this combines elements of both white and black box testing. The ethical hacker is given a select amount of information about the network. Grey box tests are ideal for assessing the risk privileged users pose to the business.
Best network security practices
Oftentimes, a network test report will recommend the following practices to ensure you security is kept up to standard. The first is to keep your software and operating systems up-to-date. Many network vulnerabilities are solved through system updates. Therefore, it’s possible that old versions of pieces of software will still contain weaknesses. For the same reason, care should be taken to ensure old disused devices are not still connected to your network.
Next, keep a record of the business’s most valuable assets and how they can be accessed. This should be an indicator of where your security should be targeted, as a breach in these areas brings a more significant risk. These records should then be used to create a response plan in the event that your network is breached.
Finally, your cyber security policies and procedures should be reviewed regularly. The threat landscape is constantly shifting, so it’s important your resources are being allocated efficiently.
Get network security solutions
Network tests serve as valuable sources of security information. They provide insights and analysis that enable businesses to protect themselves from malicious entities. As cyber security consultants, CyberWhite offers a range of network testing services. We use technical excellence to compile detailed network reports designed to tell you where your vulnerabilities lie. We can then provide continued any support your business needs to implement remedial measures and stay secure long term. Contact us today and put your mind at ease.