Cybercrime becomes more threatening these days since the consequences of successful attacks are devastating. The average cost for a successful security breach is exceeding $3 million per incident.
With technology advances, the level of security awareness increased, and more business owners want to protect their operations. It’s not surprising: the more you have to lose, the more careful you become.
Naturally, you invest in protecting your network, like purchasing a reliable anti-malware solution, network protection against DDoS attacks, and investing in cybersecurity training for your employees to minimize the attacks’ risk.
But you will never know your system is protected enough until the incident happens. Instead of waiting for the real attack, you may use the services of ethical hackers who would simulate the attacks using different penetration testing techniques, checking and exploiting the weak points of your system, and provide the audit report on the improvement areas.
So let’s see the key reasons for hacking your own network:
Get a clear picture of your system performance.
The easy targets for attacks are companies that are not adhering to the best security practices in terms of the technical side. There are many ways to install malware to destroy your information, steal it, or blackmail using software vulnerabilities. They include PHP exploits, XSS, remote scripts execution, MySQL injections, unused user accounts, etc. The outdated software, insufficient network protection, or security holes in your application’s source code may become potential backdoors for successful intrusions.
The simulated attacks will reveal all the potential threats so that your IT department may review the core protection algorithms, set up the additional protection layers, and replace the protection solutions that may seem to be not effective.
Here’s the distribution of high severity vulnerabilities:
Check whether your personnel is well prepared.
While the protection systems on the software and the network level are getting smarter and can predict the incoming attacks, react to specific malicious patterns, and block unwanted traffic, human hacking is not easy to prevent. There are different ways to gain access to internal resources or infect the malware system using human weaknesses such as fear, desire to help, or compassion. These techniques are known as social engineering. It’s used to describe various techniques used to attack people by email, phone, or in person. Here are the most common ones:
Phishing – it’s a technique when the malicious website is masked as a real one to force users to enter their login details or other sensitive info like card details. Usually, phishing websites and emails are masked as financial institutions or social media.
Vhishing (voice phishing) – phone-based scam forging phone numbers to mask as an official institution and confirm some sensitive info. I.e., when you are contacted by a bank representative and asked to provide a CVV or a PIN.
Impersonation – when an attacker gathers the generally available information to pretend someone a victim knows to get the required information. I.e., the pretext of your boss, colleague, or client may be used in such cases.
Usually, the attackers mix several techniques to sound more plausible and to reduce doubts. You can be contacted by someone who claims to be your colleague and asks you to check some documents that were sent to you by email, as s/he cannot open it, and the boss may become angry, then you get the forwarded email from this “colleague,” open the attachment and… Boom! You have just downloaded a virus on your PC.
Improve your security incidents reaction and protection mechanisms
To minimize the negative effects of a successful attack, it’s necessary to organize a timely response to any suspicious activity that may seem like a breach. Usually, successful attacks show their targets what processes are not working correctly and can be related to automating the existing procedures as replacing client verification with their unique passphrases like “maiden name,” or even worse, using the date of birth with automated systems that check whether the user is logged in the system when s/he comes in chat, the usual range of IP addresses and so on.
Also, make sure that you restrict the access to all the internal information with VPN, so even if some sensitive info is provided by mistake, the attacker does not have access to it. Set up strict spam filtration, so that scam emails go quarantined, and instruct your personnel to avoid opening attachments from unknown addresses. Encourage reporting of suspicious activity and any human mistakes even if they appear to be false-positive. It’s much easier to prevent the attack right away once the mistake is noticed than to recover from its consequences.
When it comes to the reaction of your IT staff, make sure that during any suspicious signals in the monitoring systems, develop the set of actions to mitigate DDoS attacks quickly, and make sure to perform the rotation of all the passwords in case of any (and overall, set up the regular monthly rotation for all account passwords in your Active directory).
In the course of attack mitigation, it’s easy to focus on bringing the system up, so some important steps like double-checking the systems for any signs of malicious attacks such as unscheduled config files modification or automated installation of some software in the logs can be omitted. Make sure to create the algorithms of action so that nothing is missed in case of an emergency.
Even though, from the first sight, the idea of hacking your own network may sound irrational and weird, it will show you the readiness of your system and personnel to counteract the attacks and mitigate the risks. Simulating hacker attacks, especially with blind testing (when your staff is unaware of the attack) or even double-blind testing (adding that the company performing pen testing is informed about your internal security measures).
As a result, you will have an opportunity to assess how your people, systems, and overall business flows are prepared for outside attacks. The outcome of a simulated hacking attempt can be actionable in organizing additional training for your personnel, performing an audit of the protection tools you use, and seeing whether any additional protection measures are required. It will also help you see whether the business flows and incident response practices need to undergo improvements. The only difference between the real attacks and using external services that include pen testing techniques for simulated attacks is that you experience both financial and reputation losses in the first case and invest in your system’s development in the latter one.