Attack allowed! Ethical hacking puts network security to the test

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The majority of companies in Germany today have an IT department and a company network including servers that enable business processes and workflows to be controlled digitally. In many companies, communication also takes place via such a network. However, where there is a network with interfaces to the “outside”, i.e. to the Internet, there is a risk of becoming one of the victims of cybercrime in the form of professional hackers sooner or later.

Why companies hire experts to get hacked. Image: Pixabay, VISHNU_KV

For this reason, network security is a top priority for more and more companies. Ethical hacking in the form of penetration testing can help identify and amplify vulnerabilities.

“The first step for an organization to improve security is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of its security architecture. The value is in getting to the root of security issues so that resources can be effectively allocated to the right places. Ewan Fleischmann from Redlings GmbH.

True to the motto “attacking allowed!”, IT security experts test the agreed areas according to previously clearly defined specifications and, with their subsequent report, lay the foundation for an improved, secure IT security structure. This is urgently needed because the number of cyber attacks on companies is increasing. In order to achieve this, the commissioning company is required to invest in improved security measures at the appropriate points.

What is Ethical Hacking?

IT security experts basically understand ethical hacking to mean penetration tests that are carried out on the basis of current hacker knowledge. However, the aim is not to steal data, sabotage the hacked company or blackmail it by blocking the network or individual parts of the network. Rather should with such
Penetration test Network, parts of the network or individual areas such as web application & API security or the cloud used are checked for existing security gaps or potential vulnerabilities.

The special feature of ethical hacking is above all that the executing IT security experts have extensive hacking knowledge, but do not use this against the company, but for its benefit. They also test network security in a tightly controlled and secure environment.

How ethical hacking works in the form of penetration testing

Checking the entire network for security is a complex process that takes some time. In the network pentest, all internal addresses and address ranges that can be reached via the Internet are checked for possible vulnerabilities. To launch such an attack, the ethical hacker proceeds like the criminal hacker. The first step is the so-called enumeration, i.e. information about the company’s IT systems, the services used in the company and other systems used is collected.

Where hackers attack. Source: Statistics

The expert then identifies all running services and collects associated version information. Then it interacts with the identified services to get information about their configurations.

The next step is to check for known vulnerabilities and any existing misconfigurations, identifying exploits if they exist. The IT security expert then checks these with regard to their effects on the target service stability. In addition, it is tested whether identified vulnerabilities can be exploited using exploits. This is followed by a post-exploitation and a continuation or restart of the entire process.

Network security testing can be done externally or internally. If the penetration test for a network is carried out in both forms, the remote accesses are usually checked first, i.e. an external penetration test and then the internal one. Both variants of the pen test have the same procedure.

Conclusion: Ethical hacking can save companies from major damage

With the help of the pen tests, the experts can show where network security is at risk, for example due to insufficient password encryption or passwords that have been passed on unlawfully. Basically, it is much easier to protect hardware with security precautions than information. The latter can be in different places at the same time, both inside and outside a network, and can be transported around the world within seconds. In all these processes, they can be copied or stolen unnoticed.

Above all, IT departments in companies, which cannot invest endlessly large budgets in network security, are quickly overwhelmed when it comes to protecting company data and preventing unauthorized intrusion into the IT infrastructure. Ethical hacking offers a way for companies to find out where in their IT there is a high risk potential. With ethical hacking in the form of network penetration tests, DMZ, ports, user clients and remote working environments can be efficiently checked for vulnerabilities and then protected against attacks by an optimized IT security architecture.

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