When the concept of penetration testing is first pitched to a small business it can seem like a joke. The proposal generally goes that you are going to have to pay a hacker to break down your cyber defences and get into your system. On the surface it doesn’t look like an especially attractive proposal, but it’s actually a hugely valuable operation that can ultimately save your business time and money.

So how can having your system hacked help you? Well, with ‘ethical hacking’ (a penetration test) it is a controlled hack carried out by a cyber security professional. They will utilise the same techniques that a malicious hacker uses. This gives you the opportunity to see how a hacker would defeat your defences without having to worry that your money or data will be taken and used. Penetration tests can therefore allow you to better prepare your business for a real hack.

A hacker is doing penetration testing

This is especially important for small businesses that are likely to have weaker cyber security and less leeway for downtime. So if you’re a small business or start-up this can be the perfect solution for you. Here are six important reasons that your small business needs penetration testing.

To show your team a hack can happen to anyone

One of the biggest cyber security problems for many small businesses is complacency. Some simply think that a hack will never happen to them so there is no need to be concerned about it. Unfortunately it’s the case that any business that holds customer details, money or other sensitive data is at risk of being hacked. Complacency can make you hugely vulnerable.

Many small businesses fall into bad practices like everyone having the same weak password to log into the system. Not only does that make it exceptionally easy for someone to get into your system, it can make it very difficult to detect as details and records can be stolen without your knowledge. Then it’s not possible to do anything until it’s too late. A penetration test can have the benefit of showing your team that they need to be vigilant and consider the potential for the business to be hacked at any time.

To uncover vulnerabilities in the system

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of having a cyber security professional hack into your system is that it can show you where your weaknesses are. Instead of having those weaknesses exploited by a hacker, you have someone show you exactly how they were able to defeat your defences. This gives you the chance to rectify those issues to stop the danger of a future attack.

To highlight blind spots in your cyber security team

You may have the upmost confidence in your cyber defences and believe that your IT department are excellent at their job. This may well be true – but even the most experienced and talented cyber security team have been undone by hackers. This is often because of blind spots that they have overlooked.

Unfortunately preparing for a malicious hack can be very challenging because hackers will try multiple different methods to get into your system. So if you have just one weakness, it can be exploited. The penetration brings an outside perspective to the business – it may even reveal certain aspects of cyber defence that you team hasn’t thought of.

Cybercrime

To test the response from your team to the attack

It’s not just the actual defences that are challenged by the penetration test. One of the other major benefits of this form of testing is that your staff will believe that the attack is a genuine hack. Make sure that only very specific people in high positions know that the attack is only simulated. It’s important that the IT department doesn’t know that the attack isn’t real. This will show you how they would respond to a real attack. If the response is positive and decisive, this shows that your team is doing well. But if there is a lot of confusion and panic it could indicate that your team need to have better systems in place to deal with attacks.

To prevent the expense of system downtime

If a real attack occurs it could take your system offline or leave you having to spend a significant amount of time dealing with your IT infrastructure. Is your business prepared to deal with this downtime? Ask yourself how much time your business could afford to lose before it began to affect your profits and ability to run successfully. Penetration testing gives you the chance to sort out of these problems before a real hack occurs and causes downtime on your system.

To reveal areas in which your staff need training

Good penetration testing tries to use a variety of different techniques to defeat your system – this could involve using phishing email to attempt to steal employee passwords. If any of your staff fall for these emails this can show you that you need to provide them with training to know how to spot a genuine email from a fake one.