Although, small businesses may not have the resources to invest heavily in cybersecurity, they are not immune to cyber threats. In fact, small businesses are often targeted precisely because they are perceived as easier targets with lower security and more to lose, thus making them more open to negotiation with those holding their data for ransom. Within increased risk and cybercriminals becoming more advanced than ever, penetration testing is becoming an increasingly important tool for small businesses to protect themselves against cyberattacks.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is the practice of simulating a cyberattack on a system or network to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by real attackers. Pen testers use a variety of tools and techniques to try to gain access to a system, steal data, or disrupt operations. The goal is to identify weaknesses before attackers can exploit them to then address and patch them.

Depending on the type of system being tested and the goals of the testing, penetration testing can take many forms. It can be done manually or with automated tools, or it can focus on specific areas of a system or test the system as a whole. Penetration testing can also be done from inside the network, simulating an attack by an insider, or from outside the network, simulating an attack by an external hacker.

Why does my business need penetration testing?

Small businesses may think that they are too small or too insignificant to be targeted by cyber criminals, but trends have shown the opposite: small businesses are becoming the main targets for ransomware precisely because of their lack of resources.

By simulating an attack, pen testers can identify weaknesses in a system or network that could be exploited by real attackers. They can then work with the business to address those weaknesses, patch vulnerabilities, and improve overall security posture.

Penetration testing can also help small businesses meet regulatory requirements and industry standards. Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, are subject to strict regulations around data privacy and security. Penetration testing can help businesses demonstrate compliance with these regulations and standards, which can be important for maintaining customer trust and avoiding fines or legal penalties.

How to get started with penetration testing

If you’re a small business owner and you’re interested in getting started with penetration testing, you’ll need to start by finding a reputable organization who offers penetration testing. Although not required, you may be able to find a company with specific experience in your industry.

Once you’ve found a company, you’ll need to work with them to scope out the testing project. This will involve defining the goals of the testing, identifying the systems or networks to be tested, and determining methodology. Your provider will then conduct the testing and provide you with a report of their findings.

It’s important to note that penetration testing can be expensive, especially for small businesses with limited resources. However, the cost of a breach can be far higher than the cost of a pen test. By identifying vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, businesses can avoid the much larger cost of a security breach.

Another important benefit of penetration testing is that it can help small businesses prioritize their cybersecurity investments. With limited resources, small businesses need to be strategic about where they invest in cybersecurity. Penetration testing can help identify the most critical vulnerabilities and risks so businesses can focus their investments on the areas that are most likely to be targeted by attackers.

Penetration testing is not the end-all-be-all solution to cybersecurity—it’s just one piece of a larger security puzzle. When paired with other cybersecurity measures—such as firewalls, antivirus software, and employee training—penetration testing can be an important part of an overall cybersecurity strategy.