A Beginner’s Guide to Pen Testing

Pen test

Digital inclination has brought about a new wave of cybercrime, with cyberattacks increasing at an unprecedented rate. Statistics from Abnormal revealed that phishing had a growth rate of 48% from previous years as of June 2022. 

Unfortunately, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are a common target for cybercriminals, accounting for 43% of cyberattacks in 2019 alone. This is because many small businesses lack an expansive budget to implement sophisticated information technology (IT) security measures. 

Penetration testing offers a cost-effective solution to this issue. It allows businesses to identify and mitigate potential security vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them. 

This guide provides an overview of penetration testing and explains why SMBs should consider it part of their IT security plan. 

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a simulated attack that helps uncover vulnerabilities within a computer system. It is conducted by IT experts who are usually ethical hackers. 

By simulating cyberattacks, organizations are able to pinpoint their security system’s strengths and weaknesses. This provides valuable insights into their existing cybersecurity measures and enables them to take proactive steps to improve their overall security. 

Penetration testing tools are usually designed to fit the organization’s needs, prioritizing the most critical assets and vulnerabilities. There are three pen testing angles, each based on the tester’s familiarity and knowledge of the system they are testing.

Black Box Penetration Testing

Black box penetration testing involves testing from the perspective of an external hacker. In other words, the testers are unfamiliar with the system or network under test. They only have access to data that is readily accessible to the general public. 

Black box pen testing can assess a system’s entire security posture and determine how well it would fight off real-life attacks.

Gray Box Penetration Testing

Gray box penetration testing involves testing at a user level. This means the testers are familiar with the system or network, such as IP addresses and public-facing applications. Gray box penetration testing strikes a mix between black box testing’s outward perspective and white box testing’s internal knowledge.

White Box Penetration Testing

White box penetration testing involves testing with full access to the infrastructure. It is carried out by testers who are thoroughly familiar with the system or network under question. They have access to all configurations, source code, and internal documentation. 

This method offers a comprehensive evaluation of the business’s security.

What Is the Main Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing?

While penetration testing is often used interchangeably with vulnerability scanning, pen testing offers a more in-depth assessment. 

Penetration testing is a comprehensive and hands-on examination of IT infrastructures. A team of experts actively seeks out and tries to exploit security vulnerabilities. It focuses on not only finding the vulnerabilities but also exploiting them. This helps determine the strength of the IT system and how to improve its security.

Vulnerability scanning is a more automated and passive approach to uncovering vulnerabilities. It focuses on uncovering security issues, typically with automated software tools. 

So, penetration testing provides a deeper understanding of the security posture of a system, while vulnerability scanning offers a quicker method of uncovering vulnerabilities. 

Why Should SMBs Consider Pen Testing as Part of Their IT Security Plan?

Pen testing allows SMBs to effectively and efficiently improve their IT security. Here are the primary benefits of pen testing:

Prevent Data Breaches

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to security breaches and cyberattacks. Cybersecurity statistics indicate that many never fully recover from such incidents. Penetration testing is a preventative security measure that helps to mitigate these risks.

Improve Security Posture

As cybercriminals evolve and advance, consumers increasingly become more concerned over privacy and security. Regular penetration testing allows businesses to improve security measures and protect their customers. 

This can promote a positive perception and attract even more customers, as it helps uncover and address vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure.

Comply With Industry Regulations

Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, are subject to specific security regulations. Some of these regulations include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). 

Cybersecurity regulations often require businesses to conduct regular penetration testing to protect their systems and data against unauthorized access or theft.

Reduce Costs and Protect Your Bottom Line

Cybersecurity incidents can be extremely costly. In 2020, the average total cost of cyberattacks for SMBs reached $2.35 million. For most industries, the cost of cyberattacks take years to recover. Healthcare data breach statistics, for example, found that it takes more than two years to accrue the full cost.

By conducting regular penetration tests, businesses can identify and address potential security weaknesses before they become major problems. This will help minimize the costs associated with security incidents.

Identify Areas for Improvement

The ultimate goal of penetration testing is to help businesses identify areas where their IT infrastructure can be improved. Awareness of possible security threats and knowing how to protect against them is crucial. 

Through this process, businesses can better understand their overall security posture and implement targeted improvements to reduce their risk of cyberattacks and data breaches.


Although many small businesses consider themselves too small to be the targets of cyberattacks, this is not true. It is equally important for SMBs to take proactive steps to protect their business from cyberattacks. One way they can do this is by partnering with expert IT service providers like i.t.Now

How to Get Started

Start your IT security journey with a free consultation with our security experts. We will walk you through the current state of your security infrastructure, identify potential vulnerabilities, and recommend solutions to secure your systems and data. 

Our expert team has years of industry experience and stays up-to-date on the latest security threats and best practices. By taking advantage of our free consultation, you can have peace of mind knowing that your IT security is in good hands. 

Don’t wait! Schedule your free consultation today and take the first step towards a more secure future for your business.

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