Two people collaborating in an office. One is seated at a desk, looking at a computer screen with code related to Operational Technology Security, while the other stands beside them, pointing at the screen. Another worker is in the background, also working on a computer. Exposed brick walls and modern decor.

A brief history of penetration testing 

The history of cybercrime and penetration testing are intertwined, necessitating discussion to underscore their 60-year journey from early hacking exploits to modern security practices. Beginning with Allen Scherr’s unauthorised access to MIT’s CTSS in the 1960s, the evolution of security concerns was marked by seminal events like the 1965 conference on information-sharing risks and the 1967 Joint Computer Conference, where the term “penetration” entered the lexicon.  

Formalised penetration testing emerged with the establishment of “Tiger Teams” by the US Department of Defense and NSA, tasked with identifying network vulnerabilities. J.P. Anderson’s 1972 report outlined foundational testing steps, setting the stage for future practices. Notably, the MULTICS system’s vulnerabilities were exposed in the 1974 test and emphasised the importance of rigorous testing.  

In 1995, the release of SATAN (later SANTA), introduced comprehensive network testing tools, while OWASP‘s formation in 2001 led to standardised frameworks for penetration testing. Today, tools like Kali Linux streamline testing processes, combining automated scans with human expertise.  

Despite vulnerability assessments, the cost of comprehensive testing remains a barrier, emphasising the ongoing need for effective security measures. 

Penetration Tests vs Vulnerability Assessments 

Understanding the differences between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing is crucial for safeguarding your organisation from cyber threats. Vulnerability assessment employs automated tools to scan your network for weaknesses, offering a broad view of vulnerabilities but may produce false positives. Penetration testing, however, actively exploits identified vulnerabilities to assess their exploitability and severity, providing deeper insights with client consent.  

These methods differ not only in their approach but also in their focus. Vulnerability assessment aims for breadth, suitable for regular checks, while penetration testing emphasises depth, delving into specific vulnerabilities thoroughly. While vulnerability assessment can be managed internally, penetration testing often requires specialised expertise and is typically outsourced for objectivity.  

Frequency is another factor setting them apart, with vulnerability assessment ideally done every 14 days and penetration testing annually or more frequently for compliance. Reports from vulnerability assessments prioritise high-risk vulnerabilities, whereas penetration testing reports provide actionable remediation advice based on successfully exploited weaknesses.  

Combining both approaches in an annual testing program creates a comprehensive cyber security strategy, enhancing your organisation. Vulnerability assessment identifies problem areas and guides prioritisation, while penetration testing offers targeted insights into potential exploitation and accurate risk assessment. 

By integrating both assessments into your cyber security strategy, you can tailor your defenses against evolving cyber threats effectively. 

Our Penetration Testing Services 

Sapphire has been providing effective cybersecurity services for over 26 years, adapting to the evolving threat landscape. Our services cover securing physical hardware, managing cloud risk, and developing tailored security strategies for organisations. 

Initially focusing on external threats, we’ve expanded our services to address insider risks and the complexities of cloud-based and remote working environments. We offer Penetration Testing Services to help organisations achieve full visibility into their IT security posture, enabling them to understand real risks and plan effective protection measures. 

Our testing services, including penetration testing, security consultancy, and digital forensics, are aligned with industry standards and best practices. We prioritise quality, offering thorough vulnerability analysis, risk evidence, and remediation advice, supported by expert consultants. 

We emphasise collaboration and flexibility, tailoring our testing services to suit your business needs. Our comprehensive range of testing services includes External and Internal Testing, Web and Mobile Application Testing, Vulnerability Assessments, and more. 

Sapphire Testing and Reporting Portal 

As security becomes integral to business operations, our customers rely on us for data assurance services. Our Testing and Reporting Portal streamlines testing activities, providing online access to reports, and facilitating communication and collaboration for vulnerability remediation. 

The portal offers a visual dashboard for a real-time security strength assessment, trend analysis, and prioritisation of remediation efforts. It enables efficient communication between teams and provides insights to inform resource allocation decisions. 

Sapphire’s focus is on delivering effective cyber security services tailored to our clients’ evolving needs, ensuring they are well-equipped to mitigate risks and respond swiftly to security threats. 

Final thoughts  

The cyber security of your organisation depends on a solid and secure infrastructure. We advise that routine internal and external penetration testing is undertaken to discover and help mitigate vulnerabilities, given the financial penalties of experiencing a breach. 

Choosing the right combination of penetration testing depends on your business requirements, the motivation and capabilities of threat sources who would gain from accessing data or disrupting services relating to your organisation. 

We offer a range of types of testing that should be part of your cyber security strategy to identify and mitigate the risks relating to your company’s capability to detect, protect, respond, and recover from cyber-attacks. 

If you are interested in finding out more about penetration testing, speak to one of our experts today. 

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