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How to Identify the Attributes that Make for a Good Pen Tester

penetration testing

We’ve seen the industry shift in recent years from reactive to proactive security measures. Businesses can no longer wait to react until a security breach occurs. In many cases, it’s already too late and the hacker may have already captured the information they were seeking. In today’s day and age, businesses must be thinking about cybersecurity in a preventative manner – by identifying and thwarting security breaches before they even happen.

As companies evolve to embrace a proactive approach to security, pen testers become a critical piece of the puzzle. But what are pen testers and how do you know if you’ve found a good one. We’ll walk you through the process, teaching you what pen testing is, why it’s important and how you can find the right person to conduct the tests.

What is pen testing?

A penetration, or pen, test is basically a simulated cyberattack on your computer system. It’s a mock attack that attempts to evaluate the security of the system and identify any vulnerabilities. This is a proactive approach that will help your cybersecurity because the pen tester will be able to infiltrate your system before a hacker does (hopefully) and they can tell you what you need to improve.

Pen testers’ only responsibility is to find weaknesses in your systems. They don’t find or report on any strengths, so it is purely an attempt to breach the security you currently have in place to let you know what needs to be fixed or improved.

Why does your business need pen testing?

The benefits of pen testing are apparent – a person you trust exposes your weaknesses before a hacker can take advantage of those same weaknesses. This gives you time to correct and improve your security measures to ensure that your business and all its important data is protected.

Cybercriminals are always finding new ways and taking advantage of technology enhancements to become better at breaching systems and networks. The more advanced that hackers become, the more critical it is to have skilled pen testers working on your side to protect your data.

What attributes should you look for in a pen tester?

Now that you know what a pen tester is and why they’re important, you might be wondering where to find individuals that can effectively carry out these tests. There are skills that you can look for in a pen tester so that you get someone who can accurately test, identify weaknesses and articulate the implications for your business. Here are some attributes you should look for if you’re seeking a pen tester.

  • Technical knowledge
  • Technology is continuously evolving, so current knowledge of the latest technologies, operating systems and networks is critical for a pen tester. Understanding network functionality is a prerequisite to becoming a pen tester because they often need to change settings or adjust code while they work. Staying up-to-date on the latest systems is an absolute must-have for a pen tester as they will need to utilize that information as they comb through your networks.

  • Analytical and thorough
  • Each operating system and network perform differently and some tools and methodologies that work on one system may not work on another. As a result, pen testers must be able to try new tactics and think outside of the box to explore all possible vulnerabilities. Being able to spot even the smallest variance in configurations can be the difference between a successful breach or not, which is why attention to detail is vital.

  • Passion for cybersecurity
  • Pen testers who are passionate about everything relating to cybersecurity are always willing to go the extra mile or try new tactics to find and expose weaknesses. Hackers are undoubtedly passionate about what they do and inversely, pen testers must have the same persistence and diligence to protect your business. If an individual shows a high level of passion for the industry, they will work at the best of their ability for you.

  • Embraces a big challenge
  • One of the most important attributes a pen tester can have is that they enjoy challenges. Trying to breach a company’s network is not easy; it takes time and a whole lot of patience. Having someone on your side who embraces every challenge that comes their way and rolls with the punches can be a huge asset to the security of your business.

  • Great communicator, both verbal and written
  • A pen tester is not only responsible for identifying network security weaknesses; they must also be able to communicate those issues to all levels of an organization. Being able to turn complicated jargon into easily understandable terms is critical to ensuring that the proper fixes are implemented. Their recommendations need to be simple, actionable and insightful so keep this attribute in mind when reviewing potential pen testers.

Key takeaway: great pen testers can make the difference in the security of your company

A pen tester has an important job – to spot and exploit security vulnerabilities in your systems and networks and report back on recommendations to fix those weaknesses. Taking this proactive approach to cybersecurity can keep your business protected from hackers looking to exploit or steal your data. It can be intimidating putting so much trust into one individual, but if you keep these five attributes in mind when searching for that person, you can be confident in your decision.
If you want to learn more about pen testing or need help finding qualified individuals, the experts at Level4 IT can help.