Posts Tagged ‘Penetration Testing’

Quality Penetration Testing by Netragard

The purpose of Penetration Testing is to identify the presence of points where an external entity can make its way into or through a protected entity. Penetration Testing is not unique to IT security and is used across a wide variety of different industries.  For example, Penetration Tests are used to assess the effectiveness of body armor.  This is done by exposing the armor to different munitions that represent the real threat. If a projectile penetrates the armor then the armor is revised and improved upon until it can endure the threat.

Network Penetration Testing is a class of Penetration Testing that applies to Information Technology. The purpose of Network Penetration Testing is to identify the presence of points where a threat (defined by the hacker) can align with existing risks to achieve penetration. The accurate identification of these points allows for remediation.

Successful penetration by a malicious hacker can result in the compromise of data with respect to Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (“CIA”).  In order to ensure that a Network Penetration Test provides an accurate measure of risk (risk = probability x impact) the test must be delivered at a threat level that is slightly elevated from that which is likely to be faced in the real world. Testing at a lower than realistic threat level would be akin to testing a bulletproof vest with a squirt gun.

Threat levels can be adjusted by adding or removing attack classes. These attack classes are organized under three top-level categories, which are Network Attacks, Social Attacks, and Physical Attacks.  Each of the top-level categories can operate in a standalone configuration or can be used to augment the other.  For example, Network Penetration Testing with Social Engineering creates a significantly higher level of threat than just Network Penetration Testing or Social Engineering alone.  Each of the top-level threat categories contains numerous individual attacks.

A well-designed Network Penetration Testing engagement should employ the same attack classes as a real threat. This ensures that testing is realistic which helps to ensure effectiveness. All networked entities face threats that include Network and Social attack classes. Despite this fact, most Network Penetration Tests entirely overlook the Social attack class and thus test at radically reduced threat levels. Testing at reduced threat levels defeats the purpose of testing by failing to identify the same level of risks that would likely be identified by the real threat.  The level of threat that is produced by a Network Penetration Testing team is one of the primary measures of service quality.

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Brian Chess, CTO of Fortify Software – Creating Confusion

So this entry goes to support my previous post about Insecure Security Technologies and some of the confusion that these vendors can cause. Recently Networkworld published an article named “Penetration Testing: Dead in 2009″ and cited Brian Chess, the CTO of Fortify Software as the expert source. 

The first thing that I want to point out is that Brian Chess is creating confusion amongst the non-expert people who read the article linked above.  The laymen might actually think that Penetration Testing is going to be dead in 2009 and as a result might decide to buy technology as a replacement for the service.  Well, before you make that mistake read this entire entry. I’ll give you facts (not dreamy opinions) about why Penetration Testing is required and why its here to stay.
As a side note, Brian Chess has a vested interest in perpetrating this fantasy because his objective is first and foremost to sell you his technology.  
Technology, like Brian Chess’s technology is a solution to a problem, which by definition means that the problem came first and the technology was always a few steps behind.  With respect to IT Security, hackers are always creating new methods for penetrating into networks (the problem). Because those methods of attack are new, the technology is not able to defeat them (because the solution doesn’t yet exist). So if technology can’t protect you, then how do you protect yourself?

The best way to protect yourself is to use a combination of technology (to solve known problems) and Penetration Testing (to identify the unknown). A properly executed penetration test will reproduce the same or greater threat levels that your infrastructure will likely face in the real world.  This is akin to testing the armor of the M1A2 tank.  You shoot the armor with RPG’s and armor piercing rounds so that you can study the impact and improve the armor to the point where it defeats the threat.  As a result Penetration Testing can move your security posture well past the limits of what technological solutions have to offer.  My professional recommendation is that both Technology and Penetration Testing should be used.  Sorry Mr Chess, but telling people that Penetration Testing will be dead by 2009 is just fiction. 

Moving on…

As a general rule of thumb I try to avoid saying that anything is 100% secure or invulnerable to attack because that sort of claim is impossible.  But while reviewing the Fortify website I found the following text and thought it was worthy of note: “Fortify 360 renders software invulnerable to attacks from cyber predators.” This sort of marketing fluff falls under the same class of confusing noise as Brian Chess’s claim that Penetration Testing will be dead by 2009, total fiction.  It is mathematically  impossible for Fortify 360 to render software “invulnerable to attacks from cyber predators.” unless the software is mathematically proven to be secure, and it hasn’t.  

If anyone disagrees with what I’ve said here by all means leave me a comment. If you can prove me wrong then I’ll happily make corrections, but I’m pretty sure I’m on the ball with this one.   And Mr. Chess, if you think that your technology renders your customers “invulnerable to attacks from cyber predators” then I challenge you to let my research team test an evaluation copy of your technology, after all the skills that we posses according to you are outdated and shouldn’t pose a threat to your software.  ;]

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