What is VAPT and Why Your Business Needs It Now
What is VAPT?
Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing otherwise known as VAPT, is a comprehensive cybersecurity testing solution where human engineers attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in a system in both authorised and unauthorised ways to identify security gaps.
VAPT consists of two different types of testing which produce different results but with the same focus. Vulnerability assessment tools pinpoint existing security gaps in a system but are unable to differentiate between the ones that can potentially impose harm and those that cannot. This is where penetration testing complements. It attempts to exploit the vulnerabilities to determine whether the system can be accessed without authorisation through these loopholes. In addition, penetration testing also evaluates the severity of each vulnerability. Working hand in hand, the Vulnerability assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) provides a comprehensive outlook on the systems existing flaws and the potential risks associated with them.
Firewall vs Vulnerability Assessment vs Penetration testing
A firewall is the first layer of defense in a computer network. Its main purpose is to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, restricting unauthorised traffic from different layers. Acting as a protective barrier that shields the network from incoming traffic, it blocks traffic with malicious intent like viruses and cybercriminals. The perimeter firewall server acts as a bridge, allowing incoming and outgoing traffic whereas the internal firewall is responsible for filtering traffic, allowing or denying traffic into the internal network.
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The main goal of a vulnerability assessment is to identify security gaps and weaknesses by scanning the entire network’s devices, servers and endpoints by IP address. The intelligence gathered will therefore be used to cross-reference with existing information on known vulnerabilities. There are several types of vulnerability assessments and they are, Host Assessment, Network and Wireless Assessment, Database Assessment and Application Scans. Any non-compliance will be flagged in the vulnerability report for follow-up measures. These measures may include patching and updating software.
While vulnerability assessment scans for possible security gaps, penetration testing is a simulated cyberattack by ethical hackers to identify vulnerabilities that pose security risks and their severity. Insights gathered from the testing can then be used to fine-tune one’s firewall and patch the vulnerabilities identified. Penetration testing is broken down into 5 phases. The first phase is the gathering of intelligence to better plan out the attack, then scanning to understand how the target reacts to the attempt. After gaining access with web application attacks, one should try to maintain access to determine if a persistence presence can be achieved. This is to simulate advanced persistent threats which can potentially gain in-depth access to highly sensitive information if they are able to stay in the system for prolonged periods of time.
Benefits of VAPT
VAPT mainly helps in identifying security risks and gaps in all assets of an organisation through a risk assessment. The intelligence gathered identifies threats in the organisation, internally and externally helps reassess corporate processes, practices and responsibilities of corporate personnel. Once identified, the vulnerabilities are prioritised according to the level of risk they impose on the organisation. This allows priority remediation of high-risk vulnerabilities.
The risk of a cyberattack or data breach will be reduced significantly as well after a VAPT. Remediation follows the initial risk assessment starting with vulnerabilities that are of higher risks. This includes mapping out a plan or a roadmap for a clear understanding of the organisation’s infrastructure, prioritised vulnerabilities and the suggested measures. Sensitive data in the organisation will be kept safe as the identities of authorised users are verified to ensure secure remote access only to the authorised personnel. The roadmap should also include recommendations on how to improve internal processes, management procedures and data policies to ensure that sensitive information stay within the organisation. Lastly, guidelines must be revised on disaster recovery protocols and cybersecurity awareness to educate employees.
With the recent rise of cyberattack incidents, many regulatory guidelines have gotten tighter to create a safer cyberspace for everyone. With VAPT, organisations can quickly achieve compliance with various standards such as ISO 27001 and PCI DSS. These compliances prove to be a huge boost in their reputation among customers and potential investors. It gives the organisation credibility and boosts customers’ confidence, therefore resulting in a higher possibility of purchasing goods or services from them.
Different types of VAPT
- Network Service Penetration Testing
One of the most common forms of testing, Network Service Penetration Testing, or Infrastructure Testing identifies vulnerabilities that pose higher risks than others in the network infrastructure such as firewalls, servers and devices. Network Service Penetration Testing should be performed on access points, both internally and externally to ensure a thorough scanning of vulnerabilities. This form of penetration testing protects an organisation from common network-based attacks such as DNS Level Attacks, Proxy Server Attacks and Man in the Middle Attacks.
- Web Application Penetration Testing
Web Application Penetration Testing targets specific areas in web applications like ActiveX, Plug-ins and Scriptlets in a more detailed manner. Labelled as a more complicated form of testing, Web Application Penetration Testing takes up a relatively huge amount of time but provides useful insights. All endpoints of web-based applications used regularly in the organisation must be identified to deem the test successful and completed. Web Application Penetration Testing helps to identify and prioritise vulnerabilities while providing suggested solutions such as agile methodologies to mitigate them.
- Client Side Penetration Testing
The goal of this testing is to single out threats locally that are emerging from client side applications such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari. These applications used daily for work may act as a vessel for a cyberattack or data breach. Cybercriminals can easily exploit vulnerabilities in a software application running on the user’s workstation. The Client Side Penetration Testing can identify specific cyberattacks such as Malware Infection, HTML Injection, Form Hijacking and many more.
- Wireless Penetration Testing
The Wireless Penetration Testing analyzes all devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets connected to the organisation’s network. Since these connections serve as a gateway for information to flow in and out they ought to be protected from any vulnerability. Penetration testers should also consider several pointers as such; “Are there monitoring systems to identify unauthorized users?” and “What are the measures implemented currently to protect the network?”
- Social Engineering Penetration Testing
Social Engineering Penetration Testing involves the tester to use two different types of testing: Remote and Physical Tests, to fish information out from employees of an organisation. Remote Tests come in various forms, phishing, vishing, tailgating and many more. The main purpose of Remote Tests is to identify employees that require remediation training before they fall prey to actual phishing incidents. A Physical Penetration Test involves the tester to attempt gaining access to sensitive information through vulnerabilities in physical controls or simply from employees. This allows weaknesses highlighted in the organisation to be quickly mitigated with the right guidelines or strengthening of physical security.
In conclusion, the Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) is a comprehensive solution that identifies vulnerabilities and evaluates their potential risks. It provides useful insights for organisations to work on, with detailed reporting on the areas that caused the exploitations. In addition, VAPT serves as a seal of assurance to stakeholders with its compliance with various regulatory standards like ISO 27001 and PCI DSS. This increases credibility among potential investors and customers while keeping their data assets secured, killing two birds with one stone.
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