The goal of a penetration test will depend on the type of approved activity and your compliance requirements. Penetration testing can help organizations:
- Determine the feasibility of particular attack vectors
- Identify high-risk vulnerabilities resulting from lower-risk vulnerabilities exploited in a particular fashion
- Highlight vulnerabilities that go undetected in automated network or application vulnerability scanning software
- Assess the potential business, operational and regulatory impact of successful cyber attacks
- Test network defense and your organization’s ability to successfully detect, respond and stop an attack
- Provide context to support increased investment in information security policies, procedures, personnel or technology
- Meet compliance requirements, e.g. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) also requires regular penetration testing.
- Validate the implementation of new security controls put in place to thwart similar attacks
In the end, the standard goal is to find security issues that could be exploited by an attacker and then sharing this information, alongside relevant mitigation strategies with the target.
While penetration testing can help identify weaknesses in network security, information security, application security and data security, it is only one part of a full security audit.