IT leaders are responsible for keeping their organization’s digital and informational assets safe and secure. It should go without saying that protecting employees and client data should be a top priority for CISOs. Assets that have fallen into the digital world, such as IP addresses, subdomains, DNS records, etc., could pose risk to your organization, which adversaries could target. 

How companies manage security threats impacts everything from operations to reputation, and no one wants to be in a situation where there isn’t a security plan in place upfront. Dozens of tools are available to get an idea of a business’ cybersecurity position. Two of the most commonly used solutions companies utilize are security rating services and penetration testing.

Security rating services, like Black Kite, provide a cyber risk rating that shows what your organization looks like from the outside in by accessing your assets externally. Security ratings are a data-driven, quantifiable measurement of an organization’s overall cybersecurity performance. With the ability to identify vulnerabilities in your cyber ecosystem, you can better implement a plan to address those risks and assess them directly with your vendors.

Penetration testing (a pen test for short), on the other hand, is an authorized, point-in-time simulated cyberattack on a computer system performed to evaluate its cybersecurity posture.

In terms of the scanning area, pen testing can be divided into three methodologies:

White box penetration testing

White box penetration testing involves sharing complete network and system information with the tester, including network maps and credentials. This assessment helps to save time and reduce the overall cost of an engagement. A white box penetration test simulates a targeted attack on a specific system utilizing as many attack vectors as possible.

Black box penetration testing

Data is not provided to the tester in a black box penetration test. In this instance, the pen tester follows an unprivileged attacker’s approach. This scenario can be seen as the most authentic, demonstrating how an adversary without inside knowledge would target and compromise an organization. However, this typically makes it the most expensive option, too.

Grey box penetration testing

In a grey box penetration test, only limited information is shared with the tester. Usually, this takes the form of login credentials. Grey box testing is helpful in understanding the level of access a privileged user could gain and the potential damage they could cause. Grey box tests strike a balance between depth and efficiency and can be used to simulate either an insider threat or an attack that has breached the network perimeter.

Covering All of Your Bases 

While a security ratings service and a penetration test both offer great insight into a business’ cyber posture, the true benefits lie in using both as complementary services. In order to combat a hacker, you need to think like a hacker.

Penetration testing is a form of ethical hacking that simulates attacks on an organization’s network and its systems. These tests can find exploitable vulnerabilities in a company’s environment that could lead to data breaches. Security ratings services do not carry out any attacks on a company’s assets to reveal cyber risk like pen tests do. For example, Black Kite uses non-intrusive scans to pull information from open-source intelligence. The only requirement is a top-level URL.

Using both a security ratings service and doing periodic pen tests is most strategic in getting ahead of your cybersecurity. While pen tests are generally only done once or twice a year, a security ratings service, like Black Kite, scans data 24/7, constantly looking for vulnerabilities in your ecosystem.

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