How does it work?
A penetration test is performed in a variety of ways that includes scanning the external network and finding websites that can be exploited. Once the target is set, the ethical hacker will go to work for several days (less if required) to simulate a real-world attack with the goal on compromising the set target. Should vulnerabilities be found and exploited, a report will be given at the end of the test which will allow administrators to work towards patching of vulnerabilities.
How is it used?
Once the test is performed, IT administrators and the security team work together to patch the vulnerabilities in preparation for the next test. This becomes a constant cycle and is used to ensure that the target is secure and the business complies with industry regulations or set targets.
Penetration tests should be seen as the business being proactive with keeping on top of security. Vulnerabilities are found before they have the chance to be exploited and should be performed at least once per year.
What are the benefits?
Penetration tests are one part of an overall security program in place for a business. They help ensure that updated systems are not easily compromised which potentially means improved uptime and client satisfaction.