Penetration Testing for Startups – Is it Worth Hiring Experts?

Q. What’s the difference between success and failure as an entrepreneur?

A. Knowing when to call in someone who knows more than you do.

As an entrepreneur, you have a good knowledge of every area of your business. However, there are times when ‘good’ isn’t enough: Sometimes you need to know everything about one aspect of your startup. Examples include; cybersecurity, website design, and branding.

Penetration testing, fighting hacking attempts, is one part of your cyber-defences where success depends on calling in experts. Hackers know everything about breaking into your website or data. They are experts, so you need to call in other experts who understand how malicious operators work and how to prevent them from gaining access to your company files.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is where you authorise someone to try to get into your confidential data.

You can ask your sister-in-law’s cousin to try to gain access to your website, you can pay someone on Fiverr, or, you can pay professionals who you can trust.

Your company is your life, your life savings, and your legacy. Penetration testing is not something you trust to an undocumented freelancer for £5 an hour. This is a job for trained and certified professionals, for a penetration testing service that includes on-site visit options and help in mitigating the effects of an attack if things go wrong.

What Happens When You Get Hacked?

You wake up one morning and find graffiti all over your company webpages, you try to log in and find you are locked out, so you check your company email and find an unwelcome message in poor English from some puerile creature who has damaged your property to prove they can.

You need to take your website offline, so you contact your web host support system. This much you can do yourself.

You then need to find out the extent of the damage and to reduce its impact on you and on your customers.

If hackers have gained access to customer data you have to add to your own troubles by notifying customers of the data breach.

Service providers are required to notify the ICO if a ‘personal data breach’ occurs. They must also notify customers if the breach is likely to adversely affect customers’ privacy, and keep a breach log. (ICO.org.uk)

You can expect hounds from the press to be at your gates within hours, and you had better have worked out how to handle this situation before they arrive.

You are deluged with vitriol on social media, your reputation amongst your customers falls through the floor, orders are cancelled and your credibility is suddenly less than Nigel Farage’s in Brussels.

If you have a plan, you survive: No plan means you and your business are sunk.

How Do Hackers Work?

Most hacking attacks exploit known software vulnerabilities that have been fixed if your applications are patched and up-to-date. Default and weak user passwords are another common hacker way into your ‘secure’ data.

Close-Up Photography of Program Codes

Why Would Hackers Target You?

Hackers work for kicks, money or prestige.

You have something that they can enjoy destroying, just like a toddler loves knocking over wooden block towers. Hackers are sociopaths who don’t care about the sleepless nights you have put into building up your business. They don’t care that you will lose your house when they have destroyed your income. They don’t care about the dozens of employees who will lose their jobs.

Another type of hacker will try to blackmail you with a ransomware attack, blocking you out of your files or webpages until you pay a large amount to their anonymous bitcoin account.

Prestige in the hacker community is the third main motivational factor among hackers. Protecting your assets presents an extra challenge and extra prestige if they can overcome your defences. Half-measures are useless against this group because they just raise the game: You must have total protection.

In Summary

Every penny counts when you are a startup company. However, cybersecurity is not optional.

When you do a risk analysis and look at the damage a simple hacker attack can do to your business you can see that vulnerability assessments and penetration testing are crucial. These are imperatives in today’s cybersecurity climate where a disgruntled teenager who has never met you can destroy your company in two minutes flat in a fit of selfish pique.

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