Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Ethical hacking means the application for good of hacking techniques. The term “hacker” was coined in the 1960s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to describe experts who used their skills to re-develop mainframe systems, increasing their efficiency and allowing them to perform more tasks.
Nowadays, the term normally describes experienced programmers who gain unauthorized access to computer systems by exploiting weaknesses or using bugs, motivated by bad intentions. For example, a hacker could create algorithms to crack passwords, break into networks, or even interrupt network services.
With the rise in popularity of the Internet and e-commerce, negative hacking has become the most commonly known form. An image reinforced by its representation in various forms of news and entertainment. Typically, the main thrust of malicious / unethical hacking is the theft of valuable information or financial gain.
That said, not all hacking is bad . In fact, there is a second type of hacking: ethical hacking. It could be argued that this is the original type of hacking. In fact, the first hackers did not have any negative intent, rather, their purpose was to optimize and improve existing systems.
What is ethical hacking and why do we need it?
Ethical Hacking is the authorized practice of bypassing the security of a system to identify potential data breaches and threats on a network . The company that owns the system or network allows ethical engineers / hackers to perform such activities in order to test the system’s defenses . So, unlike malicious hacking, ethical hacking is planned, approved, and most importantly, legal .
Ethical hackers are meant to investigate your system or network for weaknesses that malicious hackers could exploit or destroy. They collect and analyze information to understand how to strengthen system / network / application security. By doing so, they can improve security so that it can better resist attacks or mitigate them .
Ethical hackers are hired by organizations to prevent data breaches . In essence, this is the reasoning: to understand how a thief could enter your house, the best thing is to pretend to be thieves and use their techniques.
Note that the reasoning implies that those who perform ethical hacking do not know the state of the system they are about to breach , so they will not be influenced in any way in carrying out certain activities or breaching only certain parts of the system . For the company, this means that the best ethical hacker they can find is someone outside the security team.
The activity of ethical hackers
Ethical hacking controls key vulnerabilities that include many aspects of the computer system such as: changes in security settings, exposure of sensitive data, breach of authentication protocols, etc.
Of course, every business infrastructure is made up of a potentially unique combination of tools, hardware and software. For this, the ethical hacker must field a lot of knowledge, customized tools and specific procedures that are almost never the same from project to project. This is good, because, just like malicious hackers, the ethical hacker is also pushed to stay up to date on industry news, test new techniques and study new ways to mitigate the risk.
Types of hackers
The practice of ethical hacking is called “white hat” hacking and those who perform it are called white hat hackers . In contrast to ethical hacking, “Black Hat” describes practices that involve security breaches. black hat hackers use illegal techniques to compromise systems or breach data.
Unlike white hat hackers, hackers “ Gray Hat ” do not ask for permission before entering the system , but their motives do not I’m malevolent. In fact, gray hats are also different from Black Hats in that they do not hack for personal or third party advantage. These hackers break into systems for fun, usually informing the owner of any threats they find . Gray hat and black hat hacking are both illegal because they both constitute an unauthorized breach of the system, even if the intentions are profoundly different.
The best way to distinguish between white hats and black hats is to take a look at their motives . black hats are motivated by personal gain, profit or harassment; while white hats (ethical hackers) seek and remediate vulnerabilities, so as to prevent other hackers from taking advantage of them.
Let’s look at other differences between the two types of hackers together.
Ethical hacking duplicates the techniques and methods used by malicious hackers in order to uncover the flaws in the system. By replicating all the steps of cyber criminals, you can find out how an attack on the system happened or could happen . If they find a weakness in the system or network, they report it immediately and fix the flaw. These types of services are usually called vulnerability assessment and penetration testing , and are also offered by SOD.
Even if the ethical hacker follows the same techniques and methods as the black hat hacker , only one practice is legally acceptable . Hackers usually break the law by breaking into systems without consent, while ethical hackers get permission from system owners who hire them to test infrastructure.
Ethical Hackers are employed by organizations to break into their systems and detect security problems. The black hat hackers do not own the system or work for someone who owns it.
Benefits of ethical hacking
Learning ethical hacking involves studying the mentality and techniques of black hat hackers to learn how to identify and correct vulnerabilities within networks. The study ethical hacking can be applied by security professionals in all industries and in a multitude of sectors. This sphere includes the network defender , the risk management and the quality assurance tester .
However, the most obvious benefit of learning ethical hacking is its potential to inform and improve and defend corporate networks. The primary security threat to any organization is a hacker . Learning, understanding and implementing how these criminals operate can help security officers prioritize potential risks and learn how to best remedy them.
It should be noted that hacking must not be understood as relating only to IT infrastructures but to the entire technological apparatus of a company . Social engineering , for example, leverages the human factor to gain access to places, physical or virtual, where valuable data is stored. Furthermore, through phishing campaigns , it is possible to trick users of a system into providing their passwords and “giving” access to malicious people.
SOD services for the security of your company
Every company that handles sensitive customer data must ensure that the procedures and systems used are sufficiently secure. As mentioned before, having internal personnel carry out tests and vulnerability tests could be a weapon double-edged. Even if you have a security expert, you have to consider that having to violate systems that he may have set up himself, increases the risk of a false positive.
For this reason, companies like SOD provide services geared towards the evaluation and testing of corporate security measures.
From the classic Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Test , designed to test network hardware and software , you can switch to services that physically test corporate security or even the management procedures of sensitive data.
With the physical security addons techniques are put in place to gain access to offices , try to reach network control units or servers, but also attempts to tamper with or install unauthorized hardware.
As regards the human factor, a ethical phishing service is also available, through which a phishing campaign is launched towards the company and employee reactions are tested . This identifies the weak points that will then be used to organize an ad hoc training path.
As you can see, SOD provides companies with complete security services. Please feel free to contact us to request further information or ask us any questions you may have.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Cyber Security is the practice of defending computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks and data from malicious attacks. It is also known as Information Technology Security and Electronic Information Security . The term applies in a wide variety of contexts, from business to mobile computing and can be divided into a few common categories.
We can divide cyber security into several areas of interest which I list briefly below. In almost every situation listed, SOD has a dedicated service.
Cyber Security areas of interest
network security is the practice of protecting a computer network from intruders, whether it is targeted attacks or generic malware .
application security focuses on keeping software and devices free from threats. A hacked application may be providing access to data that it was designed to protect. Robust security begins in the design phase , well before a program or device is deployed. This is why analyzing the code of an app is essential before it is released.
operational security includes processes and decisions in the management and protection of resources and data. The permissions that users have when accessing a network and the procedures that determine how and where data can be stored or shared all fall within this scope.
Disaster recovery and business continuity define how an organization is able to respond to a cyber security incident or any other event that causes data loss . Disaster recovery policies dictate how the organization restores its operations and information to return to the same operational capacity as before the event. business continuity is the plan the organization resorts to as it tries to operate without certain resources.
The human part of cyber security
End User Education addresses the most unpredictable factor in cybersecurity: people . Anyone can accidentally introduce a virus into an otherwise secure system by not following security best practices. For example, teaching users to delete suspicious email attachments and not insert unidentified USB drives is vital to the security of any organization .
In this area, particular importance should be given to scams, phishing and in general social engineering, which relies on the element usually more weak computer system: the operator.
The scope of cyber threats
The global cyber threat continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with a increasing number of data breaches every year . A report from RiskBased Security revealed that 7.9 billion documents were exposed to data breaches in the first nine months of 2019. This figure is more than double (112%) of the number of documents exposed in the same period the previous year.
I medical services , retailers and government agencies have experienced the most breaches , with malicious criminals responsible for most accidents. Some of these industries are more attractive to cybercriminals because they collect financial and medical data, but all companies using networks can be targeted for their customers’ data, corporate espionage, or to attack customers .
What governments do
With the scale of the cyber threat set to continue to grow, the International Data Corporation predicts global spending on cyber security solutions will reach a record $ 133.7 billion by 2022 . Governments around the world have responded to the growing cyber threat with guidance to help organizations implement effective cybersecurity practices.
In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a cyber security framework , to combat the proliferation of malware code and aid early detection. The framework recommends continuous, real-time monitoring of all electronic assets .
The importance of system monitoring is resumed in the “ 10 steps to cybersecurity “, a guide provided by the UK government’s National Cyber Security Center . In Australia, the Australian Cyber Security Center (ACSC) regularly publishes guidance on how organizations can counter the latest cybersecurity threats.
In Italy we have the national framework for cyber security which provides tutorials, guides and European standards on cyber security .
MSSP and cyber security services
A Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) provides monitoring and management in outsourcing for security devices and systems. In practice it takes care of all cyber security measures for the company requesting the services.
SOD is an MSSP and the services offered include protection and monitoring of various sectors of the corporate IT department.
Our verification services include vulnerability and penetration testing , as well as the analysis of safety procedures . With the SOC as a Service service we provide the potential of a Security Operation Center , relieving the company of installation and management costs. The SOC adopts latest generation technologies such as SIEM Next Gen and UEBA , which introduce analysis by an AI for motoring logs and users .
SOD uses security operations centers to provide 24/7 services designed to reduce the number of operational personnel that a company must manage, while still guaranteeing levels of cyber security excellent.
But defense fronts don’t stop at software and machines, must also include the most unpredictable element: the end user . That’s why our offer for companies also includes people-oriented services, as we will see shortly.
End user protection
End user protection is a crucial aspect of cyber security . After all, it is often the end user who accidentally loads a malware or other form of malware on their device .
As suggested earlier, the security protocols set up by SOD analyze software in real time. Through behavioral analysis systems we can monitor both the behavior of a software and the user . In the case of an attack based on lateral movement , for example, abnormal accesses and requests by a user can be indicators of an attack in progress.
But we don’t stop there, we can test the company against techniques of social engineering , phishing and physical tampering. Thanks to the ethical hacking services and consequent report, we are able to identify the company’s weak points and suggest effective strategies to mitigate the risks. In the case of phishing, we also organize ad hoc training based on the weaknesses highlighted in the report.
Through the physical security service, in addition to the IT vulnerability testing services, we put ourselves in the play the bad guys and try to carry out physical attacks . For example, we try to enter corporate buildings that should be protected, we try to reach network infrastructures and install potentially harmful hardware, etc.
Thanks to a team of ethical hackers and trained and trained operators, we test every aspect of cyber security before a risk becomes a problem .
If you want more information about our services or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
The security of computer networks is of vital importance for a company. With technologies increasingly relying on remote services, it is good to ensure that security is guaranteed. To do this, two tools are used: Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Test. But what is the difference between them? The answer to this question is not as obvious as one might think.
The short answer is: a Pentest (PT) may be a form of vulnerability assessment (VA), but a vulnerability assessment is definitely not a Pentest. Let’s try to better understand how they work and their purposes.
Verification of the security of computer networks: Vulnerability Assessment
A vulnerability assessment is the process of running automated tools against defined IP addresses to identify vulnerabilities in the environment in which one operates. Vulnerabilities typically include unprotected or misconfigured systems. The tools used to perform vulnerability scans are specific software that automates the process. Obviously these software are practically useless without an operator who knows how to use them correctly.
These tools provide an easy way to scan for vulnerabilities and there are both open source and proprietary ones. The main advantage of the open-source ones is that, with great probability, they are the same ones used by hackers, they are unlikely to pay an expensive subscription, when they can download open source applications for free.
In practice, a VA allows you to:
identify and classify security holes in the computer network
understand the cyber threats to which the company is exposed
recommend corrective measures to eliminate the weaknesses found
The purpose of a Vulnerability Assessment is to identify known vulnerabilities so that they can be corrected. Scans are typically done at least quarterly, although many experts recommend monthly scans.
How to perform a VA
Il processo di esecuzione si divide in due fasi e non prevede lo sfruttamento delle debolezze riscontrate. Questo ulteriore passaggio e’ invece previsto nel Penetration Test.
- Fase 1: prima analisi
- durante questa fase vengono raccolte tutte le informazioni disponibili sull’obiettivo per determinare quali potrebbero essere i punti deboli e le falle nel sistema di sicurezza delle reti informatiche
- Fase 2: seconda analisi
- in questa fase, tramite l’uso delle informazioni ricavate, vengono messe alla prova i possibili problemi. In questa fase le vulnerabilita’ sono testate per capire se siano effettivi problemi come supposto precedentemente.
Data l’incredibile velocita’ in cui le tecnologie e le tecniche informatiche si evolvono, e’ possibile che un sistema si mostri sicuro questo mese, ma abbia invece delle criticita’ da risolvere il mese successivo. Per questo e’ consigliato ripetere regolarmente e con frequenza i controlli di sicurezza sulle reti informatiche aziendali.
The execution process is divided into two phases and does not involve exploiting the weaknesses found. This further step is instead foreseen in the Penetration Test.
Phase 1: first analysis
during this phase, all the information available on the objective is collected to determine what could be the weak points and gaps in the security system of computer networks
Phase 2: second analysis
in this phase, through the use of the information obtained, possible problems are put to the test. In this phase the vulnerabilities are tested to understand if they are actual problems as previously assumed.
Given the incredible speed at which computer technologies and techniques evolve, it is possible that a system will prove secure this month, but instead have some problems to solve the following month. For this reason, it is advisable to repeat the security checks on company computer networks regularly and frequently.
At the end of the process of verifying the vulnerabilities of a system, the final reports contain all the results collected. Typically these enclose all relevant information, including:
the list of vulnerabilities found
an in-depth description of the vulnerabilities
countermeasures to be adopted to reduce risks
Verification of vulnerabilities is a fundamental procedure for the company, but it does not guarantee the security of computer networks. For the correct maintenance of the security of your systems, it is also essential to use another tool: the Penetration Test.
The Pentest, or penetration test, is aimed at verifying how the vulnerabilities of a system can be exploited to gain access and move within it. One of the initial steps performed by a pentester is scanning the network to find IP addresses, device type, operating systems and possible system vulnerabilities. But unlike the Vulnerability Assessment, the Pentest doesn’t stop there.
Of crucial importance for a tester is the exploit of identified vulnerabilities in order to gain control of the network or to take possession of sensitive data. The tester uses configurable automated tools to perform exploits against computer network systems. The peculiar part, however, occurs when the tester performs manual exploit attempts, just like a hacker would.
Penetration tests are classified in two ways: gray box or black box.
Gray box tests are performed with full knowledge of the target company’s IT department. Information is shared with the tester, such as network diagrams, IP addresses, and system configurations. The approach of this method is the verification of the safety of the present technology.
A black box test, on the other hand, represents more properly the action of a hacker who tries to gain unauthorized access to a system. The IT department knows nothing about the test being performed and the tester is not provided with information about the target environment. The black box method evaluates both the underlying technology and the people and processes involved to identify and block an attack as it would happen in the real world.
Phases of the Pentest
Phase 1: Analysis
The system is analyzed, studying its strengths and weaknesses. All preliminary information is collected. This, of course, does not happen if it is a gray box pentest.
Phase 2: Scan
The entire infrastructure is scanned to find the weak points to focus on.
Phase 3: Planning
Thanks to the information gathered, we plan with which tools and techniques to use to hit the system. The possibilities are many and they are both purely technological and social engineering techniques.
Phase 4: actual attack
In this phase the testers try to exploit the identified vulnerabilities to gain full control of the targeted system.
At the end of the Penetration Test, a report is also compiled that details the entire process carried out and includes:
evaluation of the impact of a real attack on the company
solutions to solve problems and secure computer network systems
A Penetration Test that is not successful is a sign that the system under examination is safe * and the data inside it does not risk anything. However, this does not mean that the company will be protected forever from any attack: precisely because the strategies of hackers constantly evolve, it is important to carry out Penetration Tests regularly.
(*) It should be noted, however, that although a good Penetration Test follows guidelines or structuring methodologies (i.e. OWASP) it remains a test with a strong subjective impact of the Penetration Tester and of the team that performed it, therefore it cannot be excluded that by repeating the tests carried out by a different group of Penetration Tester we have no new results. Furthermore, as is well known to our readers, in the field of Cyber Security the concept of “safe” in absolute terms is inadequate.
How to do
Although Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Tests have different objectives, both should be performed regularly to verify the overall security of the information system.
Vulnerability assessment should be done often to identify and fix known vulnerabilities. The Pentest should be carried out at least once a year and certainly after significant changes in the IT environment, to identify possible exploitable vulnerabilities that may allow unauthorized access to the system. Both of the services described in this article are available through SOD, even on a recursive basis to ensure test effectiveness. contact us to find out more.
The computer security of a system is very important to avoid unpleasant inconveniences due to malicious attacks. In principle, it is not enough to set up a complete security system, you must also check that the above systems are working. To do this we turn to professionals who can carry out pentest (penetration tests) and carry out a vulnerability check.
To verify the security of a system, two specific procedures are used. The first, the verification of vulnerabilities, deals with researching and listing the possible breaches in the infrastructure. The second, the Penetration Test (PenTest), seeks to exploit the weaknesses identified to gain access to a closed system.
In essence it is a question of doing what an attacker would do: use his tools by checking their effectiveness or not on the security system. If these operations are carried out in a controlled environment, it will be possible to take measures before a real harmful intrusion occurs.
Known as vulnerability assessment or VA, it is the process of identifying threats and vulnerabilities on a specific machine or network.
The process tends to take place in the following phases:
Analysis of the characteristics
Using automatic software to speed up the process, one identifies the general characteristics of a target.
Identification of weak points
We identify which are the weak points that could be exploited to hit the target.
Specific manual tests
Sometimes a series of manual tests are carried out with specific tools. This is to further assess the security of specific applications or networks and to verify previously detected vulnerabilities.
Writing a report
After identifying the weak points of a goal, a document is drawn up stating the results.
A vulnerability check is important if understood as a proactive check carried out cyclically. Discovering vulnerabilities in order to be able to repair the identified problems is essential in the context of a security management program.
A serious security management program also includes penetration tests. However, the latter will be required less frequently than the VA. Vulnerability verification should be performed frequently. Only in this way can you be sure to immediately identify the weak points of a system and reduce the chances of a successful attack.
A penetration test, or PenTest, consists of a series of manual processes. In general, the ultimate goal of an ethical hacker carrying out such a test is to gain unauthorized access to a target. To do this, vulnerabilities discovered in the verification phase are also used.
A pentest is often required in various scenarios which may include:
– the launch of a new application
– a major change or update of the network
– adaptation to new compliance regulations
– a violation due to a targeted attack
Since there are various reasons for conducting a pentest, the goals you set yourself can often differ widely.
Who usually performs a pentest / VA?
The technicians who deal with it are hackers, obviously the so-called white-hats, those who exploit their knowledge for good. A pentester team may however have an extremely diverse background in education and experience.
What I really care ‘that all have one thing in common: a passion for safety and great curiosity’ to find and test the weaknesses of a system.
Could the work be automated?
The short answer is: yes and no. There are some phases that take place automatically and others that require the intervention of a technician.
The main stage of a vulnerability assessment is carried out by an automated application that will perform checks on a network, application or code. The whole execution of this phase is automatic. However, setting up this step and subsequent reporting are all manual actions.
In addition, a pentest requires much more manual labor and cannot be automated. It can happen, in fact, that during a pentest there are new breaches that had not been identified before.
Most of a pentest is the result of manual labor by testers. The software used can only provide data which will then be analyzed in depth by the technicians.
The manual test of a large application can take a lot of time, resources and a lot of previous knowledge on the architecture of the web-apps and on the test frameworks used.
The issue of security usually comes to the surface only when it is too late and an attack has already been carried out. If there is a need to manage sensitive data, complex networks or simply want to be sure not to suffer damage, planning infrastructure verification actions is vital.
If you are interested in the security of your web app or corporate network, contact us.
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