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In recent years, cyber-attacks and data breaches have been on the rise, costing leading ecommerce brands thousands or even millions of pounds. By October 2021, the number of data breaches within the year had already surpassed those in 2020 by 17% – with retail experiencing the highest volume of data leakage attacks of all industries at 31.3%. The stats are clear – ecommerce businesses cannot afford to neglect their online security. That’s where penetration testing can help.

If you want to take a proactive approach to ecommerce security, you might find yourself confused by the many different types of penetration testing. In this article, we’ll take you through the main testing types and approaches, and help you to understand which is right for your business.

What is penetration testing used for?

Penetration testing (or pen testing) involves hiring a professionally trained team to simulate a cyber-attack on your IT systems to uncover any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. Conducting ecommerce penetration testing saves your business the time, stress and financial consequences that come with a real-life hacking attempt, as you can discover the weaknesses in your infrastructure and put them right before any actual attempts occur.

The majority of ecommerce organisations will need a penetration test at least once a year. However, it’s important to remember that cyber-crime is constantly changing, so there should also be pen testing conducted when changes to the system infrastructure occur. This can include one of the four following scenarios:

  • Installing a new web application or infrastructure
  • Applying a security patch
  • Physical changes to the infrastructure, including mergers or moving hardware to a new location
  • Major changes to the infrastructure or network

Companies that work with large amounts of data should also be tested more frequently.

What are the main types of penetration testing?

As with any testing you implement for your business, you should be clear on the goal of your penetration test. Understanding exactly what you want to test and why you want to test it will help you get the best results and save money. There are several types of penetration testing that vary based on the area you want to target.

Internal/external network penetration testing

Network pen testing is one of the most popular types of penetration testing and focuses on exposing vulnerabilities in both the physical and cloud-based infrastructure of your IT system. This includes servers, routers, and firewalls, for example. This type of testing can be split into two further types: internal and external.

Internal network testing mimics a cyber threat originating internally and involves an ethical hacker attempting to gain access to data behind your firewall. External network testing focuses on gaining access to sensitive materials from the front-facing side of your ecommerce business, including your website and email accounts.

Client-side penetration testing

As the name suggests, client-side penetration testing examines applications used on your clients’ end to test for vulnerabilities. These can include web browsers like Chrome or Firefox, email clients, office suites, plug-ins and media players.

Social engineering penetration testing

Social engineering is one of the most common techniques used by hackers to gain access to IT systems. They attempt to obtain confidential information about your business and systems by tricking your employees. The most famous example is arguably ‘phishing’ scams, where cyber criminals send misleading emails to trick staff into giving over confidential information, like passwords, or opening a link or file with a virus. Social engineering testing mimics this process and can be a very useful tool to raise awareness amongst staff.

Web application penetration testing

Web application testing focuses on the applications that your website uses. It includes online shopping carts, word processors, mobile apps, and content management systems. This can be a time-consuming form of testing, as it involves examining all the web applications your users interact with in relation to your business.

Wireless penetration testing

Lots of sensitive information is accessed over your Wi-Fi, so you need to ensure that it is protected. Wireless penetration testing examines your wireless network, as well as the devices that access it, including laptops, phones and tablets. This helps your organisation to pinpoint weaknesses in your wireless connection that could lead to hackers gaining unauthorised access and compromising your data.

Targeted penetration testing

In this type of testing, corporate IT staff and ethical hackers work together to search for issues within the system. This way, the IT team can quickly get feedback on weaknesses within the system and their response to threats, before collaborating to find solutions to protect the system.

3 types of penetration testing approaches

As well as choosing the target for your tests, you also need to consider the main 3 types of penetration testing approaches. The best approach for testers to take depends on the information they are given and the scope and budget of the project.

There are three types of penetration testing approaches to consider:

Black box testing

In this approach to pen testing (also known as external penetration testing), the penetration tester is not provided with any information about your organisation’s IT systems. This method is the most accurate to a real-life scenario, as most hackers will initially have little access to information about a company’s IT infrastructure. Due to its complexity, this is often the lengthiest and most costly approach.

White box testing

In contrast, with white box testing (also known as internal penetration testing), the tester has all the access and information about your organisation’s systems they could possibly need. While not as accurate to a real-life scenario, white box testing still provides a thorough, in-depth analysis and tests your system comprehensively. It can also reduce costs and minimise the time spent on the project.

Grey box testing

With grey box testing, the tester is given limited information or access to your company’s IT systems. Grey box testing can offer a good balance between the previous two approaches, as it bypasses the in-depth research phase required for the hacker to gain fundamental knowledge of the system, and targets your business’s security in a more focused approach.

Put your business’ security to the test

Penetration testing is one of the most effective ways to ensure your website and IT infrastructure are fully secure. At Bing Digital, our specialist team is on hand to help – with over two decades of experience in ecommerce web development and security.

With our vast expertise, we can simulate hacking attempts to test each and every part of your site and then resolve any vulnerabilities, so you know it’s completely secure from potential threats. Along with penetration testing services, we can perform a comprehensive audit of your website and give our expert advice to keep your website safe for years to come.

Ready to get the ball rolling? Get in touch with our expert team today.

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