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Fighting Fire with Fire: Ethical Hacking & Penetration Testing

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Building a successful defense begins with understanding your enemy. For businesses operating in today’s digital world, hackers are the enemy. These adversaries are often faceless, elusive, well-funded, creative, persistent, and smart. They attack without provocation, warning, or discrimination. No business, large or small, is excluded from being a potential target. Maintaining a successful cyber defense is a never-ending process as hackers constantly evolve their attack techniques. To help you successfully defend against these cybercriminals, you can engage in testing that uses the same tactics and methods the hackers use, fighting fire with fire. 

Penetration Testing 

How does an IT professional today go toe to toe with a hacker? One way is to participate in penetration testing, also called pen testing. Penetration testing is a simulated cyberattack on your systems. Before beginning, you will work with the penetration tester to outline the test, specifying what you want included. They are provided with access to the areas to be tested. Then, penetration testers will attempt to compromise your systems based on the agreed-to scope. After the penetration test has concluded, you will receive a detailed report that outlines their findings, including recommendations for the remediation of any vulnerabilities observed.  

Ethical Hacking 

To truly fight fire with fire, you can employ an ethical hacker. Not bound by a detailed scope of work, these hackers for hire use the same tools, tricks, and techniques as cybercriminals to attempt to breach your network. Ethical hackers work without being given access to truly simulate a cyberattack. Ethical hackers think like their criminal counterparts trying to breach your systems from several angles. They search for exploitable weaknesses using various attack methods, including pen testing and social engineering. Once they discover a vulnerability, ethical hackers disclose it so you can remediate the vulnerability.  

Pen Testing vs. Ethical Hacking 

Although often used interchangeably, ethical hacking and penetration testing are two different activities. Ethical hacking is an umbrella term encompassing all hacking methods used ethically. Penetration testing is one specific technique that ethical hackers use, but it can also be performed separately by a penetration tester. Ethical hackers need to know the attack vectors used by cybercriminals and use the same ingenuity when attempting to breach your systems. Penetration testers must perform testing within the boundaries that you provide. With penetration testing, the report of their findings will tell you what they were able to get past. An ethical hacking report will generally outline what they got past and how they were able to bypass it. Penetration testing is a short-term engagement; they perform a one-time test of your environment. Ethical hacking is a long-term engagement; ethical hackers are often full-time employees, continually testing your defenses. 


A successful cybersecurity strategy requires you to stay one step ahead of your adversaries. Ethical hacking and penetration testing can be valuable tools for helping you identify areas of weakness in your environment. These tests augment your current security architecture, pointing out potential holes before they are discovered by a cybercriminal and exploited. Whether you invest in ethical hacking, penetration testing, or no testing, ThreatLocker is a valuable addition to your security strategy, proactively protecting your digital environment and helping you stay one step ahead of hackers. 

ThreatLocker Allowlisting, Ringfencing™, Elevation Control, Storage Control, and Network Control can help any organization build a robust and proactive defense strategy. Schedule a call today to see how the ThreatLocker suite of endpoint security tools can help protect your organization from known and unknown threats.