Where to start on cybersecurity – Black Box Testing

In the past few weeks cybersecurity – Black Box Testing alone, we heard about the data breaches of Air India, Dominos Pizza, and Big Basket. In these cybersecurity attacks, consumer’s data was stolen and posted to the web, potentially exposing them to risks such as identity theft, credit card or bank account fraud. In January 2021, the COVID-19 lab test results of thousands of Indian patients were leaked online by government websites. Last year, SBI, the most trusted bank in India, suffered a data breach and three million unauthorized texts were sent to customers.

cybersecurity – Black Box Testing

Cyber-attacks are rampant and even more worryingly, they are indiscriminate about their targets. All enterprises large or small, government or private, in any industry are susceptible. Last year, every second company in India experienced a cybersecurity breach, according to a survey report by British cybersecurity expert Sophos. Verizon reports that ransomware attacks rose 11% in 2021.

The pandemic forced almost every enterprise to adopt a digital way of working. Employees are working from home, using home networks and personal devices, and an increased number of transactions are taking place online. While these are some of the factors that led to the exponential rise in cyberattacks, this ‘new normal’ situation is here to stay. Companies need to react and respond fast, learning from the mistakes and misfortunes of others impacted.

Companies are in various stages of maturity in their approach to de-risking operations and investing in expertise and systems. For any company though, whether they have established processes or are starting the cybersecurity journey, a good place to start is with black box testing.

cybersecurity – Black Box Testing

Black box testing provides immediate and invaluable information on vulnerabilities

Black box testing simulates a situation similar to the real-world, where a hacker with no connection to the company or inside access tries to hack into the company’s systems and data. Other forms of testing are grey box and white box testing, which is normally done between companies and their contracted security service providers, with some knowledge of and access to internal tools and processes.

What makes black box testing a good place to start or an important regular exercise? Black box testing provides the company with immediately valuable information, and is the quickest and easiest to deploy. 

  • No internal accesses required

    Black box testing is an easy exercise, as it does not need any internal rights or accesses, avoiding the sometimes long internal processes of an enterprise. The tester uses publicly available resources such as the website or mobile app stores to research the company and find ways to penetrate their defenses.
  • Provides critical immediate knowledge on vulnerabilities

    When assessing cybersecurity, key stakeholders want to know the risks and the impact on systems, compliance and regulation, brand reputation, customers and data. Black box testing presents the company with immediate knowledge on how a hacker with no accesses or information can eventually penetrate and compromise applications and servers.
  • Exposes internal system and people related risks

    Black box testing is done in stealth mode, without the involvement of any internal security or IT teams. This way, it uncovers information on whether related person-dependent processes are followed. It checks the response preparedness of security and IT teams, and brings to light internal loopholes before these are discovered by malicious hackers, enabling security and IT to detect and mitigate risks.

Choosing between black box, white box and grey box testing

Choosing between black box, white box and grey box testing depends largely on the security maturity and awareness and specific need of the organization. Grey box testing is done with internal knowledge of the system and design and architecture documentation, so this can be more focussed towards systems that have the greatest risk. White box testers are given full access to source code, and architecture documentation to perform static code analysis, sifting through massive amounts of data to identify potential points of weakness. White box testing can help with identifying vulnerabilities and implementing certain processes, systems, tools and protocols. If an enterprise has already completed white box testing, they can perform grey box to test the existing security protocols without impacting production environments.

Black box testing is the bare minimum – a license to operate

Black box testing is a useful exercise for companies on both ends of the cybersecurity maturity spectrum. For a company that is starting its cybersecurity journey, the benefits are immediate information on vulnerabilities and ease of deployment. For a company with established cybersecurity processes in place, black box testing is a third level of control to test the robustness of the organizational processes, internal teams, and security vendors.   

The World Economic Forum lists cybersecurity failure among the top ten risks by likelihood in a post-Covid world. Regulation and compliance across countries are getting stronger, and consumers and consumers and the public are becoming more aware of the risks involved with their data. With the world moving firmly into the digital, remote way of working, cybersecurity has become a basic license to operate.

Black box testing is the bare minimum for any organization, irrespective of industry, to identify immediate vulnerabilities from exposure to the internet and external networks, which are inevitable today.