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Level Up Your Cybersecurity with Penetration Testing

While remote and hybrid work models have negatively impacted small business’ cybersecurity, implementing regular penetration testing can help combat cyberthreats.   

By: Julius Azarcon, Vice President, Information Technology Services, CDW Canada

With technology innovation happening at an accelerated pace and the sophistication of cyberattacks advancing just as quickly, small businesses need to remain vigilant and proactive with cybersecurity. Cybercriminals are becoming more detailed and organized in their approach. They now conduct in-depth research on businesses, studying their processes and identifying vulnerabilities that can be exploited. 

For small businesses, keeping up with the cyberthreats of today can be a drain of time and resources. In fact, recent research from CDW Canada, a leading provider of technology solutions and services for Canadian organizations, found that one-in-four (25 per cent) small businesses have experienced a security breach in the past year. One way businesses can keep pace and combat cyberthreats is by conducting penetration testing.

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, also referred to as ethical hacking, is the performance of a controlled malicious attack on a business’ network to uncover any security vulnerabilities and evaluate the effectiveness of the system’s defence mechanisms. The goal of penetration testing is to provide businesses with a comprehensive assessment of their security posture and to highlight areas where improvements can be made. 

CDW Canada recently commissioned its second annual penetration test survey to examine the sentiment of 500 Canadian IT professionals regarding the cybersecurity posture of their organizations and adoption of penetration testing.

A comprehensive penetration test can reveal vulnerabilities and weaknesses within a business in the following areas:

  • Application servers
  • Operating systems
  • Websites
  • Mobile applications
  • IoT devices
  • People 
  • Operations

During a typical penetration test, a team of trained cybersecurity experts stage a controlled attack on a business’ security environment. They use several tools and techniques to probe for weaknesses within those systems. 

Why Are Small Businesses Hit the Hardest? 

The recent survey revealed that the shift to hybrid and remote work has created new cybersecurity challenges for small businesses due to the use of personal devices and networks that may not have the same level of security as company-owned equipment. Further, more than one third (36 per cent) of small businesses who have adopted remote/hybrid work since the pandemic believe it has increased their security risks.

For example, the flexibility of working off your phone at a café may be convenient, but you’re using their unsecured network and providing easy entry points for cybercriminals to access your data. So, how can penetration testing help small businesses improve their cybersecurity?

  1. Identify vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit to gain unauthorized access to their systems, steal sensitive data or disrupt their operations.
  2. Improve security measures such as implementing stronger passwords, updating software and updating network security. 
  3. Provide security assessments to identify cybersecurity risks and prioritize their efforts to improve their defences.

By conducting penetration testing, small businesses can avoid financial losses, downtime and reputational damage caused by cybersecurity attacks. In fact, more than two thirds (69 per cent) of small businesses who perform penetration testing reported that it has “somewhat to significantly improved” their overall security.

Why Work with an External IT Partner?

Cyberthreats are only becoming more sophisticated and trying to fend them off alone may result in something being missed. While it can seem like an overwhelming task, IT experts are here to help.

Many small businesses already see the value in external help. According to the survey, 64 per cent of small businesses have an external IT security services partner, a 49 per cent increase from the previous year. 

Working with a trusted IT partner can provide tremendous value, allowing small businesses to focus on what they do best while the experts focus on protecting them. Our survey revealed that more than half (59 per cent) of small businesses that have an external IT security service partner feel the value they provide has only increased in the last two years.   

Helping small businesses proactively address security risks and avoid potential data breaches that can be detrimental to their businesses, is just one of the ways CDW Canada provides value to small businesses. To learn more about CDW’s cybersecurity services, please visit

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