10 Facts Not-for-Profits Should Know About Penetration Testing

Posted in Not-for-Profit | Technology on May 10, 2016

Penetration testing is one of the most effective forms of cybersecurity for not-for-profit (NFP) organizations. It can simulate a real-world attack and uncover areas of vulnerability within a network. As prime targets for cyber attacks, below are 10 facts about how NFP organizations can gain insight and secure their systems with penetration testing.

  1. Penetration testing can be performed to help all types NFP organizations understand their information security vulnerabilities in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Testing can suit your unique needs from external-facing networks and internal-facing networks to web applications, mobile applications, wireless systems or a combination of these.
  3. Assessments can employ a variety of methods to identify threats, including social engineering, which is used to uncover sensitive information by email phishing attempts or calls to exploit confidential information.
  4. Penetration testing can be performed to help satisfy certain compliance requirements, such as the Payment Card Industry (PCI) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  5. While penetration testing is always recommended, it is a required annual activity for any entity transmitting, processing or storing 1 million or more credit card transactions with any one card brand (Visa/MC/Amex/Discover) annually, have experienced a recent PCI data breach or have otherwise been requested by a credit card processor or bank.
  6. Penetration testing is also required if an entity is storing credit card data in any manner, using certain kinds of desktop payment processing, online payment processing methods or acting as a PCI service provider to a third-party.
  7. Testing can be utilized to help protect personally identifiable information (PII) data, such as donor and staff information or specifically can help higher education institutions with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliance and identify vulnerabilities that may expose sensitive student information.
  8. Once findings are remedied, a retesting window is important so organizations can be assured that the vulnerabilities identified are resolved.
  9. Reporting is a critical component of testing. The reports generated should be written to meet the needs of an IT department, management, internal and external auditors and examiners. The reports should clearly define the scope of the testing, the methodology used and the results of the testing to make recommendations to address any findings. The reports should also be subject to a rigorous quality assurance process to ensure accuracy and completeness.
  10. Penetration testing should be considered along with other closely related information security and compliance services, such as vulnerability scanning (Approved Scanning Vendor – ASV), information security consulting, on-site assessments (Qualified Security Assessor – QSA) and forensics investigations (Payments Forensics Investigator – PFI).

Cybersecurity can sometimes be an overlooked concern as some NFP organizations have limited resources, however keeping confidential data and other sensitive information safe should be a top priority for all organizations. The value that comes from cybersecurity practices, specifically penetration testing, is taking the hypothetical to real world and learning how to protect your organization as a whole

As a leader in serving the NFP industry, Sikich is committed to keeping you informed and up-to-date on matters affecting you. If you have any questions or need more information on these or any other NFP issues, please contact one of our NFP executives.


Frank Jakosz, CPA, CGMA

Partner-in-Charge, Not-for-Profit and Higher Education Practices 

Email  |  Connect on LinkedIn



This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as accounting, tax, or other professional advice. Please refer to your advisors for specific advice.  

Comments are closed

©2017 All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as accounting, tax, or other professional advice. Please refer to your advisors for specific advice.