Security penetration testing is an authorized process consisting of a simulated attack done on a computer unit to assess its security. By adopting this process, business owners or even homeowners can determine their computer system’s vulnerability or susceptibility and determine the gaps that need to be addressed immediately.
Penetration testing applies similar processes, techniques, and tools as cyber attackers to locate and demonstrate the impacts of vulnerabilities in your systems. Penetration tests typically simulate a wide range of various attacks that could damage your business or your reputation.
A pen test may be used to assess whether a system is strong enough to stand against attacks from authenticated and unauthenticated bases, including various system roles. By applying the proper scope, a pen test can dig into any system component that you need to assess.
Benefits of Penetration Testing
In the business-fashioned world, it is a given that your company has established its software and systems intending to withstand destructive security susceptibilities from the very start. A pen test offers awareness and a deeper understanding of whether you’re achieving that goal or not. Pen testing allows both business owners and homeowners to benefit from the following security activities, a few of the many:
- Diagnosing vulnerabilities in your computer systems
- Identifying the strength of controls and other management units
- Enhancing compliance with security regulations and data privacy such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS
- Offer quantitative and qualitative models of budget priorities for operation and current security posture
Types of Pen Testing
Regardless of the targets of a security penetration test, the agency offers the testers different levels of data and information on or access to the identified system. In typical instances, the pen testing team conducts one strategy at the beginning and focuses on it. The testing team improves or calibrates their approach during other times as their understanding of the system deepens during the pen test.
There are three types of penetration tests, whatever industry that is, and these are:
- Black Box. The penetration testing team is not aware of the target system’s internal structures and details. Just like the typical strategies of hackers, they investigate and assess externally exploitable weaknesses.
- Gray Box. The testing team has a piece of limited knowledge and understanding of one or more specifications of credentials. They are also aware of the target system’s algorithms, code, and data structures.
- White Box. Penetration testers can access systems and system artifacts such as containers, binaries, code, and often, even the servers operating the system. That is for white box testing. White box strategies ensure the highest level of assurance with the least possible amount of time spent.
Phases of Pen TestingSecurity penetration testing team members gear to simulate attacks conducted by hackers and other cyber infiltrators for whatever purposes. To implement strategies, they follow a coordinated plan via the following measures:
- Reconnaissance. To inform the attack strategy, collect as much data and information about the target as possible from both private and public references and sources. These should include dumpster diving, web searches, social engineering, domain registration information retrieval, and nonintrusive network scanning. The pen testing team determines and visualizes the target’s potential vulnerabilities and attack surface with this information at hand. Reconnaissance has variations in terms of the objectives and scope of the pen test. It can be a detailed walkthrough of the functionality of a system or making a phone call.
- Scanning. The pen testing team applies tools to assess the target website or system for susceptibilities, including open-source weaknesses, application security problems, and open services. Pen testers utilize different tools according to what they identify during the test and the reconnaissance.
- Gaining access. The attackers' goals may vary from damaging a business’s reputation, transferring funds to another account, and inciting fear to changing, stealing, or deleting data and information. Pen tests must determine the ideal strategies and tools to access your computer system to implement each test case. That can be done by identifying vulnerabilities such as social engineering, malware, SQL injection, etc.
- Maintaining access. To achieve their goals, pen testers should ensure that their simulated attack stays connected long enough once they can gain access to the target. Such goals include abusing functionality, exfiltrating data, and changing it. Such is also a means to diagnose the possible outcomes of attacks.
Types of Testing Tools
Pen testing does not entail a one-size-fits-all solution since there is no such thing. Here is the fact. Expect various tools for direct penetration of the system, application review, port scanning, and Wi-Fi break-ins since there are different targets. When we put things in a broader scope, however, there are five categories to which the types of pen testing tools can fit into:
- Reconnaissance tools for diagnosing open ports and network hosts
- Susceptibility scanners for determining problems in APIs, web applications, and network services
- Proxy tools such as generic man-in-the-middle proxies and specialized web proxies
- Exploitation tools to access assets and to achieve system footholds
- Post-exploitation tools for achieving attack goals, maintaining and expanding access, and interacting with systems
Pen Testing versus Automated Testing
When we talk of pen testing, we think of manual efforts, although pen testers frequently apply automated testing tools and scanning in the process. Using their knowledge of the latest attack strategies, pen testers also think their way through security barriers and go beyond the means to provide more in-depth testing than what a susceptibility review can offer. That includes the data and information that automated testing provides. In the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss some comparative advantages of automated testing and manual pen-testing.
Although it needs fewer specialized technicians than a fully manual pen testing process, automated testing produces faster outputs. Aside from tracking results automatically, automated testing can frequently export these towards a centralized reporting system. Moreover, while the outputs and outcomes of manual pen tests can differ from test to test, conducting automated testing multiple times on the same platform will generate the same results.
Manual pen-testing tests business logic that automated testing can overlook, such as integrity checks and data validation. Therefore, it can also reveal the weaknesses and susceptibilities not found in popular lists such as the OWASP Top 10. Moreover, a manual pen testing review can help determine false positives raised by automated testing. In a general sense, manual pen testers can analyze data to target their attacks. They are experts who think like adversaries while testing systems and websites so that automated testing procedures aligned to a scripted routine cannot.
Pros and Cons of Pen Testing
Every year, the frequency and intensity of security breaches have spelled the need for small-scale and large-scale organizations to boost focus on how they can withstand such digital onslaughts. Regulatory agencies such as HIPAA, DSS, and PCI recommend occasional pen testing for businesses to remain current with organizational requirements. With that in mind, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of defect diagnosis technique:
Pros of Pen Testing
- Locates gaps in upstream security assurance practices such as lighter-weight vulnerability assessment activities, automated tools, architecture analysis, and configuration and coding standards.
- Determines both unknown and known software susceptibilities and security issues, including trivial ones that by themselves won’t create a fuss but could lead to material impediment as part of a well-coordinated attack pattern
- It can mimic how most malicious hackers would behave when penetrating any computer system, indicating how they can simulate as close as possible a real-world cyber enemy. This is one of the most dangerous attacks, especially since any dominant defense can not easily detect. It takes an experienced specialist with the right tool to see such penetration.
Cons of Pen Testing
- Pen testing is costly and labor-intensive, especially with all the manual procedures and processes.
- Does not totally flush out flaws and bugs from the system. These then eventually make their way into the production stage, creating more disturbances and inconveniences for the entire system. If not addressed, these could lead to total system damage.
- Results will be misleading if you don’t implement realistic test conditions. Employees are more likely to deal with a test that they recognize will happen, meaning that the organizations seem to be more potent than they are. A committed attack will appear without early indicators and in manners that are intensive and in-depth.
- You are entailed to trust the penetration tester. Penetration testing says that you’re inviting someone to steal data from your systems, so you’ll have to rely on the tester not to abuse their knowledge and skills.