Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is one of the main activities of ethical hackers. A penetration test is also referred to as a white hat attack because it is performed by a white hat hacker to help a system owner. It is a process of detecting vulnerabilities in applications, networks, and systems that could potentially be exploited by malicious users attempting to enter the system.
Also Read: Basic Terminologies Used by Ethical Hackers
The process can be performed manually, but it can also be automated by using other applications. However you do it, the goal of the process always remains the same. First, gather as much information about the target as possible before starting the test. This boils down to finding access points and trying to break into the system, as well as collecting the findings in one document.
No matter how you approach the process, the goal always remains the same: to find weaknesses in the security of a system. This is usually done digitally, but can also be in the physical part of computer security. As you know, there are hacking methods that use the staff to get into the system. Penetration tests can be used to test how many employees are aware of the security policy and how quickly an organization can recognize a threat.
After identifying the exploitable weaknesses of a system, the ethical hacker notifies the organization’s IT and network system managers. Based on this, these experts can take measures to help protect their systems and deploy the necessary resources.
The purpose of penetration testing
The main purpose of a penetration test is to find out if the system contains vulnerabilities that can be exploited to destabilize the system’s security, to see if the security is up to standard and to test how well employees of a company know the security issues. This is done to determine how the organization would be affected by a potential intrusion and how the vulnerabilities can be remedied.
This can also lead to bugs in a company’s security policy being discovered. For example, some companies have a lot of policies regarding detecting and preventing a hacking attack, but don’t know how to remove the hacker.
Responsibilities for Cloud Pen testing
In some networks, you may find different combinations of on-premises systems and cloud systems. This means that the responsibilities for pen testing vary between different networks.
We have already mentioned how important reports are in penetration testing. They will usually give the company a lot of useful insight into their security system and help them prioritize the improvements to the security system they had planned. These reports give app developers the incentive to create safer applications. By understanding how hackers get into their applications, the developers can further educate them on how to make their future projects more secure so that similar vulnerabilities never reappear.
How often should you perform penetration tests?
Usually companies do this regularly. This is usually done once a year. The more often they perform penetration tests, the more efficient the work of security and IT management becomes. In addition to the regularly performed penetration tests, companies also do when:
- The company adds a new infrastructure or application to their system
- The company is making major changes to their system
- The company is adding new offices in a different location
- The company is adding new security patches
- The company changes its security policy
However, you should realize that penetration tests are not the same for every company. How the pen test works depends on many factors, such as:
- How big is the company? The greater the presence of a company, the more likely it is to be attacked by a hacker because they have more attack approaches and more juicy payouts.
- How much money can the company give for penetration testing? Smaller companies can’t always afford to do them annually, because the process can cost quite a bit of money. Only the more lucrative companies do it annually, while the smaller ones do it every two years.
- What does the law say? In some industries, there are laws that oblige companies to perform security duties.
Some companies have their infrastructure in the cloud. Sometimes these companies cannot perform their own penetration tests and the responsibility lies with the provider itself.
Every company has different needs when it comes to penetration testing. This is why white hat hackers have to be very flexible when it comes to penetration testing, because their efforts will be more efficient if the penetration tests they do are tailored to the company they work for. After each penetration test, it is recommended to perform a number of follow-up tests to ensure that the results are noted in the penetration tests that are yet to come.
Penetration test tools
Penetration tests can be automated due to the number of tools available today. These tools are typically used by pentesters to quickly scan the system for common vulnerabilities. They are used to scan code to find malicious components that can be used to break the system. They find vulnerabilities in the system by examining encryption techniques and hard-coded values.
- Metasploit Framework
- Kali Linux
- Burp Suite
Penetration Testing Strategies
Whenever a white hat hacker approaches a penetration test, he should always determine the scope in which he will operate. This usually tells the tester which parts of the system to access, as well as which tools and techniques to use while working. This helps in allocating resources and manpower more efficiently while performing a penetration test.
If a company-hired penetration tester gains access to the system because they found an employee’s password in plain sight, it tells the security team that the employee’s security practices are missing and shows where improvements need to be made.
There are many strategies that penetration testers use relatively often:
1. Targeted testing
The company’s IT team is usually responsible for targeted testing. For this they work together with the penetration testers. This approach is also referred to as the “lights on” approach because everyone has access to the results and performance of this test.
2. External testing
External testing is done to find weak spots in the parts of the system that are visible from the outside. This includes firewalls, web servers, email servers and domain names. The purpose of this type of penetration test is to find out if that part of the system can be used to access the deeper parts of the system and how far the hacker can get during that attack.
3. Internal testing
An attack that runs during internal testing begins behind the firewall and is done by a user with standard access rights. This is usually done to see to what extent damage can be done by a company employee who has malicious intent.
4. Blind testing
Blind testing has this name because the information available to the tester is very limited because it was created to determine what kind of path a true attacker would travel quickly. These testers are used to mimic a real total attack that a malicious person would commit from outside the company and are given almost nothing but the name of the company hiring them. These types of tests can take quite a bit of time due to the time the hacker needs to find where they can access the system, making it a pretty penny.
5. Double blind
This is a step forward on the blind test. The double blind test is a type of test in which only a few people within the organization know that the test is being performed. Employees are not told where or when the attack will take place or who will carry it out. This type of testing is very useful because it provides a very useful insight into the security monitoring of the organization, as well as the efficiency with which the employees perform the instructed procedures.
6. Test black box
This penetration test requires that the tester have no information about the target. It is another variant of the blind test. The tester is instructed to behave like a real attacker and must find his own entry point and deduce which techniques and tools to use for the task.
7. Test white box
White box testing gives testers a good understanding of the important information about the company’s system they hired to attack. This information can go anywhere from the IP addresses to the source code and infrastructure diagrams. The information provided can be flexible depending on the needs of the company.
It is important for any penetration test team to use different types of tests to find any weaknesses they can find. This, in turn, tells them which types of attacks can do the most damage to the system.
Using different pen testing strategies helps pentest teams focus on the systems they want and understand the types of attacks that are most threatening.You may also like:
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