Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing: What’s The Thing

Helga Smith

What Does Penetration Testing Mean

Every company and organization around the world invest a lot of money and spend a significant amount of time on their cyber security. Nowadays to run regularly cyber security checks plays a vital role in managing different kinds of workspaces.

Penetration testing or pen testing is what helps to accomplish the task of securing your company or organization from various cyber attacks and subsequent cyber breaches. Pen tests allow companies and organizations to see that the money and efforts invested went into the right places and all cyber security defense lines work effectively.

Penetration testing or pen test is a direct test of an organization, company, website, device, application or even employees to see if any of them has the potential risks of being hacked.

In the first step pen testers will try to identify all the potential entry points and in the second one they will attempt to exploit them and see where the potential security breach could happen.

You can compare pen testing with testing the safety of your own house when you check all the locks, doors and windows to make sure no one unwanted could trespass on your territory.

That’s what pen testers do — they evaluate security states of different IT infrastructures with the help of a controlled environment to attack, identify and exploit found vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

The negligence of a pen testing may result for companies and organizations in theft of intellectual property, loss of brand value and heavy fines. The vulnerabilities that a company or organization may have will include out of date systems and software, insecure communications, weak passwords, various misconfigurations and development errors.

How Penetration Testing Is Done

To do penetration test specialists will go through the following steps:

  • Plan and make reconnaissance. At a first step specialists will make a general overview of the systems to be checked and decide what pen testing method should be applied. Also, pen testers will collect all the necessary information on how target works and so understand what it’s potential vulnerabilities could be;
  • Scan. In this step pen testers try to understand how the target will respond to various intrusions. This can be done via static or dynamic analysis that allows to see how the target’s code behaves usually while its is running. The scanning is done in a single run time;
  • Gain Access. On this stage of pen test specialists will apply various web applications attacks like SQL injection, installing backdoor, cross-site scripting to get an internal access inside a target. More precisely what they do at this step is to intercept traffic, steal data, escalate privileges, etc all to see what damages can be done at this particular step;
  • Maintain Access. At this next step pen testers imitate advanced persistent threat groups that often after going through the same steps most importantly will try to remain in a system for as long as possible in order to gain the most valuable information. Pen testers will exploit further the found in the previous steps vulnerability to see where APT group could potentially reach in their malicious escapade;
  • Analysis. After going through all the previously mentioned steps specialists compile a report where they define the key questions of the whole work: What specific vulnerabilities have been exploited? What sensitive information has been accessed? What amount of time testers managed to remain in a compromised system undetected. This information is then used to patch found vulnerabilities and make better protections against future possible cyber attacks.

What Kinds Of Penetration Testing Methods Exist

Pen testers can rely on several methods to conduct penetration testing:

  • Targeted testing. When opting for this method pen testers will work in a close collaboration with the security team to exchange opinions during the pen testing. Security team can get a valuable real time feedback on how to better their own response and company’s cyber security;
  • Double-blind testing. This method closely simulates a real time attack when threat actors usually have only a name of the enterprise to begin with. The method gives more realistic view of the situation for security teams of what actual directions any potential threat actors will take and where security improvements should be implemented;
  • Internal testing. In this kind of method tester receives an internal access to a tested IT infrastructure usually omitting its firewall.
    Such penetration test simulates a cyber attack by a malicious insider but also an attack where threat actors managed to get company’s or organization’s employees credentials;
  • External testing. When conducting external testing specialists try to find vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a company’s IT assets that are visible on the internet like domain name servers (DNS), email, company website and a web application itself.

What Is The Difference Between Penetration Testing And Vulnerability Scan

Sometimes people confuse the terms ‘Penetration Testing ‘ and ‘ Vulnerability Scanning ‘ but even though they are actually related there’s a slight difference between the two.

Vulnerability scans are made automatically and also identify various vulnerabilities found in applications and systems. It is not done manually as is the case with penetration testing but a specific software will scan some parts of your IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities present.

It does a good job on identifying major known vulnerabilities. This software works by an algorithm of ‘if–then’ scenarios that helps to identify major flaws in certain system settings or features.

A completely done scan of vulnerabilities scanner will provide you with a report of logged alerts summary that company or organization should immediately pay attention to.

Some companies, for example those that work with cardholder data, are required to conduct vulnerability scans every quarter and after certain changes in a network under PCI DSS data regulation.

Cyber SecurityPenetration TestingVulnerability Scan


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