Put your security system to test today
Securing an organization’s systems, data, networks, and other valuable assets is an ongoing process. None of your security strategies and best practices are ever enough to build a concrete wall between you and intruders. However, there’s one way to keep them away. Finding the existing and potential cyber vulnerabilities before perpetrators do would help you in the long run. Penetration testing is one such process that enables you to identify the loopholes and weaknesses of your system. It gives you enough time to patch the vulnerabilities before anyone can use them to your disadvantage.
What is Meant By Penetration Testing?
The advancement of technologies, and the rise in cyber-attacks, have led organizations to think and focus more on their IT infrastructure. It has become a cause of concern for organizations because every vulnerable area present in the applications may provide hackers with an opportunity to exploit it.
Penetration testing is also called a pen test; It is a testing method to reveal vulnerable areas present in the system. Weak vulnerabilities found are the critical passage to malicious activities and unauthorized access to exploit any computer system.
To protect your networks against such malicious attacks, organizations need to take advantage of professional expertise to secure their infrastructure and applications. A pen tester is hired to conduct and identify such security loopholes and ensure the protection of sensitive data. Usually, organizations perform pen-testing only when there is a significant setback, or their product needs an upgrade. However, it should be considered a standard and a recurring process within the organization’s IT security roadmap.
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Role of a Pen Tester
By now, we have understood what pen testing is. To move further, we need to understand who will perform a rigorous security check of an organization’s IT profile and the role of the professional in this task. A pen tester hired to find out the loopholes in a company’s IT infrastructure. The process starts with evaluations, analysis, internal and external assessments, looks for vulnerabilities, etc. Below is the role the tester conducts during the pen testing process.
- Perform tests to identify weaknesses across systems and networks
- Pen tester has complete access to a component of the system (which includes confidential data and information).
- Testing of internal security systems.
- Pinpoint exposures to protect sensitive data.
- Review current policies and procedures and redefine them for better security standards.
- Enhance current security posture and suggest implementing robust security standards
- Security awareness and education
- A pen tester should provide a detailed report containing all information about the vulnerabilities, their details, and other related information in a precise and effective manner to the senior management.
What Are The Types of
Below we, discuss different types of pen testing:
For a better understanding, we shall discuss each of them:
Network Pen Test
In black-box engagement, the tester does not have access to any of the client’s internal network. He only collects information about the target network or system and does not examine any programming codes. In this type, the tester need not be an expert because the nature of the job does not demand any specific language knowledge.
In this category, the tester has complete access to the applications and systems. For example, source code, OS details, IP address. This type is also known as structural, glass box, clear box, and open box testing. The goal of the white box phase is to identify deficiencies in areas such as security exposures, security misconfiguration, poorly written development code, and lack-of-defensive measures. This assessment is more comprehensive, as both internal and external vulnerabilities are tested.
In this type, the tester has internal access and knowledge that may come in the form of lower-level credentials, application logic, flowcharts, or network infrastructure maps.
Wireless Pen test
The wireless applications and services are targeted in this test. And includes features such as routers, filtering packets, encryption, decryption. This means like wired networks are pen tested, wireless interfaces also need to be tested. Wireless networks are always risky because of their remote operations. Potential attackers can hack wireless networks from anywhere, so it is critical to assess and secure wireless networks. A Wireless Penetration test is an authorized hacking attempt designed to detect and exploit vulnerabilities in security controls used by several wireless technologies, misconfigured access points, and weak security protocols.
Social Engineering Test
This is the most popular and secure method to extract confidential information and sensitive data via the internet or phone. The victims of social engineering could be the organization’s employees, or any other authorized entity present from the organization’s network.
- Physical: It is used to test applications installed at the client site.
- Remote Test: Testing the modem or similar object may provide access to connected systems and servers.
Penetration Testing Techniques
|Manual Penetration Test
The name of the test is self-explanatory! Manual Testing! Experts in this field do some vulnerabilities and risks identified through a manual scan. However, an automated test is conducted via a machine. The goal of both the tests is the same. The difference is that automated is much faster and reliable. In a manual test case, an engineer performs the task and uses various tools for testing.
|Automated Penetration Test
Since checking the vulnerabilities and risks run via machine automatically, this test is efficient and faster. Here there is no role of an engineer; instead, it can be performed by any person having less knowledge about the field. Tools for automated penetration tests are Nessus, Metasploit, OpenVAS, backtrack, etc.
Penetration Testing Vs. Vulnerability AssessmentOften there is a flap as to what is the difference between a pen test and vulnerability assessment. Though, the objective of both is to identify security flaws in networks and systems.
|A pen test is a manual process where a consultant conducts an assessment on a target to reveal the vulnerabilities by exploiting them.||In this process, threats and vulnerabilities are identified on a target using automated vulnerability scanners.|
|The primary goal is to gain unauthorized access through exploitation, which can be used to emulate a malicious hacker’s intent.||In rare cases, manual testing is conducted with additional tools to evaluate the security of applications.|
How is penetration testing done?
Stages of Pentesting
We have discussed above some of the significant benefits of pen testing. This section dives deep into the different stages of pen testing and how an organization can benefit by regularly conducting these tests and keep their IT domain protected and secure.
The first phase comprises of the planning stage. Here, all the goals and objectives of the pen testing are defined. To maintain consistency throughout the testing process, both the client and the pen tester define the objectives. The common purpose consists of:
- Increase and Improve the security of the organizational IT infrastructure.
In this phase, to move further with the testing process, the pen tester requires detailed information about the systems and network. This phase consists of the preliminary information analysis, such as IP address, Social engineering, Domain name searches/WHOIS lookups, mail addresses, usernames, Dumpster Diving. The pen tester works in gathering as much information on an organization’s weak aspects and the potential targets for exploitation.
In this step, a penetration tester uses automated tools to scan target assets for discovering vulnerabilities. These tools typically have their databases, giving the details of the latest vulnerabilities. However, tester discovers
- Network Discovery – Includes the discovery of new systems, servers, and other devices.
- Host Discovery − It determines open ports on these devices.
- Service Interrogation − It interrogates ports to discover actual services that are running on them.
4. Analyzing Information and Risks
During the analyzing phase, the tester considers the following elements –
- The goal of the penetration test.
- Risks in the existing system.
- The estimated time required for evaluating the security flaws and start the penetration testing process.
However, from the list of identified systems, the tester test only those which contain potential vulnerabilities.
5. Active Intrusion Attempts
This is the most critical step in the pen test stage, and it must be performed with the utmost care. Since it entails the potential cyber vulnerabilities identified, that possess the risks, this step must be presented when verification of potential vulnerabilities is needed. For those systems with very high integrity requirements, the potential vulnerability and risk need to be carefully considered before conducting critical clean-up procedures.
6. Final Analysis
The final analysis is the stage where the pen tester mentions all the steps performed, followed by the evaluation of each risk present in the system. The tester must ensure that the tests’ transparency is maintained, and the vulnerabilities are disclosed to the team.
The final phase is the reporting stage. The report includes details comprising the overall testing procedure conducted, analysis of the vulnerabilities and the risks involved. The report must contain the findings and detailed explanations. This will help an organization gain insights and opportunities to improve their security posture significantly. The report should portray exactly how entry points were discovered and how you can you remediate the security issues found.
The report must comprise the following sections.
- Summary of penetration testing.
- Details of each step and the information gathered during the pen-testing.
- Details of all the vulnerabilities and risks discovered.
- Details of cleaning and fixing the systems.
- Recommendations and Implementations for future security.
5 Major Benefits of
An essential practice that each organization must follow is to perform regular penetration testing of its security posture. A periodic security check, penetration tests allow finding the gaps in the security before a hacker does by exploiting vulnerabilities and providing steps for remediation.
Performing regular pen tests allows an organization to gauge what security controls are required to have the security level to its people and assets. Once risks are identified, the firm can prioritize, and can prevent malicious attacks from happening.
Proactively performing regular penetration tests helps an organization to evaluate its IT infrastructure security. They will not only help uncover the pitfalls of your security system but will also give a chance to effectively remediate any shortcomings before an actual attack occurs.
Upgrade the security posture of your organization’s IT environment is the key to maintain the maturity levels and stay competitive against other organizations in your industry. If an organization continues to stay abreast of the security standards and compliance, it lays an impression on the clients you are continuously dedicated to striving towards optimum security.
One of the leading causes of concern for most IT firms is recovering from heavy losses because of a regular data breach within the industry. Periodic penetration tests are one way to keep your security systems secured, maintain security guidelines and procedures that will help prevent the financial loss of a breach while protecting your brand and reputation.
Lastly, Pen tests help address the compliance and security obligations that are mandated by industry standards and regulations. Having the tests performed regularly helps to demonstrate due diligence helps to avoid the heavy fines that can be associated with being non-compliance.
Areas of Penetration Testing
Penetration testing is typically done in the following three areas, and what area of your business should focus on and how would they benefit the most from a penetration test.
1. Network Penetration Testing
The aim of this testing is that the physical structure of a system such as workstations, servers are tested to identify the vulnerability and risk associated with it: tester identities, security flaws in the design, implementation, or operation of an organization’s system. The devices tested can be computers, modems, or even remote access devices, etc.
2. Application Penetration Testing
The aim is to identify security issues resulting from insecure development practices in the design, coding, and publishing of the software. It exploits the efficiency of an application’s security controls by gauging vulnerability and risk.
3. Wireless Penetration Testing
The aim of this test is that they focus on Information security Measures Placed in Wi-Fi Networks and analyses the Weakness, technical flows, and Critical wireless Vulnerabilities present.
Penetration Testing Tools and Technologies
Penetration testing tools exploit the vulnerabilities within the network, using specific tools to identify gaps and misconfiguration. The best way to perform penetration testing is to conduct a series of regular and repeatable tests and to work through all the different application vulnerabilities.
What are the best penetration testing tools?
Below are the six best Pentesting tools.
It is the most widely used pen testing tool. It is useful for checking security and identifying flaws and setting up a defense.
This is a port scanner. It scans the systems and networks for vulnerabilities that are linked to open ports.
John the Ripper
Pen testers use this tool to launch attacks to crack a password weakness in systems or databases.
This application scans open ports, weak passwords, and misconfiguration errors. Usually, Nessus is used for scanning IP addresses and websites.
This tool is a network analyzer/network sniffer/network protocol analyzer that assesses network traffic vulnerabilities at different levels.
Penetration Testing Process
- Pen test services go beyond technical vulnerability assessments. Inspect the configurations of existing applications, operating systems, servers, firewalls, and other components are vital aspects of protecting against threats.
- Consequent to the completion of the penetration testing process, professionals conclude the results in a comprehensive report. The report comprises tools and techniques used while uncovering the weak points of your applications.
- The testing process ensures that the proposed implementations met are at par with compliance, standard guidelines, and frameworks.
Penetration Testing Approach
- A broad range of vulnerability scans and simulated attacks are performed using various methodologies and tools. To ensure the tests are conducted without affecting the business continuity, and the agreed timeline and scope bound, all the tests are as per the policy and service agreement.
- The most vital part of any analysis or test is the documentation. So, to ensure these attacks, applications, and potential weaknesses are documented.
- The key to an efficient pen testing is to have the best security personnel who can design a comprehensive plan, from implementation to remediation.
- Determine and scan the systems, network components, and wireless connection points
Five Reasons Why You Need a
Pen Test in Your Organization
Stay abreast, Stay One-step ahead, before the attacker spots the vulnerable areas of the system. Below are five reasons a pen test is a mandate for an organization.
|1||Distinguish the present security defines mechanism and assess if the systems are competent enough to handle any precipitate malicious attacks.|
|2||Periodic system upgrades ensure avoiding security flaws in the network. It is essential to frequently monitor the hardware, software, and applications of an organization.|
|3||Revise and Re-structure security policies, processes, and technologies to avoid and mitigate different business risks and issues.|
|4||Adhering to regulatory standards such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and GLBA avoids enormous fines for being non-compliance.|
|5||Penetration testing helps avoid costly security breaches that put your organization’s reputation and customers’ confidence at stake.|
Penetration testing helps to reduce the threats and risks that your business may face. However, if competent and robust, the security practices adopted can protect your business. A risk-based approach towards cybersecurity addresses the prioritized threats and review your business risk exposure continuously.
Pen testers are security specialists who attempt to breach computers and network security systems. They ensure that those without authorization cannot have access to an organization’s data. And do they, they hack into networks to identify potential vulnerabilities in the system. The aim is to automate the hacking process, but testers can also manually make attempts to breach security.
A pen tester should have hacking experience and possess skills in advanced computer skills, scripting, and programming, report writing, data analytics, information security.
The types of pen testing are Network pen tests, Wireless pen tests, physical pen tests. The Network pen test comprises of Black, white, and grey box. Wireless consists of an application security pen test, and a physical pen test consists of remote and physical.