We're living in the digital era, and we're making incredible progress each year. Unfortunately, so are cybercriminals. When it comes to cybersecurity, penetration testing is the go-to. The reason why it works so well is that an ethical hacker behaves just like a real hacker would. This way you get to know how your system could be actually targeted one day, and of course, prevent it from happening. In this article, we will discuss what penetration testing is, the different types of penetration testing, why it is important, and more.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is a way of security testing often done to test how well systems stand against cyberattacks. It is the process of simulating a malicious attack on a computer system or network infrastructure to identify security weaknesses. Pentesters use a variety of methods to attempt to break into systems, including exploiting known software vulnerabilities, social engineering techniques, and password cracking.
What Are the Different Approaches to Penetration Testing?
There are three main approaches to penetration testing:
Black-box testing: The tester is given no information about the target environment here. They first need to research enough before they can begin testing. This is closer to how real-world cyber criminals would discover information about the system before attacking it.
White-box testing: The tester has full knowledge of the target environment and can therefore use this information to their advantage. This is more common in internal pentests where testers are trying to find vulnerabilities within the company's systems.
Grey-box testing: A mix of black- and white-box testing, grey-box testers start with limited knowledge about the system before learning more as they go along.
Different Types of Penetration Testing:
1) Network Penetration Testing:
Network Penetration Testing is the process of identifying vulnerabilities in a network infrastructure. Testers will attempt to exploit weaknesses in routers, firewalls, and other network devices.
- External Network Pentesting: This is conducted from outside the network boundary. Testers are trying to identify vulnerabilities that an attacker may find remotely and use them to get unauthorised access into the network.
- Internal Network Pentesting: This is conducted from inside the network. Testers are trying to identify vulnerabilities that would allow an attacker to gain access to sensitive data or systems from within the network.
- Wireless Network Penetration Testing: This type of testing is conducted on wireless networks. Testers are trying to identify vulnerabilities that would allow an attacker to gain access to the network or data transmitted over the network.
- Network Protocol Analysis: This type of testing is used to identify vulnerabilities in network protocols. Testers will attempt to exploit loopholes in the network's data transmission mechanism.
- Denial of Service (DoS) Testing: This type of testing is used to identify vulnerabilities in the network that could be exploited to launch a Denial of Service attack.
- Network Vulnerability Scanning: This type of testing is used to identify vulnerabilities in the network such as open ports, weak passwords, and unpatched software.
2) Web Application Pentesting:
Web application pentesting is another important type of penetration testing. Because several businesses rely on their website to reach out to their customers. However, most of these websites were never developed with security in mind, just marketing. Testers will attempt to exploit weaknesses in websites and web applications. Some common web application vulnerabilities are:
- SQL Injection
- Command Injection
- Session Hijacking
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
- Insufficient Authorization and Authentication
- Misconfigured Web Servers
- Incorrect Access Control Measures
- Unprotected access points
- Accepting Malware via File Uploads
3) Social Engineering:
Social engineering is the process of manipulating people into revealing sensitive information or performing actions that would not normally be done. Testers will use a variety of methods to try and trick people into revealing information or taking actions that would compromise the security of the system. Some common social engineering techniques are:
- Quid pro quo
Social engineering is often used in conjunction with other forms of penetration testing to increase the chances of success.
4) Physical Security Pentesting:
This is sometimes not seen as a type of penetration testing as it deals with physical security. Testers will attempt to gain access to restricted areas, bypass security controls, and steal information or equipment.
Some common physical security vulnerabilities are:
- Lack of Physical Security Control
- Poorly Designed Security Controls
- Incorrect Placement of Security Controls
- Lack of Security Awareness
- Unprotected Equipment
- Poorly Protected Data
- Incorrect Configuration of Security Controls
Physical security pentesting is often used in conjunction with other forms of penetration testing as simply checking for points of physical breaches are not enough especially when your systems are functioning online.
5) Mobile App Pentesting:
Mobile app pentesting is the process of identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile apps. Testers will attempt to gain access to sensitive data, bypass security controls, and take control of the device.
Some common mobile app vulnerabilities are:
- Insecure Data Storage
- Unencrypted Data Transmission
- Poor Authentication and Authorization
- Incorrect Functionality
- Security Misconfigurations in Settings
6) Cloud Pentesting:
Cloud pentesting is the process of identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in cloud-based systems. Testers will attempt to take down the cloud network, gain access to sensitive data, and take control of the systems.
Some common cloud security vulnerabilities are:
- Insecure Data Storage
- Lack of Proper Authorization
- Insecure Communication
- Poorly Configured Security Controls
Cloud pentesting is an important aspect of security and should be included in any comprehensive security program or in an applications development life cycle.
7) IoT Pentesting:
IoT has been gaining popularity in the past few years and with that, there has been an increase in the number of devices being connected to the internet. This makes it a prime target for attackers. Testers will attempt to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices based on the type of device or application used by it.
Stages of Penetration Testing:
There are five stages to a successful pentest:
- Intelligence gathering: In this stage, the tester will gather as much information about the target system as possible. This includes identifying the systems that are in scope for testing, gathering information about the network topology, and identifying any potential vulnerabilities.
- Vulnerability assessment: In this stage, the tester will use various tools to scan the network for open ports and services. They will also try to identify any user accounts that are present on the system.
- Exploitation: In this stage, the tester will attempt to exploit any vulnerabilities that they have identified to gain access to the target system.
- Post-exploitation: Once the tester has gained access to the system, they will need to maintain their access so they can continue their assessment. This can be done by installing backdoors or using other methods.
- Reporting: Once the pentest is completed, the tester will need to produce a pentest report documenting their findings. This report can be used by the organization to fix any vulnerabilities that were found and improve its security posture.
Why Is Penetration Testing Important?
Penetration testing is an important part of any security program as it allows you to correct flaws in your system, network, or application early on before something bad happens. It can be used to test the security posture of an organization and measure how well its security controls are working. Pentesting can also help organizations meet regulatory requirements and compliance standards.
Supercharge Your AWeber Account
Take Your Email Marketing To The Next Level With These Powerful Tools
How To Perform Penetration Testing
There are various ways in which you can perform a pentest:
This involves using various tools and methods to attempt to exploit vulnerabilities manually.
This involves using automated tools to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. These tools can be used to scan networks for open ports and services, identify vulnerable systems, and automatically exploit them.
Or you can incorporate both methods into your penetration testing strategy. This will allow you to speed up the process by using automated tools as well as help you cover the loopholes that were previously missed when you do manual testing. This is by far the best approach as it gives you a better view of the target system's security measures.
Penetration testing is an essential component of any security program, and it should be considered throughout an application's development lifecycle. It allows organisations to find and fix security flaws before they are taken advantage of. There are various ways in which you can perform a pentest, but the most common approach is using a combination of manual and automated techniques. This will provide you with a more holistic perspective of the target system's security.
Author Bio: Ankit Pahuja
Ankit Pahuja is the Marketing Lead & Evangelist at Astra Security. Ever since his adulthood (literally, he was 20 years old), he began finding vulnerabilities in websites & network infrastructures. Starting his professional career as a software engineer at one of the unicorns enables him in bringing "engineering in marketing" to reality. Working actively in the cybersecurity space for more than 2 years makes him the perfect T-shaped marketing professional. Ankit is an avid speaker in the security space and has delivered various talks in top companies, early-age startups, and online events. You can connect him on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ankit-pahuja/