The best way to understand your defenses is to attack them in a controlled environment. During penetration testing, you can gain an understanding of your defenses and address any existing gaps that may allow external penetration.
What is Penetration Testing?
Methodically hacking into your system and network to identify and expose as many vulnerabilities as possible is called penetration testing. These tests are performed by ethical hackers and security researchers with the client’s full knowledge and permission.
In penetration testing, internal and external attacks are performed on servers, intranets, websites, wireless networks, mobile devices, network devices, and other points of entry (on-site or remotely). As a result of hacking your assets, pen testers produce reports about their findings and, in some cases, give remediation recommendations.
Penetration Testing Types
There are a variety of penetration testing types available to uncover vulnerabilities across key areas of your IT infrastructure, such as:
Web App Test: Identifying software and application security vulnerabilities
Network Test: Exploring vulnerabilities within the network and all devices connected to it
wireless Security Test: identifies insecure holes and hotspots in your Wi-Fi network and protects you from attacks such as business email compromise.
The Social Engineering Test: checks if your employees are following your antiphishing training and procedures.
Infrastructure Test: a vulnerability assessment
IoT Pen Tests: Protecting Global User Data
PCI Pen Test: an assessment of your system’s technical and operational components for compliance with PCI data security standards.
The Steps of Penetration Testing
Penetration testing consists of five steps. Here are the steps involved in penetration testing:
- Performing Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the first phase of penetration testing. During the testing process, the tester collects as much information about the target system as possible, such as network topology, operating systems, applications, and user accounts. The tester must gather as much data as possible so that he or she can plan an effective attack strategy.
- Performing a Scan
This phase of penetration testing involves identifying open ports and checking network traffic on the target system using various tools. Penetration testers should identify as many open ports as possible for the next penetration test phase since open ports are potential entry points for attackers.
- Assessment of Vulnerability
During vulnerability assessment, the tester uses all the information gathered during the reconnaissance and scanning phases to identify potential vulnerabilities. In the same way as scanning, vulnerability assessment is a useful tool on its own, but it is more powerful when combined with the other phases of penetration testing.
A penetration tester uses a tool such as Metasploit to emulate real-world attacks to gain access to the target system and exploit the vulnerabilities identified. Penetration testers should be careful not to compromise or damage the system during penetration testing, even though crashes are rare.
- Providing reports
During this final penetration testing phase, a report will be generated that will detail any vulnerabilities found in the system to improve the organization’s security posture.
Benefits of Penetration Testing
- IT Infrastructure Analysis
Pen tests provide an in-depth examination of your IT infrastructure and your ability to defend your applications, systems, networks, endpoints, and users from external and internal attacks to disrupt and steal data.
- Financial Protection
You can suffer debilitating financial loss as a result of security flaws and disruptions in the performance of your network, applications, and services. This could result in unanticipated penalties and fines, as well as damage to your reputation and customer loyalty.
If you are making changes to your network infrastructure, you should conduct a pen test and have highly qualified experts do it for you. Testing for penetration vulnerabilities in your internet-connected systems will help hackers compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your data and network.
- Protects Client Data
Your company, clients, vendors, and partners can all suffer from a security breach. By scheduling penetration tests regularly and taking the necessary precautions and actions to ensure data and system security, you build trust and confidence.
- Protects the Reputation of the Company
A single security breach can change all your hard work overnight. Your reputation and confidence can be significantly damaged, no matter how costly the breach is or how quickly you resolve it.
Repairing these destructive effects could take years and cost you a lot of money. Averting such outcomes can be achieved by scheduling regular penetration tests and taking the right mitigation steps.
- Regulating and Certifying Security
As part of their compliance and auditing responsibilities, IT departments oversee procedures such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, GLBA, and SARBANES-OXLEY and report penetration testing needs specifying in PCI DSS or NIST/FISMA. You can avoid substantial penalties for non-compliance by keeping complete records of your penned tests. Maintaining security controls also allows you to demonstrate ongoing due diligence.