Even in the most thoughtful and sophisticated IT system’s defenses, a good hacker will find a gap in which to perform his attack. Those gaps are usually called vulnerabilities, and they are considered security weaknesses. To find and fix such security gaps, security professionals conduct different procedures to strengthen your system’s defense. And one of the most useful methods to do that is penetration testing.
Keep reading this article to understand what penetration testing is when you need to apply it, and what benefits it can bring.
So what is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is a unique process conducted to identify security weaknesses of a specific IT environment. During penetration testing, a professional IT specialist will perform something called ethical hacking. It is a simulated attack on your system’s security applied by a penetration tester to expose potential vulnerabilities. The purpose of penetration testing is to evaluate the network security so you can remediate its weak spots based on acquired knowledge.
You can discover exploitable vulnerabilities in any area of your IT environment. Those weak spots include applications, network infrastructure, personal security, hardware/software flaws, and other areas.
How necessary are penetration tests?
Nobody should underestimate the importance of penetration testing. Every successful company that utilizes some sort of digital environment with potential risks conducts penetration testing regularly. Even if you are a casual user who’s system has any chance of a cyber attack can use this procedure for your data safety.
So the main reasons why pen-testing important are:
- to find security flaws in your system
- to understand how useful the current security controls
- to make sure that your system has no data breaches
- to test the security features of the new software
- to know what kind of security measures you should apply
Different types of pen test
It is crucial to understand what kinds of pen testing exist to target the most critical systems. Luckily, ethical hackers have developed different types of penetration testing to expose security risks in different specific areas of your system. So every user should be familiar with the following types before conducting pen tests.
Internal test and External test
With the help of these types of penetration testing, you will be able to identify threats that might come both from inside and outside of your digital infrastructure.
An external penetration test will uncover the chances of being attacked from outside your system. Ethical hackers will mimic an attack that intends to steal data using methods like footprinting, passwords strength checking, checking for data breaches, and IDS/IPS testing.
Internal testing is usually used as the second, more proficient method after the external one. It aims at identifying threats from inside your system by checking your access points, Wi-Fi, computer systems, firewalls, and even employees.
Wireless networks penetration testing
A wireless penetration test is developed to thoroughly examine wireless connections between your internal devices. Those devices are usually laptops, personal computers, mobile devices, and other gadgets.
This type of penetration testing is helpful for big companies that utilize many devices connected to one wireless network. Such networks are usually the most vulnerable and may have many exploitable gaps. After completing this pen test, you will know how effective your wireless security programs are and entirely understand the risk under your access points.
Blind testing and Double-blind testing
The methodology of this pen testing type implies ethical hacking with minor information about its target. Therefore, the only information given to the pen tester before starting a pen-testing process is a company’s name.
The primary purpose of this pen testing method is to give a security team a real-time hacker attack experience to be ready for the real one in the future. Blind testing can be pretty expensive, as it takes a considerable amount of time to perform.
In the double-blind testing, only a few people among all the organization members are notified before a mimicked attack. Thus employees will face an unexpected hacker attack. So this process helps to understand how well the security team can handle the security issues.
Web apps testing
If you need to check how good is web application security, then this type of pen testing is for you. Pen testers will gather information about web applications’ security by conducting specific cyberattacks on your web application. After this process, you will be able to apply new effective security measures.
This type of pen testing is getting more attention in our days due to the rapid development of the applications market. It is not a secret that apps demand excellent information security, as they contain lots of sensitive data.
Physical threats testing
This type of penetration testing allows simulating real-world attacks on your security systems. Pen testers will try to gain physical access to your digital system from real physical locations. These methods include physical invasion into real places like security rooms or attempts to gain access to devices by hacking or stealing them.
Physical penetration testing intends to expose the material weaknesses of your organization. This will allow you to close gaps in your security system by fixing detected vulnerabilities.
How penetration testing is done. Step by step
It is essential to thoughtfully approach penetration tests to get the most value out of this procedure. There are some basic steps that you should go through before hiring penetration testers. They are the following:
- Make a plan. You need to make sure that you know your system’s potential risks and weaknesses. Outline goals that you set before starting any penetration tests, and based on them, decide on types of penetration tests.
- System scanning. At this stage, pen testers scan your digital system for exploitable weaknesses. Ethical hackers will use those weaknesses in the subsequent phases of the process, so the more they find, the better.
- Gaining access to the system. When all the security vulnerabilities are found, penetration testers will mimic a hacker attack and try to exploit them by achieving and maintaining access for as long as possible. While the ethical hackers hold their positions, the security team will try their best to get the intruders off their system.
- Analysis. At this stage, penetration testers give their report to the client, which will outline all the major security vulnerabilities. The report will also contain info about strong security points, an assessment of the security posture, and tools to remediate vulnerabilities.
Penetration Testing vs. Vulnerability assessment
Both penetration tests and vulnerability assessments are security testing procedures developed to identify and patch detected vulnerabilities. But the way they achieve those targets is slightly different.
Vulnerability assessments use solely automated tools to spot security weaknesses in your system. At the same time, penetration tests utilize an actual human that simulates a hacker attack by different methods. Even though automated scripts can be a part of pen-testing tools, it only assists ethical hackers.
To achieve the highest efficiency in security testing, we recommend combining both methods.
How often should you conduct pen testing?
Penetration tests are an essential part of a healthy digital environment. Let’s consider that organizations continuously update/change their software and hardware. Those changes bring to the table many new vulnerable spots in your system that criminals can exploit. So the obvious solution to that is to conduct pen testing regularly, at least once in a few years. This will guarantee your IT ecosystem a stronger defense and prevent unwanted attacks.
With every next day, a cyber threat only grows due to sophisticated attack schemes. Anybody who has valuable data can fall victim to the hackers, regardless of how much money hackers can get from you. That is why penetration tests have become a popular and efficient way to protect their data and money. Don’t be the part of the users who has their data uncovered. Use penetration testing tools, identify security vulnerabilities, and use suggested tools to close those gaps. Make your system safe!
Frequently Asked Questions
A pen test is conducted to understand where are the flaws in your digital system.
hen you know what are the weak spots in your system, you can easily work them out. So it will result in the prevention of hacker attacks.
For big companies, with large budgets, it is highly recommended. Almost every serious business owner cares for his security and conducts a pen test.