What is Penetration Testing?

Tony MasonPenetration Testing

Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, is a method of evaluating a computer system, network, or web application to identify potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber attackers. This process involves simulating real-world cyber attacks to uncover potential weaknesses in a system’s security defenses. Penetration testing aims to assess the security posture of an organisation’s IT infrastructure and provide recommendations for improving security measures. It helps organisations better understand their overall security posture and identify any potential vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious actors. This proactive approach to security testing is essential in today’s digital landscape, where cyber threats are constantly evolving. Also businesses need to be vigilant in safeguarding their sensitive data and systems.

Types of TestingĀ 

Penetration testing involves simulating different attack scenarios to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in a system.

Black box testing is carried out with no prior knowledge of the system, simulating an external attacker. This type of testing helps in assessing the real-world security posture of an organisation.

White box testing, on the other hand, involves full knowledge and access to the system, often simulating an insider threat. This type of testing is useful for assessing internal security controls and the effectiveness of the organisation’s defenses.

Grey box testing falls between the two, with partial knowledge and access to the system. It simulates an attacker with limited knowledge of the internal workings of the system. The purpose of each type of testing is to assess the security posture of the organisation in different attack scenarios.

Black box testing evaluates the effectiveness of external defenses.

White box testing assesses internal security controls.

Grey box testing offers a balanced assessment of both.

Internal Network Penetration Testing

Internal network penetration testing involves simulating an attack on the organisation’s internal network. It aims to identify potential exploits, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations that could lead to unauthorised access, data leaks, or other security breaches.

The testing process focuses on identifying potential exploits from both authenticated and non-authenticated user perspectives. This includes the exploitation of weak or default passwords, inadequate access controls, and privilege escalation. Vulnerability assessments identify and prioritise security weaknesses in accessible systems. Such as unpatched software, outdated protocols, and insecure network services.

Checks for misconfigurations are also performed to identify potential risks related to insecure network configurations, weak encryption, and improper access controls. Common exploits found in internal network tests may include leveraging unpatched software vulnerabilities, exploiting weak or default passwords, and bypassing inadequate access controls. Common misconfigurations that lead to data leaks may include insecure file permissions, unsecured network services, and inadequate data encryption.

External Network Penetration Testing

External network penetration testing involves several steps to identify vulnerabilities in the defined external infrastructure.

Firstly, assess the external network architecture to identify potential entry points for attackers. This includes scanning for open ports and services, identifying network devices, and mapping the external network.

Then, focus on checking the authentication processes. This involves testing weak or default credentials, verifying the strength of password policies, and assessing the effectiveness of multi-factor authentication.

Verify secure data transfer by analysing the encryption protocols used for transmitting sensitive information. This includes evaluating the configurations of SSL/TLS protocols and checking for potential weaknesses in data transfer processes.

Finally, check for misconfigurations in the external network infrastructure. This includes reviewing firewall rules, examining the configuration of network devices for security flaws, and ensuring that security controls are properly implemented.

Throughout the process, document all identified vulnerabilities and prioritise them based on severity to provide recommendations for remediation. The ultimate goal of external network penetration testing is to identify and address potential security risks before they can be exploited by malicious actors.

What Happens in the Aftermath of a Pentest?

Following a pen test, there are several important steps that are typically taken in the aftermath of the test.

These include analysing the results, identifying vulnerabilities, prioritising and addressing any critical issues that were uncovered. Followed by making necessary changes to the system or network to strengthen security. As well as potentially retesting to ensure that the vulnerabilities have been successfully patched. The aftermath of a pen test also often involves reporting the findings to relevant stakeholders. This is likely to include IT teams or management, and making recommendations for future security improvements. Overall, the aftermath of a pen test is a crucial phase in the process of strengthening the security of a network or system. Plus ensuring that vulnerabilities are effectively addressed.