Types of penetration testing
A Penetration Test (Pentest) is a simulated cyber-attack carried out by cyber security professionals against your “systems”
These could be network, infrastructure, web application, mobile application, networking devices, or even IoT as examples, which are all checked for exploitable vulnerabilities.
The result of this attack shows you where and how a malicious attacker might exploit your systems. The attendant report allows you to mitigate any vulnerabilities or weaknesses before a real attack occurs.
The ideal phases involved as part of a pen test are:
- Scoping – The important first step of a Pentest exercise is to define a valid scope. This will outline what is to be Pentested, what methods would be used and what goals would be achieved. You work closely with your pentest team to outline the expectations, legal implications, objectives, and goals in this phase.
- Reconnaissance – This phase involves obtaining as much information about the client using open source intelligence.
- Vulnerability Identification – Following your explicit approval to assess your systems, the vulnerability identification phase is initiated. This involves scanning tools to find open ports, live systems, internet footprint by actively reviewing the authorised ranges.
- Exploitation – Depending on what has been agreed, vulnerabilities identified in the phase above would be exploited to gain a foothold on your network. The aim is to gain privileged access to determine the largest damage a threat actor could enact.
- Post-Exploitation – This phase allows the Pentest consultant to gather details about the privilege of access gained, start the clean-up process, show you the entire Pentest cycle and strike off the goals achieved.
- Reporting – The documentation phase is a crucial step. You will receive a final report detailing vulnerabilities identified, your business risk rating, exploit attempts, and roadmap to mitigate the issues identified.
- Re-Testing – Once you have remediated the vulnerabilities, a retest can be undertaken. This ensures the fixes have not opened up any new vulnerabilities within your systems and the remedial work has indeed been successful.
A Pentest can be categorised into the following types:
- Whitebox testing – This allows Pentest consultants to use any source code, network configuration and all relevant documentation for the systems under scope. These are then reviewed to decide likely vulnerabilities which are then confirmed from the Pentest exercise.
- Blackbox testing – The consultants mimic the actions of a malicious threat actor who has absolutely no additional knowledge (other than publicly available information) regarding the systems under test. This test reveals weaknesses in your systems that are easy to breach given zero previous advantage.
- Grey box testing – This type of testing is much more detailed than a black-box test. The actions are recreated of a threat actor who has some degree of knowledge of your internal systems. This could include different levels of credentialed access as an example.
The importance of Pentesting
Conducting a Pentesting exercise is important for every organisation because:
- It helps to Identify vulnerabilities hidden in client systems with the help of a third-party expert.
- Remediation expenses are avoided by identifying vulnerabilities early in applications/systems production life cycle.
- Using the results of a Pentest, establishes a thorough and reliable security measure.
- Being proactive with security, allows you to protect companies’ data assets and safeguard your reputation.
- Prioritising and tackling cyber risks based on their exploitability and impact, allows effective use of resources within your company.
- It ensures that the Board/Management are informed about your organisation’s risk level.
Cyber-crime is booming; make sure that your cyber defences are as strong as they can be. A Pentest gives you a completely new perspective on your network, applications, and data security.
Once you have that perspective, you should know how well you are prepared for an attack and how quickly could you recover from that attack.
Is a Pentest expensive? Well, it’s less expensive than suffering a data breach.
Should you be doing it? Definitely!
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