A cybersecurity priority is to eliminate weak points in systems and applications. Companies use a variety of techniques to find software flaws, but no testing method. It provides a more realistic and comprehensive analysis than a penetration test.
This blog summarizes penetration testing. Continue reading to learn how penetration testing works and how businesses use it to avoid costly and damaging breaches.
Penetration testing (or pen testing) is a simulation of a cyberattack that looks for security flaws in a computer system, network, or application. These tests rely on a combination of tools and techniques that real hackers would use to breach a company. White hat attacks and ethical hacking are two other terms for penetration testing.
To simulate an attack, pen testers typically use a combination of automation testing tools and manual practices. Penetration testers also use tools to scan systems and analyze results. A good penetration testing tool should be able to:
Be simple to set up and use.
Be quick when scanning the system.
Sort weaknesses by severity.
Automate the verification of flaws.
Verify previous exploits.
Reports and logs should be detailed.
Penetration testing (or Pen testing) can involve attempting to breach many application systems (for example, application programming interfaces (APIs), frontend/backend servers) in order to discover vulnerabilities such as unsanitized inputs that are vulnerable to code injection attacks.
The penetration test results can fine-tune your WAF security policies and patch detected vulnerabilities. Pen testing is a security exercise in which a cyber-security expert attempts to discover and exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system. The goal of this simulated attack is to identify any weak points in a system's defenses that attackers could exploit.
This is analogous to a bank hiring someone to disguise themselves as burglars in order to break into their building and gain access to the vault. If the 'burglar' breaks into the bank or vault, the bank will gain valuable information about how to tighten security measures.
A pen test's main goal is to identify security flaws in operating systems, services, applications, configurations, and user behavior. This type of testing allows a team to learn:
Vulnerabilities and security flaws in the system
Inadequate adherence to data privacy and security regulations (PCI, HIPAA, GDPR, etc.)
There is a general lack of security awareness on the team.
Protocol flaws in threat identification
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There are primarily 5 stages of Penetration Testing :
Stages of Penetration Testing
The first stage entails defining a test's scope and goals, as well as the systems to be addressed and the testing methods to be used. Getting intelligence (e.g., network and domain names, mail server) to better understand how a target operates and potential vulnerabilities.
The following step is to determine how the target application will react to various intrusion attempts. This is usually done with:
This stage employs web application attacks such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and backdoors to identify vulnerabilities in a target. To understand the damage that these vulnerabilities can cause, testers attempt to exploit them by escalating privileges, stealing data, intercepting traffic, and so on.
The goal of this stage is to determine whether the vulnerability can be exploited to maintain a persistent presence in the exploited system long enough for a bad actor to gain in-depth access. The goal is to mimic advanced persistent threats, which can stay in a system for months and steal an organization's most sensitive data.
The penetration test results are then compiled into a report that includes:
Security personnel use this data to help configure an enterprise's WAF settings and other application security solutions in order to patch vulnerabilities and protect against future attacks.
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Overall, penetration tests are classified into three types. Black-box, gray-box, and white-box assessments are the three types of penetration testing. Let's inspect each of them.
Consider a black-box assessment to be the first penetration test. In this type of test, the hacker is not given any information about the target system's internal workings or architecture. They are then tasked with breaking into the system using only outsider knowledge.
In a black-box test, an ethical hacker or penetration tester is placed in the shoes of an average hacker with the goal of mapping the target network using only their own observations and expertise.
The first step, or level, of penetration testing. A black-box assessment's primary goal is to identify any easily exploitable vulnerabilities. It is the initial step, or level, of penetration testing.
A gray-box assessment simulates an attack by a hacker who is familiar with the internal security system. Gray-box testers frequently assume the role of someone with system access and privileges. They are given basic information about the system's complexities, architecture, documentation, and design.
A gray-box test provides a more efficient and targeted assessment of a network's security than a black-box test. A hacker spends a lot of time in black-box tests just looking for vulnerabilities.
Other terms for white-box testing include "logic-driven testing," "auxiliary testing," "open-box testing," and "clear-box testing." It's the inverse of black-box testing in that hackers have complete access to all source code and architecture documentation.
It is a time-consuming type of testing because the pen tester must sort through a large amount of data to find weak points and vulnerabilities. While white-box testing takes time, it is also the most thorough form of penetration testing.
It is widely regarded as the best type of penetration testing because it identifies both external and internal vulnerabilities rather than just one or the other. White-box penetration testers have knowledge comparable to that of a developer.
Network testing is the most common type of penetration testing. Following information gathering and vulnerability assessments by the penetration tester, the pen tester conducts a series of network assessments. Internal and external network exploitation tests can be carried out to investigate various aspects of an organization's security.
Network testing entails:
Security flaws are discovered in web-based applications. All components, including Silverlight, ActiveX, and Java applets, as well as APIs, have been tested. This test takes longer to complete because it is more difficult than a network test. As a result, it is critical that the Web application is built correctly and thoroughly.
Applications for exploitation include:
Web application languages such as Java,.NET, PHP, as well as APIs, connections such as Oracle, XML, MySQL, various Frameworks, Systems such as SAP, Financial systems, CRM systems, Logistics, HR systems, and Mobile applications.
To conduct a successful penetration test, meticulous and detailed planning is required. Penetration testing is conducted in seven stages:
Before even planning a test, you and your security provider must discuss topics such as the test, budget, objectives, and so on. Without these, there will be no clear direction for the test, resulting in a lot of wasted effort.
Before beginning the pen test, the tester will seek all publicly available information about the system and anything else that could aid in breaking in. These would aid in the development of a strategy and reveal potential targets.
Your application is checked for security vulnerabilities at this stage by analyzing your security infrastructure and configuration. The tester looks for any openings or security gaps that could be exploited to gain access to the system.
Once the tester is equipped with a knowledge of the system's vulnerabilities, they will begin exploiting them. This will aid in determining the nature of the security gaps as well as the effort required to exploit them.
The main goal of a pen test is to simulate a real-world attack in which attackers cause real damage after exploiting system security flaws. As a result, once the tester has gained access to the system, they will use every available means to increase their privileges.
Once an attacker gains access to a system, they attempt to maintain a channel for further exploitation via backdoors and rootkits. Testers do the same thing. They install malware and other programs to keep the system infected and to see if the application detects and removes these programs.
Everything done during this pen testing is meticulously documented, along with steps and suggestions for addressing security flaws. Because the nature of the report is highly sensitive, it is delivered to allow personnel in a secure manner. To help executives and technical teams understand the report, testers frequently meet and debrief with them.
Gathering data and information for planning their simulated attack. Following that, the emphasis shifts to gaining and maintaining access to the target system, which causes a diverse set of tools.
Attack tools include software designed to perform brute-force attacks or SQL injections. There is also pen testing hardware, such as small inconspicuous boxes that can be plugged into a network computer to provide the hacker with remote access to that network.
An ethical hacker may employ social engineering techniques to identify vulnerabilities. For example, they could send phishing emails to company employees or even pose as delivery people to gain physical access to the building.
The hacker completes the test by erasing any embedded hardware and doing everything possible to avoid detection and leave the target system exactly as they found it.
In a nutshell, penetration testing is a complex and highly specialized discipline. It is also a critical practice for a company's security. We live in a digital age in which more and more data is being stored online daily.
As more sensitive data becomes available, the number of cybercriminals and cyberattacks grows. This means that the demand for penetration testers will only increase in the coming years.
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