Penetration testing (often shortened to pen testing) is the practice of attempting to find security flaws in a computer system or network. It refers to “penetrating” the outer layer of a target (for example, by guessing a password or exploiting an operating system bug) so as to assess and/or obtain more internal access.
Penetration testing has some similarity with hacking, but different motivations: penetration tests are usually authorized by the owner of the system being tested, unlike many intruders who carry out attacks on systems without authorization.
Pen testers, also known as security professionals, are generally not trying to steal sensitive data or cause damage—in most cases they want to become authenticated users so that end-user vulnerabilities and security weaknesses can be found and fixed appropriately
Tell me the primary purpose of penetration testing?
The primary purpose of penetration testing is to find vulnerabilities in a system or in network security. Some other names for it are pen testing and ethical hacking. The pen testing is done by someone that has the authorization by the owner of the system being tested as opposed to someone who hacks into systems without permission. By carrying out a specific test, the penetration tester is able to find weaknesses in existing systems. Pen tests can be carried out internally to the organization or externally by an outside firm. However, most companies prefer outsourcing this kind of work since it gives them more time to concentrate on their core business and because they do not have enough resources or staff with technical skills.
Why is Pen Testing Important?
Pen testing is important for two main reasons. One, it identifies vulnerabilities with a system or network that a hacker can use and potentially exploit. Two, it gives the business owners insight on their present security and helps them know what needs to be done to make sure they have the best “defense.”
Penetration testing is often shortened to pen testing but has more similarity with hacking than you may realize. Pen testers are quite different than intruders because they are authorized by the owners of a system being tested instead of breaking into systems without any permission whatsoever. The primary purpose of penetration testing is normally to find security vulnerabilities in a system or network so that these problems can be fixed appropriately and there are no more future issues within the business’s faults.
Who does pen tests?
A pen test is performed by a skilled white hat hacker who’s tasked with identifying weaknesses in your system or network.
The primary purposes of penetration tests are to identify vulnerabilities with a system or network as well as giving insight on their present security and to help them recognize what needs to be done in order for them have the best “defense.” A pen test is normally performed by skilled outside hackers that know how to find vulnerabilities within a system, they’re called white hat hackers. The reason someone might hire these professionals is so that they can fix any security vulnerabilities in the company’s system before someone else takes advantage of it.
How does Pen Testing help with compliance?
Penetration testing is an important part of any cybersecurity strategy. It helps determine if your organization can withstand a cyberattack because it offers insight into your current network’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential vulnerabilities. Without pen testing, companies may find themselves in violation of data security regulations (PCI DSS, for example) or other corporate governance rules that are designed to prevent cyberattacks from occurring in the first place.
Pen tests are usually performed on-site so businesses can see their detailed report before spending time dissecting it with the consultant offline
List the benefits of penetration testing?
Standard benefits of penetration testing include:
– Find vulnerabilities in a system or network by finding security weaknesses
– Ensure the safety of your company’s sensitive data
– Protect against cyberattacks that could happen without detection
How do I know if my system is tested properly ?
You can check for proper penetration testing by looking at the report of results from the test. If a website or system has been recently tested and there are successful vulnerabilities reported, then it may suggest that the quality of the penetration testing was not high enough or that they didn’t follow some standards of security required. The items found in the vulnerability report should be directly related to what was discovered during the pen test. It is important that any issues raised have workarounds you can implement quickly without a loss of functionality, otherwise it’s not helpful in building your defense against an attack. Some other things you could look for in a report are:
Strategy. In the strategy section of a penetration testing report, you can get an idea of how your company and system is going to be tested by looking at their process and purpose for performing the test in the first place. You should see evidence that they have done homework on your organization. Ways to know if it’s solid: They consider perimeter security (firewalls, etc.), physical security (to prevent bad actors from the ability to gain physical access), processes and procedures, activity monitoring capability, architecture types, web applications vulnerabilities such as malformed inputs and SQL injections, network traffic anomalies such as DNS spoofing attacks or ARP cache poisoning attacks, wireless issues like man-in-the-middle or using rogue access points that piggyback off others’, remote access, and more.
They need to consider everything from the point of entry into your premises to the actual system that they’re attempting to test. If you have any special processes or procedures such as logging in, encryption key management, etc., it should be noted within their strategy. The main idea is that they want to try every possible way to get through your organization’s defenses so that they can gain access to your systems and network in a realistic manner.
How do I choose a pen testing company?
It is very important that you pick a penetration testing company who has experience in the specific area of security and technology that best suits your organization’s needs. For example, if you are an internet-based tech startup, the services may not be as tailored or useful for other companies such as financial institutions.
This will ensure a happy customer by providing timely responses to their unique business questions and needs.
What are the 6 stages of pen testing?
1 – Planning and Reconnaissance before a penetration test
Planning and Reconnaissance is the first stage of the process, in which the penetration testers identifies the pen testing tools that are needed to be used for a hack. They also look into different strategies on how they will approach the target site. The pen tester tries to identify certain loopholes that may exist in this strategy so that their objectives can be achieved easily.
The following are some of the major tasks carried out during this stage of a penetration test:
1) The pen tester performs an analysis of vulnerability
2) A list of servers vulnerable to exploitation is drawn up by the
3) The list includes servers that can be hacked using a flaw in an operating system or a mistake by an administrator
4) Credentials for every server is obtained by the penetration testers
5) Information search is performed using a network scanner
6) The information of the target sites are collected and categorized
7) Proper documentation is taken down for every site in the list. This list will help you to plan your attack later on
2 – Scanning of Systems and Networks
Scanning of Systems and Networks is the second stage in the process. This stage is used to identify all the open ports so that a hacker can know how to enter and what security system they are up against. It also helps to find out vulnerabilities which can be exploited for hacking. The following are some of the various tasks carried out during this phase:
1) The vulnerability of the target site is found
2) The pen testers scans every port on the IP address
3) They have a list of servers vulnerable to exploitation
4) Servers and server logs with vulnerabilities are identified using this phase
5) This information is then used by pen testers to exploit them as needed
6) Hacker then runs a background check
3 – Gaining Access
The third stage in the process is gaining access. Certain steps need to be taken for this phase. The following are some of the tasks carried out:
1) The pen testers determines which vulnerability strategy they are going to use
2) They work on a plan of attack that will help them break into the system as smoothly and quickly as possible
3) Login details are obtained by hacking through password guessing or social engineering
4) When successful, the hacker gains access to the target site and is now authenticated as a user
5) This gives them an opportunity to explore (scan all internal structures)
6) Remote control of vulnerable systems can also be initiated using the credentials gained from this process
7) The most common means used is exploiting the vulnerability in SQL servers which are mostly open to external connections. Once a connection has been made, the hacker runs through a series of scripts that automatically take control of every command inputted
8) The pen testers may also employ a ‘buffer overflow’ strategy for exploitation which makes use of vulnerable Microsoft services such as RPC (Remote Procedure Call), SMB (Server Message Block) and even P2P (Peer-to-peer). A buffer overflow occurs when too many data is sent to a program whose capacity to store it is limited. This causes errors leading to exploitation
9) Credentials are then obtained for every server by using scanners/sniffers or simply guessing them
A sniffer (network analyzer) is used to identify all the information transferred in a network. This helps us in finding where we can gain access and what vulnerabilities exist in the systems
4- Maintaining Access
This process follows the gaining of access stage. Here, you try to stay within your target environment as long as possible, so that once inside, you will have enough time to come up with good strategies for an attack. The following are some of the activities carried out during this stage:
1) Password guessing and password capturing is done
2) You use tools like “netcat” which uses passwords stored on your memory
3) Once a database has been accessed, you may now be able to change its contents so as to stay undetected. You can use various tools for this task
4) This will eventually help you in accessing other sites and steal information from them by gaining access through the same credentials
5) Hackers may also run sniffer programs on the target computer so that they can grab all incoming/outgoing data
6) Using a tool like “netcat” hackers can gain control of every system connected with the networks and get root privileges
7) The hacker works on various servers available in the network and logs onto each one simultaneously using multiple methods (ARP poisoning, spoofing etc.) so that he never gets caught. Once logged-in, he tries to find out passwords for wireless routers as well
5 – Analysis of the pen test
The analysis stage of a penetration test is when you go through the vulnerabilities and find out how they can be exploited. You also look for anything that can be done to mitigate the vulnerability. The following are some of the things done during this phase:
1) Deep scanning of a target website
2) Attempting to break into different servers using different passwords, exploiting known security gaps in software, and running various tools that employ brute-force attacks
3) Examining the server logs for information on which functions are open and what ports need to be protected
4) Testing for vulnerabilities in wireless networks by sending signals from one station with an access point and determining whether any other client devices could be accessed
5) Inhibiting unauthorized access to websites from other computers by using techniques like honeypots
6) Making changes on the site so as to see how one can protect it and testing for those measures
7) Testing of various software systems existing in a target environment is also done. This includes testing of operating system’s security, firewalls, databases, web servers etc.
8) Various techniques are used for penetration of networks such as network sniffing, man-in-the-middle attacks, spoofing etc. which enable hackers access your data without directly gaining control over your system . You may use tools such as Netcat or port scanners that exploit vulnerabilities in certain services running on the server – before you get caught in the act
6 – Reporting
In this last stage, you briefly explain your findings and write a report to help the client get to know about their vulnerabilities. Here are some of the things that are done during reporting:
1) You can conduct social engineering tests on clients by calling them up or sending them emails with malicious codes attached so as to see how much information they give out
2) The extracted data is compared with previous penetration testing results
3) Discuss possible methods of attack used in order to exploit the reported weakness
4) Explain various techniques that could be used by hackers for accessing the target computer system and describe effective countermeasures that can be taken against such attacks . It is also essential at this point to discuss preventive measures which could be implemented in order to mitigate the reported vulnerability
5) You also discuss methods of penetration that could be used for hacking into databases, firewalls, websites etc. and how they can be protected from such attacks . If any maintenance work is required then you can suggest it here. It would be valuable to mention that if your client doesn’t want a new firewall or change server passwords, but still wants to protect themselves against attacks based on the findings you came across after doing the tests, it’s better to talk about different countermeasures (replacing FTP with HTTPs/SSL or changing FTP passwords etc.) rather than just suggesting a complete protection service which may end up being ignored by your client or leading to possible future complications (new blocked ports, new firewall rules, changes in passwords etc.)
6) At the end of the report, you can mention your other services such as encrypting emails or assisting clients with setting up a comprehensive security policy. You may also offer customer support for a certain period after the penetration testing has been completed (if required) regarding any queries or issues that may arise from implementing the tests .
Final thoughts on penetration tests
Penetration tests are a necessary part of any company’s data security policy. Pen testing is not just for when you have been hacked or someone reports a vulnerability to you. It should be an ongoing process to protect your systems before they’re attacked and compromised. Like any other security testing, penetration testing should be done at regular intervals to ensure that all areas of the network are protected.
Even if you aren’t a large company and don’t need to hire assistance for doing this sort of work, there could still be holes in your own security systems. There’s no way that businesses can afford to ignore data security; it simply isn’t worth the risk or the monetary cost incurred from an invasion. If you’re small but sell or contain valuable information that would be useful to a hacker (for example, retail locations), then even basic protection measures can be worthwhile . Penetration testing is one method for finding out what these bugs are, so you can correct them before anyone else discovers them.
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