Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a simulated cyber-attack on a system to probe for vulnerabilities and identify strengths. In simple words, a penetration tester tries to test a computer system to assess its security posture. It’s also known as ethical hacking since a cybersecurity expert is sanctioned by the owner of the system to check the network’s strengths and weaknesses.
A penetration tester, when authorised, will try to break into your system like how unauthorised parties or cyber-criminals will do. He’ll look for all entry points to see which might be the easiest way to break into the system. After a complete analysis, he’ll make a report where he’ll specify all the security weaknesses you’ll need to work on as well as recommend cybersecurity measures and methodologies that you can expend to make your computer network secure.
Organisations hire penetration testers for a couple of outcomes:
- They want to analyse the security posture of their applications, systems, and network.
- They don’t want to spend a fortune on cybersecurity measures, and only want to employ those practices and tools which are best suited to their special needs.
Types of Penetration Testing>
There are two kinds of pen tests:
- White Box Pen Testing: where the pen tester is provided all the necessary details about the system background, and he’ll try to use this information to gain access to the system.
- Black Box Pen Testing: where the tester is offered only basic information that is also available to the public, e.g., a website’s URL, etc., and he’ll try to figure out a way to gain access to the network with only this information.
There’s also a hybrid of these two kinds, i.e., Grey Box Penetration Test, where limited information regarding the system may be provided to the tester.
Methods of Penetration Testing
A penetration test should be using the following methods:
- Automated: where a machine will perform the test with the help of integrated tools, automated frameworks, and scripts.
- Manual: where the test will be performed by penetration testers to dive deeper into the attack surface and discovering flaws which scanner cannot like business logic. Also, this is where the value of the penetration testers get maximised. Besides, finding vulnerabilities that scanner cannot find, they also help to sift out the false positive findings from the scanner.
The combination of the penetration testing methods helps to provide a detailed overview of all the threats and vulnerabilities that might be exploited in case of a cyber-attack. Penetration testing aims to safeguard a business from cybersecurity threats and data breaches that are ever so persistent today.
The most experienced penetration tester will be able to find the so called “zero day” exploits which normally such projects do not have the luxury of time. This could be covered by future blog like for Bug Bounty topic.