The continuous rise in technological advancements has also resulted in an exponential increase in cyber-attacks. In an opportunity to make quick bucks, malicious actors are always on the lookout for leveraging weaknesses & flaws in your system. Cyber-attacks1 are not limited to the tech industry, as there have been growing attacks on sectors like manufacturing, defense, government agencies, etc.
Irrespective of the industry type, cyber-attacks can cause huge financial losses and significant damage to the business’s (or agency’s) reputation. This is where Penetration Testing can come in handy as it helps in identifying system vulnerabilities, thereby helping create more secure systems.
By the end of this blog, you would be in a more comfortable position to put the best penetration testing tools to use for building more secure and established systems.
What is Penetration Testing?
By exploiting weakness in the systems, malicious actors can get access to financial records, Intellectual Property (IP), personally identifiable information (PII), cardholder data, and other vital information that can cause significant damage to the business. A penetration test (also called a pen test) is a simulated cyber-attack against the system for exploiting vulnerabilities in the system.
In the context of web application security, penetration testing is referred to as Web Application Firewall (WAF). Penetration tests exploit the systems through real-world attach scenarios, thereby helping fill the security gaps and building a more formidable system.
There is a myth that Penetrating testing is the same as Vulnerability Assessment. However, the objectives of both methodologies are different. Vulnerability Assessment is a systematic review of security weaknesses in the system (i.e. hardware, applications, etc.). Further, severity levels are assigned to those vulnerabilities and mitigation steps are outlined to keep the vulnerabilities in check.
On the other hand, penetration tests are used for identifying potential security weaknesses in the system and checking whether the current defensive processes have the potential to counter the security breaches.
Stages of Penetration Testing
Here are the major stages involved in penetration testing:-
1. Information Gathering
Information gathering is the preliminary step in the process of penetration testing. The penetration testing team is provided with information related to the in-scope targets.
In the reconnaissance stage, the penetration tester looks for any information that might have been overlooked in the information gathering (or planning) stage. This stage is not necessary for web application and API penetration testing.
3. Discovery and Scanning
The information gathered in the earlier two stages is used by the penetration tester to analyze how the target application tackles static analysis and dynamic analysis – the two major forms of testing at disposal of the penetration tester.
4. Gaining Access for Vulnerabilities Assessment
With this, the penetration testing team is all set to identify security weaknesses like cross-site script, backdoor, etc. by leveraging the information available from the previous stages.
Vulnerabilities Assessment is an integral stage of penetration testing since it lets the tester exploit the vector and analyze the potential risks to the organization. The tester can check for weaknesses like exploiting privilege escalation vulnerability, web traffic interception, and more.
5. Vulnerabilities Exploitation
Now, the penetration tester is all set to exploit the vulnerabilities identified in the assessment step. Human intuition and manual testing techniques can be used for validating and exploiting the identified vulnerabilities.
6. Analysis and Review
In this final stage, the penetration tester creates a detailed report on the vulnerabilities and results of those penetration attempts.
In scenarios where an organization does not have in-house expertise in penetration testing, it is recommended to partner with a penetration testing company that has experience & expertise in providing those services.
Common Penetration Testing Methodologies
Till now, we have covered the basics of penetrating testing, along with the major stages involved in executing a perfect strategy for penetration testing. In this section, we look at the widely used methodologies for performing penetration testing:
External Pen Testing
External Testing is a form of penetration testing where the externally facing assets of the organization are assessed by the penetration tester. The vulnerabilities in the external assets are exploited to gain access to the internal network of the organization.
Domain Name Servers (DNS), Email servers, firewalls, organization’s corporate website, etc. are some of the organizational assets that are targeted under external testing. The test also involves scanning of access points for open ports, login attempts, and more.
Internal Pen Testing
In the case of internal penetration testing, the tester leverages the exploited box obtained from external penetration testing. The penetration tester also has the option to use a laptop from the internal of the network for performing the vulnerabilities assessment. There is an option to perform internal pen testing from a user account that is presented to the tester.
An attack is simulated for determining if the account allocated to the tester has unauthorized access to resources internal to the network.
In the double-blind testing technique, the penetration tester and organization are playing blind. The professionals in the organization are also completely unaware of the simulated attack.
The primary aim of double-blind testing is to check the expertise and proactiveness of the security team in dealing with a malicious attack.
Blind testing is similar to external testing except that tester is given the information about the target organization which is picked on a random basis. This might be a time taking exercise since additional time is necessary for posing as an external tester.
KiwiQA has expertise in providing penetration testing services to a range of clients. Enterprises can leverage this expertise to make their systems more secure, thereby minimizing the probability of malicious attacks.
Widely used Penetration Testing Tools
Penetration testing can be useful in checking the efficiency of the organization’s security policy. Penetration testing methodologies like blind testing and double-blind testing are effective in checking the security team’s proactiveness in dealing with external attacks.
Here are some of the most popular penetration testing tools:
|OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy)||Netsparker|
Penetration testing is one of the widely-used testing methodologies to unearth vulnerabilities, risks, and threats to the system (or IT infrastructure) under test. It helps in building a more robust and secure IT infrastructure that is less prone to malicious attacks. Businesses and government agencies should leverage the expertise of a penetration testing company as the penetration testing services offered by them can be beneficial in the long run.