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This ultimate guide to penetration testing series is going to be the series you’ll need to read in 2021, aimed to help anyone familiarise themselves with the basic principles of penetration testing, what it is and its importance in society.

Anyone who’s ever created a digital profile has the ability to be hacked. Whether that be your distant uncle’s Twitter account or a world-wide organisation it doesn’t matter, they’re both potential targets.

A compromised network could be disastrous, giving hackers access to data they aren’t supposed to have such as:

  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Bank Details
  • Addresses

The rewards for a hacker can be limitless. This is why pen testers within the cybersecurity industry are crucial.

I think we’ve all known someone who’s had their Facebook hacked, hearing the notification on messenger ping just to see a suspicious looking link captioned “Do you remember this?” – giving more proof that cybercrime is affecting us all.

Businesses are needing more support against cyber threats, with a 31% increase in cyber crime in the UK alone. But these services can break budgets, which is why small businesses lack the protection their digital assets need.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing is considered to be an art but in its raw form, it is the authorised attack of specific software or hardware systems with the end-goal being to identify security flaws that could lead to a potential attack. 

You’re probably wondering “Is that legal?” and the answer to that is yes, but only with strict permission from the owners. This form of penetration testing is known as ‘ethical hacking’, or ‘White-hat’ which is perfectly legal worldwide. 

If an attack is carried out maliciously, or without permission this is known as ‘blackhat’ and most methods of blackhat hackers tend to be illegal.

Why Is Pen Testing Important?

All it takes is for an attacker to be successful once in breaking into a business and a successful breach could see a business disappear almost instantly. Assets, customer trust, all wiped out quicker than a cut and paste selection.

The problem? Maintaining security levels is actually a more difficult task than it appears, with an ever changing environment full of hostility and malicious intent, hackers are innovating ways to breach a network faster than ever before.

That’s why penetration testing is a must. The insights you gain from performing these assessments enables a business to analyse and alter their security strategies and patch any holes in the system.

What Are The Different Types Of Penetration Testing?

Depending on the kind of operation you wish to perform on your system, the person testing must plan intricately and decide accurately the most relevant pen test type for the job. 

Hence why knowing about the different types of penetration test that you can perform is important and a requirement of any good pen tester. 

The types of pen test split up into five different categories, all of which play their own important role in testing specifics.

Network Service Tests

A network service test is one of the most commonly required skills for a pen tester to possess. The aim of this test is to discover any potential vulnerability and or gap that may be present within a clients network. 

It’s possible that the network could possess both internal and external access points which makes it mandatory to perform network service testing both locally on the client-side and externally from outside of the network’s infrastructure (usually through remote access).

In a network service test, the tester should plan to target the following areas within a network:

  • IPS Deception
  • DNS-level Attacks (Switching/Routing Testing, Network Parameter Testing, Zone transfer testing)
  • Stateful Analysis Testing
  • Firewall Configuration Testing
  • Firewall Bypass Testing

Web Application Tests

Web application testing is a more intensive and detailed targeted test that focuses on areas like browsers, browser components and web applications. 

This type of test also examines the endpoints of web applications that users may or may not access on a regular basis – so time investment and extensive planning are an absolute must with this type of test.

Client Side Tests

The end result of a client-side test is to effectively pinpoint any potential security threats that may be present on a local system. An example of why you’d perform this test is to ensure a system doesn’t have any exploitable software on a users workstation which can be used by a hacker to exploit.

There are plenty of reasons systems get infected and most times it’s through third-party software.

Wireless Network Tests

A wireless network test is pretty self explanatory – this type of test is conducted with the intention of analyzing wireless devices deployed on a client site.

These wireless devices could be anything from tablets and laptops, to iPods and smartphones. Gadgets all aside, a pen tester should also take into account tests for other aspects too such as:

  • Access points for wireless setup
  • Protocols used for wireless configuration

Doing so will help a pen tester easily identify weaker areas and enable a tester to identify people violating access rights.

Social Engineering Tests

Social engineering tests are actually a vital aspect of the penetration testing process, this pen test imitates attacks in which the workers of a company could attempt to breach the network themselves. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, penetration testing is now more important than ever in 2021 and companies should certainly take further actions in protecting their digital assets from falling into the hands of hackers. 

Hopefully, this guide has given a bit more of an insight into the theory behind penetration testing and given readers a bit more of an understanding of the different types of pen tests that can be conducted.