The in-depth guide to becoming a penetration tester

The “ethical hackers,” or “nice guys,” are penetration testers. Penetration testers, also known as assurance validators, are hired by network system owners and web-based application providers to hunt for holes that malevolent hackers may be able to exploit in order to gather secure data and intelligence.

Ethical hackers do vulnerability assessments (among many other things) by utilising their talents and knowledge — and they are rewarded to perform the equivalent of digital break-ins.

They replicate genuine cyberattacks with a wide range of tools and methodologies, some of which they developed, leaving no stone unturned in their quest to find flaws in security protocols for networks, systems, and web-based applications.

The goal of a penetration test, also known as a pen test, is to investigate all conceivable ways to breach any given computer system in order to identify security flaws BEFORE the real hackers can get in. As a result, pen testers frequently work on highly private and time-sensitive projects, thus they must be trustworthy and remain calm under pressure.

Penetration testers should be able to think creatively on the go while yet being organised enough to document, record, and report on initiatives.

5 important things any great pen tester needs

  1. Self-assessment: Penetration testing is not for everyone. It requires excellent problem-solving skills, perseverance, attention to detail, and a strong desire to keep current on current advances in the field. Successful ethical hackers must possess a high level of each of these characteristics in order to excel. So, before you decide if pen testing is a good career for you, be honest with yourself.
  2. Education: It was formerly customary for corporations to employ real-world hackers and train them to work for the good guys once they had left the “evil side.” However, in recent years, college degrees have almost become a requirement for penetration testers. Undergraduate degrees in the different domains of cybersecurity are all suitable entry points into the industry.
  3. Path to a career: There are various avenues for aspiring pen testers to enter into the cybersecurity profession. Starting out in security administration, network administration, network engineer, system administrator, or web-based application development will give a solid basis for pen testing.
  4. Professional credentials: Employers prefer to see a variety of professional qualifications on assurance validators’ resumes, especially for more senior jobs. Several organisations now provide industry-recognized qualifications for penetration testing positions.
  5. Honing your talent: Becoming an expert in a chosen topic is a good idea in any job, but there are other methods for penetration testers to separate out from the crowd. Being active and acknowledged in cybersecurity disciplines such as bug bounty programmes, gathering open-source intelligence (OSINT), and designing proprietary attack programmes will all help pen testers get recognition among their peers.

What is a penetration tester?

Penetration testers and ethical hackers are the private investigators of the information security world. The aim, like with all PI operations, is to detect dangers before any prospective intrusive operators can put their plans into action.

One of the fundamental facts of human nature in general, and digital information systems in particular, is that dishonest individuals will constantly seek chances to exploit flaws. Pen testers examine, discover, and assist in the repair of any possible vulnerabilities in wired and wireless network systems, as well as web-based applications.

The tug of war between ethical hackers’ proactive activity and the efforts of real-world hackers is a never-ending arms race. Each side strives to expand their knowledge, talents, and tactics beyond the capability of the other.

Pen testers employ an offensive defensive tactic. The purpose is to provide the greatest possible information security by assaulting computer systems offensively in the same way that a real-life hacker would, therefore beating the hacker to the punch and aiding in the closure of the vulnerability. As a consequence, information and systems that are under assault will be protected.

Skills and experience that a penetration tester require

Some occupations still merely demand the presentation of applicable skills and a sufficient degree of cybersecurity expertise and understanding. Employers are increasingly looking for employees with a bachelor’s degree in information security or a comparable computer science degree. Some advanced occupations need a master’s degree.

Software development and coding, security testing, vulnerability assessment, network engineer or administrator, and security administrator are all examples of jobs that frequently lead to employment in penetration testing.

Work experience that often leads to careers in penetration testing includes software development and coding, security testing, vulnerability assessment, network engineer or administrator, security administrator.

Knowledge of specific computer languages is often one of the main requirements, such as: 

  • Python
  • Powershell 
  • Golang
  • Bash

Employers frequently seek professional credentials from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional), SANS Technology Institute, /”>GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification), and EC-Council.

Employers look for soft skills and experience such as: outstanding communication skills; self-motivation, creativity, and resourcefulness; contributions to open source projects and bug bounty programmes; and familiarity with the OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities.

What is a penetration testers main purpose?

Pen testers are generally responsible for threat modelling, security assessments, and ethical hacking of networks, systems, and web-based applications. In particular, assurance validation entails some or all of the following tasks:

  • To locate information leaks, gather and evaluate Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
  • Provide subject matter knowledge concentrating on offensive security testing activities, as well as working to test defensive systems inside a business.
  • Conduct evaluations on a wide range of technologies and implementations using both automated and manual tools and methodologies.
  • Create scripts, tools, and procedures to help improve testing processes.
  • Assist in the scoping of potential engagements, as well as guiding engagements from the beginning to the end of implementation and remediation.
  • Perform social engineering activities as well as physical penetration testing.
  • Examine wired and wireless networks for security flaws.

Outlook for penetration testers

For the foreseeable future, information security specialists will be in high and quickly expanding demand. In reality, there is a substantial lack of information security specialists across all disciplines, and this deficit is projected to persist for the foreseeable future. As networks, applications, and information requirements become increasingly complex and vital to corporate and state operations, these systems become more directly targeted and susceptible. Pen testers are at the cutting edge of technological skill, playing the role of would-be attackers the most closely. Top pen testers are currently highly valued among information security professionals, and there are no indicators that this attitude will change in the near future.

How much do penetration testers make?

Penetration tester salary is dependant upon experience and can also depend on which company you are working for. In the UK, a junior penetration tester could potentially earn up to £24k per year, and see it go upwards up to £34k for a more experienced pen tester.

What is a pen-tester, how important is penetration tester and how you can get started yourself

What is penetration testing

Penetration testing is a process, usually involving a computer, that simulates an attack against another computer system or network with the sole intention of detecting and exploiting vulnerabilities. When it comes to web application security however, the context of the term ‘penetration testing’ more commonly refers to the augmentation of a web application firewall (WAF).

The final pen testing report that is provided gives more insight into your systems cyber health, and can be used to tweak any policies and patch any vulnerabilities that have been identified.

What is a pen tester

A pen tester is the person who primarily carries out the task of testing a target system’s cyber-security defences. Most penetration testers have explicit authorization to carry out attacks on the network to expose weaknesses within security that could potentially be exploited by criminals. 

There are multiple specialties within the industry and there usually isn’t any one individual working on the entire process single-handedly, some of which are as follows:

  • networks and infrastructures
  • Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems
  • embedded computer systems
  • web/mobile applications
  • SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) control systems
  • Internet of Things (IoTs).
  • As well as identifying problems, you may also provide advice on how to minimise risks.

You may work in-house for large companies where system security is a crucial function. However, more commonly you’ll work for a security consultancy or risk management organisation, where you’ll work with external clients testing the vulnerability of their systems. It’s also possible to work on a freelance basis, by securing contracts from organisations.

Stages of penetration testing

There is usually a pre-specified scope which needs to be adhered to with every project, however these are the basic principles of the stages involved in a penetration test.

Project Scope – Rules Evaluation

The project scope is frequently contained inside a Statement of Work provided by the testing provider. This scope will typically contain the testing approach, and if any vulnerabilities are detected, an exploitation-depth will be provided.

Pen testing is a ‘white-hat’ method, which refers to attackers who adhere to specific rules of engagement that are outlined throughout the project scope, and the engagement itself should not disrupt corporate operations.

Because the intruder, in this case an ethical testing professional, may get insight and knowledge vital to the organisation, all parties must sign a non-disclosure agreement before the pen test method can commence.

Consider the following items as possible inclusions in the agreement:

  • Allowing testing to take place during non-peak business hours wherever possible
  • Whether or not testers can modify data on production servers.
  • Whether or not the tester has authorisation to impersonate a company authority figure.

Pre-attack reconnaissance entails gathering data

The tester will next use a number of sources to learn as much as possible about the target, such as operational analysis, threat intelligence creation, and tempting network service enumeration. A skilled penetration tester can gather publicly accessible information, often known as open-source intelligence, as well as general information on enterprise-provided systems, which may be publicly available as well.

The tester will next use a variety of sources to learn as much as possible about the target, such as operational analysis, threat intelligence production, and attractive network service enumeration. A skilled penetration tester can gather publicly accessible information, referred to as open-source intelligence, as well as general information on enterprise-provided systems, which may also be publicly available.

Vulnerability Assessment – The process of identifying possible vulnerabilities.

This stage of the engagement investigates the target network’s flaws. The penetration tester will send probes to the target network, collect basic data, and then use the response to probe for further information and get new insights.

The output of this phase may comprise the following:

  • The directory structure of a certain server
  • Some FTP web servers may need authentication.
  • Error messages from accessible SMTP access points give information about the network’s architecture.
  • Remote code execution is a possibility.
  • Security flaws in cross-site scripting
  • Internal code-signing certificates, which might be used to sign and inject new scripts into the network.

Exploiting discovered vulnerabilities in a pen test

After defining a threat model and an attack strategy based on the discovered vulnerabilities, the next stage is to breach networks within the targeted network. There is no certainty that any uncovered weakness will be exploited; outside of the test spectrum, there may be a protected network, a DMZ, a firewall, a browser, a router, or obsolete network equipment.

In order to get access to the target device, the professional penetration tester will look for flaws that may be exploited. During this time, the tester is also gathering more comprehensive information on the target network.

Lateral movement entails maintaining access while obtaining further access

Agents having system access will be inserted after the tester obtains access to a device. Furthermore, maintaining effective access ensures that these agents remain in the system and have access for an extended period of time, regardless of whether the system is rebooted, reset, or updated by network administrators.

Artifact Collection/Destruction — Collect any leftover data from testing.

Following gathering data for the testing report, the phase after exploitation and prolonged access ensures that every exploited system is cleaned. Cleaning, among other things, eliminates any expected agents, scripts, executable binaries, and temporary files.

The clean-up method should ensure that any installed backdoors or rootkits are removed, and the system configuration should be returned to its pre-engagement state. Any changed credentials should be restored, and any new usernames should be erased.

Reporting/Debriefing – Report the test outcomes.

The vendor then sends out a customer survey; this report is the vehicle that effectively communicates the results of your pen evaluation, and it is aimed to two distinct groups: company leaders and technical teams.

The pen test report should begin with an executive summary that describes your penetration test strategy in business terms and identifies outcomes based on risk ranking. This section may be concise since it contains the most significant information that the customer needs to make decisions: what to repair may be decided by business personnel, and which issues provide an appropriate level of risk.

The second component of the investigation is technical material, which should be detailed and correct while avoiding broad or abstract claims. This part of the investigation will be used by the technical staff to take action and remedy security vulnerabilities uncovered during the penetration test.

Important pointers for becoming a pen tester

  • Self-evaluation is essential: this industry and work type are not for everyone. It can be intimidating for some, and if you lack the ability to confront difficulties, as well as attention to detail and tenacity, you may find yourself slipping behind or, worse, unable to complete the work at hand. These are the characteristics and talents that most successful pen testers hold.
  • Learn, learn, learn: No, we’re not kidding; you won’t need to learn computer science, although it could come in handy. To get on a profitable job path, you’ll need to work hard to obtain certificates and qualifications. Previously, businesses would seek out real-world hackers for the position, but today an undergraduate degree is the most practical way to break into this sector.
  • Improve your abilities further: It’s a given to become an expert in your field, regardless of industry, but penetration testers must use less traditional means to stand out, such as being active within communities such as bug bounties, inventing their own attack systems, or simply being creative and clever.
  • Keep up with the latest network security and programming trends: Methods and exploits change on a daily basis, so it’s critical for a penetration tester to stay current with what’s going on in the industry, fine-tuning their skills for new technologies and keeping up with the newest network security and programming trends.

What qualifications/experience will I need to work as a penetration tester?

The prerequisites for becoming a penetration tester vary depending on a number of factors, including position and level of position. Junior testers, for example, require far less than a senior or lead pen tester, and this is a clear example of rising based on expertise and responsibility.

Whereas many businesses search for certificates and qualifications, some still rely on demonstration and proper experience and expertise, so persons with the skillset but don’t want to go through university or college to acquire a degree have possibilities for breaking into the field. However, it’s worth mentioning that in recent years, businesses have been increasingly interested in candidates with a relevant bachelor’s degree.

A penetration test necessitates the acquisition of fundamental skills.

To get started in the field, you don’t need a college degree from a prestigious university or even to be an offensive security certified professional. All you’ll need are basic technical abilities; however, if you have any employment experience in the cyber security business, that would also be beneficial.

However, you may need other abilities that aren’t included below, such as expertise dealing with online applications and computer networks in general. Web apps are prone to security flaws, thus knowing the fundamentals there may provide you with a better understanding.

The abilities listed below will help you begin to comprehend information security. We’ll start with one of the most important tools in a pentester’s arsenal: programming knowledge:

  • Python
  • Powershell
  • Golang
  • Bash
  • Relevant experience with Windows/Linux or MacOS and the intrinsic features such as firewalls, virtual environments, data encryption and more.

It’s also advisable to brush up on your common pentesting and application security tool skills, these are tools such as:

  • Kali
  • Metasploit
  • Burpsuite
  • Wireshark
  • Web Inspect
  • Network Mapper (NMAP)
  • Nessus, and others

Areas you will need to research in order to begin learning how to hack:

  • Web application firewall testing
  • Reverse Engineering
  • Basic android system knowledge
  • Understanding of active directory
  • Brief knowledge of mobile security
  • Understanding different topologies and infrastructure setup

In conclusion

So to conclude this post, penetration testing is more than just a simplified process and has many intricate aspects that require a fine tuned knowledge, however don’t let this stop you as you don’t need to go down those specialist routes and can be a basic pen tester

Hacking Digital Laboratory Notebooks

Hacking Digital Laboratory Notebooks

Digital laboratory notebooks have become essential tools for documenting research, organizing notes, and storing data in a searchable way.

While digital laboratory notebooks, or ELNs, are often touted as the future of the laboratory, the transition from paper to digital hasn’t always gone as smoothly as expected.

Does digitalizing research notes open the doorway to cyber-attacks? Like any other system, are the systems being used in labs secure?

In this post, we will look at the dangers, consequences, and precautions that should be taken when using a digital lab notebook.

Do Cloud Solutions Threaten our Digital Lab Notebooks, or are They Advantageous to our Data?

Digital clouds are major threats and, at the same time, a great advantage to data-saving practices. You may be using email, Dropbox, Google, or any similar app. All this is software found on the cloud.

The use of the cloud to save data is similar to debit, credit, and chequing bank account cards earlier before. Instead of carrying and saving around the shift, people were required to start using bank cards.

Today, experts of cloud provider’s primary aim is to keep encrypted data in high security and advanced data center to prevent unauthorized access.

Is it Possible to Lose Your Digital Laboratory Notebooks Saved in the Cloud?

Yes, you can lose data the same way you can lose data from your computer, server, or smartphone.

Technology is not indestructible. Your figures can be destroyed indefinitely by an outsourced provider or internal IT department. Nothing is impossible; however, by utilizing cloud-based technologies, the expenses and harm might be reduced.

Can the Risk of Losing Digital Laboratory Notebooks be Minimized?

Ask the development and support staff where the information is stored if you use or consider using web-based applications to manage and save your data.

You should also inquire if they have their servers or do, they rely on large cloud providers like Google or Amazon. They should be open and honest with you about data security, retrieval, and backup in the event of an emergency.

We tend to feel that the digital laboratory notebook saved on our personal computers is the most secure.

The truth is that the majority of the researchers aren’t true security or computer experts. As a result, our computers are most likely to have viruses or other malware that we are unaware of. Anti-virus software is effective, but it is not impenetrable.

Security protocols are in place at established cloud vendors. They are security professionals who ensure that your data is safe. So, if something goes wrong in this case, you are not alone.

They’ll have to take care of it for you. It will be even better if the cloud services you’re using have a partnership with a well-known cloud provider, and something goes wrong, they’ll both be responsible for it. So, you’re all set.

However, if something goes wrong with your laptop or the system at your institution, you’re on your own.

It’s time to recognize that losing data from your PCs or servers, whether due to theft, technical issues, hackers, or viruses, is easier than losing data from Google or Amazon cloud, Google, or other services.

The truth is, if you have sad vital in the cloud, even if your laptop is physically stolen, no one will be able to access it.

Can the Use of an Open Web-Based Software Source Put My Digital Laboratory Notebook at Bigger Risk of Being Hacked?

On the contrary, the purpose of a secured system is to prevent the entrusted information from unauthorized access, not to hide its technical specifics.

Furthermore, because the source code of open-source software is available to the public, anyone can review and enhance it.

As a result, compared to restricted software, where source review is generally confined to an internal group of engineers, it is easier to find potential defects and security problems. Open platform web-based software is freely available, making it a great choice.

We may call it self-contained. This signifies you are not bound to a single software vendor or owner. Even better, the research community as a whole is free to create add-ons, correct the software’s flaws, and maintain them.

This software application is peer-reviewed in some ways. You can get help and communication with the development team that produced the software in the first place, but you are not reliant on them. Because of its open nature, open-source software saves a lot of money.

However, don’t confuse the accessibility of the software’s source with a higher risk of it being hacked or your data being stolen.

How to practice penetration testing on your own

How to practice penetration testing on your own

Penetration testing is an important part of every security professional’s workflow. Now, you can do it on your own – without the hassle of hiring a security consultant.

In this post, we’ll cover how to do penetration testing on your own. We’ll show you how to identify potential security vulnerabilities and exploit them to gain access to a computer system. If you’re interested in learning more about penetration testing, check out our article on the basics of penetration testing.

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is a form of security assessment or analysis in which an attack on a network infrastructure is simulated in order to check the efficiency of its security policies. 

The primary objective is to gain access to the application or network through bypassing the currently in place security defences through identification of vulnerabilities. A vulnerability is a type of weakness, or flaw, in which an attacker can exploit and gain confidential information. 

It doesn’t matter what type of penetration test you perform, the end goal is always the same. The end of a pen test is where a list of risks, vulnerabilities and other information are compiled into a report and given to the client for them to remediate. 

All vulnerabilities that are found during a penetration test can actually be used to tweak and enhance security policies, as well as patch applications and improve all-round security.

What Is Penetration Testing Used For?

As mentioned, a pen test is a method of gaining access to a network infrastructure through exploiting vulnerabilities present within the server. Pen testing should be viewed as a way to assess and manage security policies and not directly as a method of identifying vulnerabilities alone.

A penetration test should be thought of as similar to a financial audit. Your finance team tracks expenditure and income day to day. An audit by an external group ensures that your internal team’s processes are sufficient.

Why Should You Conduct A Penetration Test?

For several businesses, such as card processing, annual penetration testing is standard to ensure compliance. For many organisations, penetration testing might prove difficult to view as a key component of their cybersecurity plans.

Are you aware of hackers’ newest exploits? Does your network have hacking vulnerability? Are you aware where hackers could strike? How stringent are your devices and systems patching? Are you updated or have you been neglecting your security system?

Hackers frequently remain up to date with the most advanced technology and grasp each system’s weaknesses.

Pentesters do, too. 

Pen testers detect vulnerabilities in the testing process whether old vulnerable systems may be used to take over your system or unauthorised access to particular sections of your application.

This allows you to acquire a hacker’s perspective and identify what happens when your team is attacked and enhance your capacity to replicate and correct flaws.

An attacker can target organisations, in many ways, thus even firms with established security teams and responsibilities are in danger of being cyber-attacked.

You are always searching the Internet, whether via your public network, your public Web site or your apps, for weak systems and applications.

By doing a penetration test to discover weaknesses hackers are most likely to exploit, you may avoid cyber assaults by installing safeguards to prohibit their use.

How To Perform Penetration Testing

Penetration testing comes in various stages, which we talk about in an earlier post documenting the whole process for users to follow. The process of a penetration test is long-winded and requires a vast number of skills all to be put to the test.

Usually when working on a penetration test, you will work in teams (presuming you work in an agency) and each member has to play their part at specific times within the process.

The basic premise behind performing a penetration test is to first plan it out, then follow up the plan with a recon mission to gather as much intelligence about the target system as possible. From there, you begin to exploit any found vulnerabilities. 

Upon gaining access to the system, pen testers then try to keep access and see how far into the infrastructure they can get before they are even noticed.

Finally, the pen test is concluded and a report is given to the company who requested it.

How Long Does a Pen Test Take?

How Long Does a Pen Test Take?

The security industry has undergone a massive evolution over the past few years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s gotten to the point where some businesses are now questioning the value of a pen test, and the cost of a complete assessment.

In this post, we will look at the evolution of the industry from beginning to today, as well as the costs and how long they take. We’ll also provide a few tips for how to get the most out of your pen test.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration tests, also called pen tests or ethical hacks, are cybersecurity techniques used to identify and assess security vulnerabilities. Ethical hackers are often the ones performing these penetration tests. 

An in-house employee or an outside party simulates an attacker and his strategy so as to determine whether an organization’s computer systems or web applications are hackable. Additionally, organizations can use pen testing to ensure compliance with regulations.

In the Information Technology (IT) field, ethical hackers are IT experts who use hacking techniques to help determine potential entry points into a company’s infrastructure. Businesses can perform simulated cyber attacks to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their security systems by using methods, tools, and approaches. A hacker’s ability to break through a security firm’s security measures and protocols is referred to as penetration in this instance.

It is possible to conduct pen tests in three main ways, each with a different set of information pen testers need for their attack. Black box and gray box penetration testing provide testers with varying degrees of information about the target system or target network.

White box testing provides testers with detailed information about the target system; and white box penetration testing provides testers with partial information about the target system.

Cybersecurity pen tests are considered proactive measures because they serve as a mechanism for consistent, self-enforced improvement given the results of the tests. 

It differs from a nonproactive approach, in which weak spots are not identified until they become obvious. A company updating its firewall following a data breach would take a nonproactive approach to cybersecurity, for example.

In order to maximize an organization’s security, proactive initiatives, such as pen testing, limit the need for retroactive upgrades.

Why is pen testing important?

Almost all internet-based businesses are at risk from DDOS attacks, phishing attacks, and ransomware attacks. Since businesses are increasingly reliant on technology, cyber attacks can have disastrous effects. 

For example, a ransomware attack could restrict a company’s access to data, devices, networks, and servers that are critical to its operation. A cyberattack like this could result in millions of dollars of revenue being lost. 

Cybersecurity risks can be identified and mitigated by using a hacker’s perspective before being exploited. Using this information, IT leaders can make informed upgrades to security that reduce the risk of successful attacks.

It can be argued that technological innovation is the greatest challenge to cybersecurity. Technological advances continue to evolve, as do the methods cybercriminals use. Security measures need to be updated at the same rate for companies to be able to successfully protect themselves from these attacks. 

Unfortunately, it is often hard to know which methods are being used and how they may be used in an attack. In contrast, organizations will be able to find, update and replace parts of their systems more easily by using ethical hackers.

The history of penetration testing

The IT sector found out in the 1990s that numerous users in the same system represented an inherent risk to safety.

As a result two teams, known as “Tiger Teams” were created. Unsurprisingly, the military and government were devoted to the first team. Officials of the U.S. Air Force ordered that security tests take place on computer systems shared in 1971.

Computing in the 1980s

A 1984 U.S. Navy study was conducted to test an easy entry by a team of Navy Seals to several naval bases by terrorists. The US government also began to attack unlawful hackers.

This was the result of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which stated that some ethical hacking techniques should be permitted only in accordance with the customer organisation.

Pen testing in the 1990s

Due to the sophistication of hacking, penetration assessments have been sophisticated. Wietse Venema and Dan Farmer, Sun Microsystems, Eindhoven University of Technology published a paper entitled Breaking Into It, “Improving the Security of Your website.”

The “uberhacker,” who has grown beyond the norm, is described in Farmer and Venema’s article.

You can identify vulnerabilities in state-of-the-art security systems and can get in and out of the system without trace.

They showed instead that a system owner should see his/her own system as a hacker, providing the groundwork for current penetration testing.

In the same year the method was called the “ethical hacking” by IBM’s John Patrick.

The 00s

At the end of the millennium, penetration tests finally became a discipline. 2003 was the first time the Open Web Application Security Project issued a list of industry best practises (OWASP).

Six years later a number of common techniques were developed given the penetration testing performance standard (PTES).

2021 and beyond

Approximately USD 1128.10 million was generated in the penetration testing market in 2019. This market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 23,95% from 2020 to 2027. Many organisations around the world rely on penetration testing to keep their sensitive data safe in a world full of cyber security threats.

The length it takes to perform a penetration test

Penetration tests can vary in length of time taken and overall cost depending on many different factors. The process of performing a pen test is a hands on assessment, which isn’t suited to be a short and quick job. 

Details of a scope are to be provided in order to make a better assessment of the project requirements, details such as network IPs, complexity of applications and even number of employees are all factors.

Typically, a penetration testing project may start at around the one week point, however some projects can go for multiple weeks or months depending on the size and magnitude of the work.

A test could also cost a business around £7,000 as a basic price, however they can grow to large, six figure numbers when it comes to large projects.

What Does a Penetration Tester Do?

What Does a Penetration Tester Do?

A penetration tester is someone who uses various techniques to identify vulnerabilities in a network or computer system. They can use a variety of tools to do this, but one of the most common is a network sniffer. 

A sniffer is a software program that allows you to look at the traffic that is passing through the network. This allows you to find all of the different kinds of information that is going on in the network.

What Is A Penetration Tester?

Pentesters actually significantly assist businesses and organisations when it comes to identifying and resolving vulnerabilities within their security. Weaknesses which affect their digital assets are protected by these people. 

Pen testers often hold in-house positions with a permanent employer working as an integral part of a cybersecurity team, while others work for specialist firms. There’s also freelancers working out there in the cyber world.

When it comes to industries heavily involved with sensitive data or information will bring in penetration testers in flocks. Some of these employers also give weight to experience over formal education although a degree is going to help you a lot when it comes to opening doors in the industry.

The cyber security industry draws in curious, ethical minds who either master, or develop their own advanced technical skills and abilities. There’s an increased demand in penetration testers with the need set to soar further in the years to come.

What does a penetration tester actually do?

Penetration testing is the name given to someone who attempts to breach weaknesses within digital networks. Some job titles carry the term “ethical hacker” or “assurance validator”, however they all entail the same premise. 

The main duties of a penetration tester entail seeking, identifying and attempting to breach 

Some penetration testing jobs carry other titles, such as “ethical hacker” or “assurance validator.” These terms reflect the main duties of a penetration tester (or “pen tester”): to seek, identify, and attempt to breach existing weaknesses in digital systems and computing networks. These systems and networks include websites, data storage systems, and other IT assets.

Many people confuse penetration testing with vulnerability testing. In actuality, these two cybersecurity specializations have distinct differences. Vulnerability testers look for flaws and weaknesses during a security program’s design and setup phases. Penetration testing professionals specifically seek out flaws and weaknesses in existing, active systems.

Penetration testing teams simulate cyberattacks and other security breaches designed to access sensitive, private, or proprietary information. They utilize existing hacking tools and strategies as well as devise their own. During a simulated attack, pen testers document their actions to generate detailed reports indicating how they managed to bypass established security protocols, and to what degree.

Organizationally, penetration testing teams create value by helping their employers avoid the public relations fallout and loss of consumer confidence that accompany actual hacks and cyberattacks. They also help businesses and organizations improve their digital security measures within established budgetary confines.

What Is A Penetration Test?

Penetration testing makes use of cyber-security experts, usually within an organisation but sometimes not, to attempt to find an exploit known and potential vulnerabilities within a network environment. This could be the server itself which hosts the infrastructure, or all of the devices connected to it. 

The sole purpose of this security exercise is to pin-point weaknesses within a network infrastructure in order to further protect organisations from having their data compromised by an attacker and taken advantage of.

What Is Automated Penetration Testing?

This type of penetration test is usually performed by penetration test experts with assistance from other specialists. Manual penetration testing is the name given to this test procedure. Manual testing requires long durations and high levels of attention. It becomes stressful and time-consuming. 

In order to make pen testing more efficient, automated tools and procedures were developed. In summary, automated penetration testing is performed by accessing a network using automated tools and processes. One way to look at it is rather than going through each piece of code line by line to check for errors, an automatic scanner can be set up to scan them in a matter of seconds.

What Is The Purpose Of A Penetration Test?

The primary purpose of a penetration test is to locate and document any weakness within an organization’s infrastructure. Once the hole in security has been identified, the server administrators use the information gathered to alter and fix it. 

Testing lets companies determine the effectiveness of their security policies. Some policies may have weaknesses that attackers can exploit when employees adhere to them. 

Another possibility is that the employees do not fully understand the policy. Maybe the organization’s policy needs to be revised or the training program needs to be improved.

Among the tests are those that assess employees’ responses to phishing, social engineering, and the like. In addition, they may identify employees who require additional reminders and determine how effective the training has been. Testing can reveal areas where training failed.

Even in environments that are well protected, security incidents can still occur. A test of how well IT and security personnel respond to such situations is imperative. Using this approach works best when the people handling the incident don’t know if it’s a test or a real attack.

What Are The Duties Of A Penetration Tester?

The majority of pen testers’ time is spent conducting assessments and running tests. Testers work on site or remotely, with projects targeting both internal and external assets.

As the testing team or testers begin the day, they establish a strategy for the project and set up the required tools. In some cases, this may involve gathering what is known as “open source intelligence,” which hackers rely on when they are attempting to dodge security measures and launch attacks.

As the afternoon approaches, teams are ready to implement the tests they designed in the morning. One team might act as hostile outside hackers, while another assumes the role of the cybersecurity personnel assigned to stop them.

Other duties include conducting simulations designed to assess other aspects of internal risk. During penetration testing, penetration test teams may perform phishing scams on select employees to see what type of responses they receive and how those responses affect existing security protocols.

As a result, penetration testers are required to perform a wide range of tasks.

What Degree Is Needed To Be A Penetration Tester?

It’s not completely unheard of for an employer to accept several years of relevant work experience or demonstrable skills over an actual degree, however it’s no surprise than the vast majority tend to favour those with at least a bachelors within a relevant field.

It is recommended that candidates learn about and gain experience with a variety of operating systems, programming languages, and security software, depending on the systems used by employers.

How Much Does A Penetration Tester Make?

Depending on your experience and position, you can earn between £40,000 and £65,000, rising to £70,000 as a manager or team leader. The figure can, however, vary greatly depending on the sector you work in. An independent penetration tester can expect to earn up to £500 per day.

What Skills Are Required To Become A Penetration Tester?

On a personal level, one of the main skills required to become a penetration tester is to possess the ability to think creatively and strategically to penetrate security systems

It is also a good thing to be organised when it comes to time management and have the ability to meet client deadlines. Ethical integrity is required to be trusted with a high level of confidential information. You should also hold the ability to think laterally and ‘outside the box’. 

On a professional level, you will need to possess skills such as:

  • Basic knowledge of computer networks
  • Understanding of how computers work 
  • Knowledge of Unix and/or Linux
  • How to operate key tools such as Kali Linux and Wireshark
  • The ability to code

What Tools Do Penetration Testers Use?

Back in the golden days, ‘hacking’ wasn’t a common skill, let alone an entire industry. This was in part owed to the massive amount of manual tinkering and fiddling in a time with more limited technology. 

These days though, we even have automated testing tools that are effectively computer enhanced humans that can test and provide more in-depth data than ever before. The day-to-day life of a pen tester is made through the tools they use, so here’s a list of some tools used by testers.

  1. Kali Linux
  2. Nmap
  3. Wireshark
  4. John the Ripper
  5. Metasploit

There are plenty of other tools out there for pen testers to use and it’s all a matter of personal preference and what needs to be achieved.