A penetration test is a way of testing the security of an organization’s information technology defenses. It involves trying to find and exploit a security weakness in a computer security system.

There are a number of types of penetration tests, but the most common is an external test. That means an external entity, such as a hacker, is trying to determine how secure your systems are.

What Is A Penetration Test?

In penetration testing, vulnerabilities are exploited in a secure environment in order to test an IT infrastructure’s effectiveness. In addition to vulnerabilities within operating systems, software applications or improper configurations may be exploited.

To gain access to servers, web applications, wireless networks, and other network devices, pen testing is most commonly performed with the use of either manual or automated tools. 

Network and system managers are usually notified about any detected vulnerabilities or ones that have been successfully breached so they can make strategic decisions and amend their security accordingly. Tests like this are designed to determine if systems and their users are at risk as well as evaluate any other consequences that may arise as a result of a breach.

What Is Application Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing identifies potential flaws in web applications whether it is performed manually or automatically. A pen test of this type involves using known malicious attacks against one or more applications.

Typically, pen testers create an environment from the attacker’s perspective and generate attacks such as SQL injections or XSS methods in order to identify any potential weaknesses. A web app pen test is important for discovering technical weaknesses in the database and source code of the application.

What Is Network Penetration Testing?

Network penetration can easily be explained by explaining that it is the process of simulating what a hacker would do to take over a network, an application, a website, or a device. 

During this simulation, security issues should be identified early on, before hackers have a chance to exploit them. In order to identify vulnerabilities in networks, pen testing should be conducted correctly. It can help create real-world scenarios that can show an organization or business how effective their current security is.

How Is Penetration Testing Done?

A penetration test is a complex process of testing the security of a network, and is usually done in phases depending on the requirements of the client. There is no guarantee that what works for one client will work for another. 

Security professionals normally follow these phases when conducting a penetration test.

Recon 

In order to gather as much information as possible about the target, the tester will employ several methods, including operational analysis, the generation of threat intelligence, and appealing network services enumeration. In addition to publicly accessible data, pentesters can also gather data about enterprise systems, which are also publicly accessible.

Rather than being provided by employees, the information about targets is more relevant when gathered by web crawlers and Internet statistics collection systems. You can obtain information online about operating systems, web server applications, and scripts, regardless of whether the web application is being tested.

Vulnerability assessing

In order to identify the target network’s vulnerabilities, we examine the target network extensively at this stage of the engagement. A penetration tester sends probes into the target network which gather information about that network, after which they use that information to learn more about that network.

Vulnerability exploiting

After establishing a threat model based on vulnerability discoveries, the targeted network is infiltrated. It is possible to find holes in old network devices, DMZs, firewalls, or browsers that cannot be exploited.

The penetration tester has to find areas where he or she can exploit holes in a target device to gain access to it. Additionally, while testing a target network, the tester gathers more detailed information.

Maintaining access

After testers have gained access to a testing system, agents are automatically installed. Administrators can reboot, reset, or update the system, but the agents will remain in the system, retain their access, and remain active.

Gathering information

In the phase following the exploit and maintaining access, each exploited system is cleaned after gathering test data. This operation destroys temporary files, executable binaries, scripts, and all other components that are expected to exist in the environment.

When the cleanup process is completed, ensure that the system configuration has been returned to its original state in order to ensure that all backdoors and rootkits have been removed. Whenever you change credentials or create a new username, you must restore them and remove them immediately.

Reporting

An instrument that provides more accurate insight into the results is the consumer survey, which is presented by the seller after the pen test evaluation.

This report should contain an executive summary in which the test plan is outlined in business terms and the results are prioritized according to risk. The needs for this section can be a little more brief, because the business staff will be able to determine what concerns are appropriate and what needs to be addressed.

Technical details should be precise and descriptive, and general or abstract statements should be avoided. Any security flaws that were discovered during the penetration test will be addressed here.

How Long Does Penetration Testing Take?

Penetration tests can vary in length, this depends on a few factors such as the type of testing, the number of systems and any constraints in place. Typically, a penetration test lasts on average between 1-3 weeks.

Connie Cole
Connie Cole

Connie has been working within the cyber security industry for almost 10 years now, specialising in penetration testing or more specifically web application pen testing. She believes that everyone online should have access to this information and strives to provide people with the knowledge they need to begin within the industry and for others to stay safe online.

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