Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is basically a simulated cyberattack that is utilized to identify vulnerabilities and to plan for different defense measures.
Pen tests also boost employee security awareness, estimate the effectiveness of incident response plans, and help evaluate an organization’s compliance.
Testing your staff and processes against emerging cyber threats will help your organization avoid breaches and disruptions ensuring business continuity.
Common Types of Penetration Testing
When running a pen test, it is crucial to remember that there is no perfect test that fits all industries, environments, etc.
Here are some of the most common types of penetration tests.
Internal Pen Testing
It will allow you to assess your organization’s internal systems to find out how a hacker could move throughout your network.
External Pen Testing
It evaluates your Internet-facing systems to determine if there are exploitable vulnerabilities that may expose sensitive data or allow any unauthorized access.
Web Application Pen Test
It assesses your web application typically using a three-phase process:
Reconnaissance is the first phase where the testing team gathers crucial information such as the operating system, services, resources in use, etc.
Discovery is the second phase where the team attempts to identify the vulnerabilities of your web application.
Exploitation is the final phase where the testing team will leverage the discovered vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Wireless Pen Testing
This type of testing will allow you to identify the risks and vulnerabilities associated with your wireless network. The testing team will assess weaknesses such as network misconfigurations, unauthorized wireless devices, etc.
Physical Penetration Testing
The designated team will identify the risks and vulnerabilities to your organization’s physical security by attempting to gain access to a corporate physical device. The team will apply social engineering methods, badge cloning, etc.
When To Conduct a Penetration Test?
Unfortunately, there are many organizations that don’t run such tests until after a security breach occurs, so after losing important data, intellectual property, and reputation.
NOTE! If your organization has experienced a breach, a remediation penetration test should be conducted to ensure the vulnerability is fixed.
Penetration tests should be conducted whenever changes are made – new additions to the network infrastructure or whenever key applications get important updates, or at least annually. Factors including company size, infrastructure, regulatory requirements, and emerging threats will determine the most appropriate frequency.
However, testing more often can highlight potential security risks more frequently, giving you a more comprehensive overview of your security status.
Who Performs Such Tests?
While pen testing can be conducted internally, external professionals can offer greater insight, as they have no prior knowledge of your system.
Under US legislation, organizations must sign a consent form outlining the exact area and depth of what is subject to test.
There are three different levels of testing, or methodologies:
- Black Box – Zero access to the target environment
- Grey Box – Limited access to the target environment
- White Box – Administrator access to the target environment
After a Pen Test
- Review the final report and discuss the findings with both the external penetration testing team and your in-house cybersecurity team.
- Develop a cybersecurity strategy and a remediation plan to address the findings.
- Make sure to repeat the tests and run further vulnerability scans to track the success and progress of your patches and upgrades over the long-term.
Acting on the results of pen tests as quickly as possible is crucial for avoiding downtime, disruption and any brand damage caused by potential breaches.
Penetration testing is about developing your organization’s long-term cybersecurity strategy, based on tested and patched real-world vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
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