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Penetration Testing: What’s The Thing

Every company and organization worldwide invests a lot of money and spends significant time on cyber security. Nowadays, regular cyber security checks play a vital role in managing different workspaces. Penetration testing helps review the cybersecurity readiness of your company or organization from various cyberattacks. Pen tests allow companies and organizations to see the possible weaknesses in their cybersecurity defense lines.

What is Pentesting?

Penetration testing or pen test is a direct test of an organization, company, website, device, application, or even employees to see if any of them has potential cybersecurity risks. In the first step, pen testers will try to identify all the potential entry points and in the second one they will attempt to exploit them and see where the potential security breach could happen. Overall, the team of specialists will try to repeat the same steps as potential hackers will do.

You can compare pen testing with testing the safety of your own house when you check all the locks, doors, and windows to ensure no one unwanted could trespass on your territory. That’s what pen testers do — they evaluate the security states of different IT infrastructures with the help of a controlled environment to attack, identify and exploit found vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Overall, pen-testing is often a part of a more global checkup – so-called Business Impact Analysis.

The negligence of pen-testing may result for companies and organizations in the theft of intellectual property, loss of brand value, and heavy fines. The vulnerabilities that a company or organization may have will include out-of-date systems and software, insecure communications, weak passwords, various misconfigurations and development errors.

How Penetration Testing Is Done?

Penetration testing is not a task for random people with no qualifications. It also requires certain software that can effectively reveal the breaches. Sometimes, penetration testing tools are used by hackers for their dirty job. To perform the penetration test, specialists will go through the following steps:

  • Plan and reconnaissance. At the first step, specialists will make a general overview of the systems to be checked and decide what pen testing method should be applied. Also, pen testers will collect all the necessary information on how the target works and so understand what its potential vulnerabilities could be;
  • Scanning. In this step, penetration testers try to understand how the target will respond to various intrusions. Specialists perform this checkup via static or dynamic analysis that allows seeing how the elements behave during routine operations. The scanning is a single-time operation;
  • Gaining Access. At this stage, pen-test specialists will apply various web application attacks. Among them is SQL injection, installing a backdoor, cross-site scripting. In this way, testers try to get initial access to the target. They attempt to intercept traffic, steal data, escalate privileges, etc, all to see what damage they can do at this particular step;
  • Maintain Access. Pen-testers imitate the APT activity at the next step. This implies gaining sustainability in the environment and seeking the data to exfiltrate. Pen testers will continue exploiting the vulnerability they found in the previous steps to see where the hackers can reach;
  • Analysis. After all the steps, the team of pen-testers generates a report where they define the key questions of the whole work. The cybersecurity team uses this information to patch the vulnerabilities and improve protection against real cyberattacks.

What Kinds Of Pentesting Methods Exist

Pen testers can rely on several methods to conduct penetration testing:

  • Targeted testing. When opting for this method, pen testers will collaborate closely with the security team to exchange opinions during the pen testing. The security team can get valuable real-time feedback on how to better their response and the company’s cyber security;
  • Double-blind testing. This method simulates a real-time attack when threat actors usually have only the enterprise’s name. The method gives a more realistic view of the situation for security teams of what actual directions any potential threat actors will take and where security improvements should be implemented;
  • Internal testing. In this kind of method tester receives internal access to a tested IT infrastructure, usually omitting its firewall. Such penetration test simulates a cyber attack by a malicious insider but also an attack where threat actors manage to get the company’s or organization’s employees’ credentials;
  • External testing. When conducting external testing, specialists try to find vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a company’s IT assets that are visible on the internet, like domain name servers (DNS), email, company website, and the web application itself.

What Is The Difference Between Penetration Testing And Vulnerability Scanning?

Sometimes people confuse the terms “Penetration Testing” and “Vulnerability Scanning”. Even though they are related, there’s a slight difference between the two.

Vulnerability scans automatically identify security breaches in applications and systems. As in penetration testing, specific software will scan some parts of your IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities. It does a good job of identifying major known vulnerabilities. This software works by an algorithm of “if-then” scenarios that help to identify major flaws in certain system settings or features.

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The complete scan of the vulnerabilities will provide you with a report, the same as pen testing. Again, it will show possible breaches to which the company should pay attention. Some companies, for example, those that work with cardholder data, should conduct vulnerability scans every quarter and after the changes in a network. That is one of the requirements of PCI DSS data regulation. Vulnerability scanning is what the company can do manually without hiring professionals. Meanwhile, penetration testing is more extensive and requires specialized personnel. Some companies, tiny ones, hire outsourcers to cut costs.

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