A penetration testing, also known as a pentest, is a simulated cyber attack against your computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities.
The goal of pen testing is to identify vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit and to determine the feasibility of a successful attack. Pen testers use a variety of tools and techniques to simulate the actions of an attacker, including network scanning, vulnerability assessments, and social engineering.
The results of a pen test can be used to improve an organisation’s security posture by identifying and addressing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
What are the benefits of penetration testing?
Penetration testing can provide several benefits, including:
- Identifying vulnerabilities: Pen testing can help organizations identify vulnerabilities in their systems and networks that they may not have been aware of.
- Improving security posture: By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, organizations can strengthen their defences against cyber attacks.
- Meeting regulatory compliance requirements: Many industries are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate regular testing of security controls. Pen testing can help organizations meet these requirements.
- Improving incident response readiness: Pen testing can help organizations identify weaknesses in their incident response processes and procedures, allowing them to improve their readiness to respond to a security breach.
- Building customer confidence: By demonstrating a commitment to security, organizations can build trust and confidence with their customers.
- Reducing the risk of financial losses: By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, organizations can reduce the risk of financial losses due to cyber attacks.
What are the Phases of Pentest?
Pen testers simulate attacks by motivated adversaries. To do this, they typically follow a plan that includes the following steps:
There are generally five phases of a typical penetration test:
1. Planning and Reconnaissance
In this phase, the pen tester will define the scope of the test and gather information about the target system or network. This may include performing internet searches, using publicly available tools to gather information about the target, and reviewing any documentation provided by the client.
In this phase, the pen tester will use automated tools to scan the target system or network for vulnerabilities. These tools can identify open ports, services, and applications that may be vulnerable to attack.
3. Gaining access
In this phase, the pen tester will attempt to exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to the target system or network. This may involve attempting to log in with default or easily guessable credentials, exploiting known vulnerabilities in software or hardware, or using social engineering techniques to trick users into divulging their login information.
4. Maintaining access
In this phase, the pen tester will focus on maintaining access to the target system or network and attempting to escalate their privileges. This may involve installing backdoors or other persistent methods of access, such as adding a user account with administrative privileges.
In this final phase, the pen tester will document their findings and present a report to the client. The report should include a list of vulnerabilities found, the methods used to exploit them, and recommendations for remediation.
The Steps of Pentesting
What are the types of Pentesting?
A comprehensive approach to pen testing is essential for optimal risk management. This entails testing all the areas in your environment.
There are several types of penetration testing, including:
- External testing: This type of testing focuses on the external network and infrastructure of an organization, simulating an attack from the Internet.
- Internal testing: This type of testing simulates an attack from within an organization’s network, such as from an insider or a malicious actor who has gained access to the network.
- Targeted testing: This type of testing focuses on a specific target or goal, such as a particular system or application.
- Black box testing: This type of testing is conducted without any prior knowledge of the systems or networks being tested.
- White box testing: This type of testing is conducted with full knowledge of the systems and networks being tested.
- Gray box testing: This type of testing is conducted with partial knowledge of the systems and networks being tested.
- Web application testing: This type of testing focuses on the security of web applications and websites.
- Mobile application testing: This type of testing focuses on the security of mobile applications.
- Network testing: This type of testing focuses on the security of networks and network infrastructure.
- Social engineering testing: This type of testing involves attempting to manipulate employees or other individuals in order to gain access to sensitive information or systems.
What are the types of pentesting tools?
There are many types of penetration testing tools, and they can be classified in a number of ways. Here are a few common categories:
- Network penetration testing tools: These tools are used to test the security of networks and network devices, such as routers, switches, and firewalls. Examples include Nmap, Wireshark, and Metasploit.
- Application penetration testing tools: These tools are used to test the security of applications, such as web applications and mobile apps. Examples include Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, and sql map.
- Wireless penetration testing tools: These tools are used to test the security of wireless networks, such as Wi-Fi networks. Examples include Aircrack-ing and Kismet.
- Social engineering penetration testing tools: These tools are used to test the susceptibility of individuals to social engineering attacks, such as phishing or pretexting. Examples include SET (Social-Engineer Toolkit) and Maltego.
- Physical penetration testing tools: These tools are used to test the physical security of a facility, such as locks and security cameras. Examples include lock picking tools and security cameras.
How does pentesting differ from automated testing?
Although pen testing is mostly a manual effort, pen testers do use automated scanning and testing tools. But they also go beyond the tools and use their knowledge of the latest attack techniques to provide more in-depth testing than a vulnerability assessment (i.e., automated testing).
Manual pen testing uncovers vulnerabilities and weaknesses not included in popular lists (e.g., OWASP Top 10) and tests business logic that automated testing can overlook (e.g., data validation, integrity checks). A manual pen test can also help identify false positives reported by automated testing. Because pen testers are experts who think like adversaries, they can analyse data to target their attacks and test systems and websites in ways automated testing solutions following a scripted routine cannot.
Automated testing generates results faster and needs fewer specialised professionals than a fully manual pen testing process. Automated testing tools track results automatically and can sometimes export them to a centralised reporting platform. Also, the results of manual pen tests can vary from test to test, whereas running automated testing repeatedly on the same system will produce the same results.
What certification need as PenTester
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): Offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), this certification covers various aspects of ethical hacking, including penetration testing, footprinting and reconnaissance, system hacking, and more.
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP): Offered by Offensive Security, this certification is highly regarded in the industry and requires passing a challenging 24-hour hands-on exam.
- Certified Penetration Testing Professional (CPENT): Offered by the EC-Council, this certification focuses on advanced penetration testing techniques and requires a hands-on exam.
- GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN): Offered by the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), this certification covers various areas of penetration testing, including reconnaissance, scanning and enumeration, and exploitation.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): Offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)², this certification covers various aspects of information security, including penetration testing.
- OSWE (Offensive Security Web Expert) is another certification offered by Offensive Security, and is considered one of the most advanced and prestigious certifications in the field of web application penetration testing.
Why Pentest is so important?
Penetration testing, also known as “pentesting,” is a critical aspect of network and computer security. It is the practice of testing a computer system, network, or web application to identify vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit. By conducting regular penetration tests, organizations can identify and address security weaknesses before they can be exploited by attackers.
Here are a few reasons why penetration testing is important:
- Helps to identify vulnerabilities: Penetration testing is an effective way to identify vulnerabilities in an organization’s network, systems, and applications. These vulnerabilities could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access, steal sensitive data, or disrupt operations.
- Compliance: Many industries have compliance requirements that mandate regular security assessments, such as PCI-DSS for payment card industry, HIPAA for healthcare and SOC2 for cloud providers . Pentest can be a valuable tool for organizations to demonstrate compliance with these requirements.
- Validates the effectiveness of security controls: Penetration testing can help organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their security controls and identify any gaps that need to be addressed.
- Helps to prepare for an actual attack: By simulating an attack, penetration testing helps organizations to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses that attackers could exploit, and it provides them with an opportunity to practice incident response procedures before an actual attack occurs.
- Allows for continuous improvement: Regular penetration testing helps organizations to identify and address new security threats as they emerge, and as a result, to continuously improve their overall security posture.
It’s important to note that penetration testing is a specialized and highly technical field, and it should be conducted by experienced professionals with the appropriate skills and knowledge. Also, keep in mind that a Pentest should be done only after the consent of all parties involved and should be done in a controlled environment.
How Penetration Testing differs from Bug Bounty?
Penetration testing and bug bounty programs are both methods of identifying vulnerabilities in a system or application, but they differ in a few key ways:
- Scope: A penetration test is typically a more comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s security posture, while a bug bounty program is focused on finding specific vulnerabilities in a specific application or system.
- Approach: Pen testers are typically hired by the organization and follow a predetermined scope and set of guidelines, while bug bounty participants are typically independent security researchers who are motivated by the potential financial reward of finding a vulnerability.
- Goals: The goal of a penetration test is to identify vulnerabilities and assess the feasibility of a successful attack, while the goal of a bug bounty program is to identify and report vulnerabilities in order to receive a reward.
- Remediation: Pen testers usually provide recommendations for remediation of vulnerabilities they discover, while bug bounty programs do not typically include remediation as part of their scope.
- Legal considerations: Pen testers typically operate under a contract that includes legal protections for both the organization and the tester, while bug bounty participants may not have the same level of legal protection.
What are OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities checklist?
The OWASP Top 10 is a list of the most common web application vulnerabilities, as identified by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). It is intended to provide a consistent and concise summary of the most critical vulnerabilities that organizations should address in order to secure their web applications. The current version of the OWASP Top 10 is:
- Broken Authentication and Session Management
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
- Insecure Direct Object References
- Security Misconfiguration
- Sensitive Data Exposure
- Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
- Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities
- Insufficient Logging and Monitoring
- Failure to Restrict URL Access
It’s worth noting that the OWASP Top 10 is not a definitive or exhaustive list of all web application vulnerabilities, but rather a representation of the most common and most critical vulnerabilities that organizations should prioritize
Penetration testing is a critical aspect of network and computer security. It is the practice of testing a computer system, network, or web application to identify vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit. By conducting regular penetration tests, organizations can identify and address security weaknesses before they can be exploited by attackers.