8 Steps in Penetration Testing You Should Know

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January 2, 2024
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Mastering the art of penetration testing has become a critical ability for security experts to combat cyber threats in an era where firm data and confidential information are increasingly valued.

Penetration testing, sometimes known as “pen testing,” is an important approach for finding and correcting system or network vulnerabilities. A penetration test, when performed correctly, is critical to ensuring the security and integrity of sensitive data.

This tutorial delves into the critical aspects of doing effective penetration testing, such as understanding its definition, objectives, execution methodology, and adherence to best practices.

Understanding Penetration Testing (Pentests)

Penetration testing is a controlled cyber attack on a computer system, network, or web application. Its major purpose is to assess the robustness of security protections and identify any weaknesses that attackers could exploit.

Pentesting’s goal is to compile a comprehensive vulnerability assessment, detect security weaknesses, and provide recommendations for improving system defenses.

A penetration test is often carried out by a group of qualified security specialists who use a variety of tools and techniques to gain unauthorized access to a target business. Exploiting known security flaws, using social engineering to acquire personal information from employees, or evading security measures could all be part of this process.

Penetration testing is critical in cybersecurity. A penetration test’s findings help enterprises remedy potential security holes before they are exploited by malevolent entities.

Furthermore, pen testing is useful in validating the effectiveness of an organization’s security procedures and confirming compliance with key industry norms and standards.

8 Steps in Penetration Testing for Success (1)

How to Perform Penetration Testing

1. Black Box Testing:

In this strategy, penetration testers play the role of hackers while knowing very little about the system. Their purpose is to get access to the system by the use of publicly available information such as online URLs, IP addresses, or open ports. This method puts the system’s exterior defenses to the test by simulating an attacker with no inside knowledge of the system’s architecture or security mechanisms.

2. Gray Box Testing:

This method is a compromise between black-and-white box testing. The testers, sometimes known as ‘white hat hackers,’ are given limited information about the target system. Access to low-level user accounts and specific documents could be included. This little knowledge aids in determining how much damage a semi-informed attacker could cause to the system.

3. White Box Testing:

White box testing allows penetration testers full access to the system, including admin-level accounts. This method is used to detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited from within the system, providing a thorough examination of the security architecture and potential internal threats.

Compliance regulations and necessary practices are crucial considerations when selecting the type of penetration test, especially for systems that handle sensitive personal data or payment methods. To ensure not just the system’s security but also its compliance, the testing approach must be aligned with the necessary legal and regulatory standards.

8 Steps to Penetration Testing

The penetration testing method is extensive, comprising all procedures required to evaluate existing defense mechanisms and prevent unauthorized system access. The methods stated below follow the guidelines outlined in the Penetration Testing Standard, and they give an organized approach to successful penetration testing.

8 Steps to Successful Penetration Testing:

Pre-engagement Interactions:

The first stage necessitates precise planning. Key factors include defining the scope, identifying target systems or networks, and establishing defined test objectives. This step also includes determining the start date, estimating the duration, and identifying important contacts. It can be good to provide additional resources such as documentation and previous test results.

Intelligence Gathering:

This step entails gathering detailed information about the target systems or networks. For network scanning and examining publicly available data on the system, many tools and approaches are used. DNS reconnaissance, checking for leaked credentials, and reviewing code repositories are all examples of this. Offline techniques for acquiring intelligence, such as on-site reconnaissance and physical security measures, are also critical.

Scanning:

With enough information, the next step is to scan the target systems or networks for vulnerabilities. This usually entails using automated techniques, such as vulnerability scanners, to uncover potential flaws.

Threat Modeling:

Penetration testers use this phase to build a threat model by analyzing assets, business processes, and human factors. Consider the potential attacker’s point of view, including their identity and capabilities. Accurate model documentation is required for future reference and validation.

Vulnerability Analysis:

With insights into system design and business processes, testers may now discover possible weaknesses. These may include misconfigured services and exposed ports, as well as unsafe process architectures and weak server directories. The goal is to develop a vulnerability assessment that has been thoroughly evaluated, verified, and supported by research.

Exploitation:

The emphasis now moves to exploiting the identified vulnerabilities, which are typically done with a combination of tools and manual procedures. Password cracking, SQL injection, and other types of exploitation may be used.

Post-exploitation:

The goal after successful exploitation is to estimate the value of the obtained data and system. This phase frequently entails expanding system access, sustaining presence, and maybe gaining access to more secure data or portions of the system.

Reporting:

Following these procedures in a methodical manner can signify the final stage is to compile a comprehensive report. This document should include the pre-assessment agreements, an executive summary, specifics of found vulnerabilities, and mitigation recommendations. Significantly improve the efficacy of penetration testing, ensuring a robust security posture for the firm.

Things to consider while doing a Penetration Test

Penetration testing is an essential tool for identifying and addressing system or network vulnerabilities, but there are several critical considerations to keep in mind to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

Key Considerations in Penetration Testing:

Clearly Defined Scope:

 It is critical to define the scope of the pentest. A well-defined scope keeps testers from accidentally accessing sensitive data or interfering with system operations. It should be broad enough to provide an accurate picture of the system’s security while being focused enough to avoid unneeded disturbances.

Hiring Ethical and Experienced Hackers:

It is critical to select a team of skilled and ethical hackers. Their expertise not only offers a safe and controlled testing environment but also brings in-depth industry knowledge that might be crucial in system protection. Their ethical approach ensures that any vulnerabilities discovered are dealt with appropriately.

Effective Communication:

  • It is critical to maintain clear communication with the system owner or designated contact, especially when dealing with limited scopes or production systems. Miscommunication might result in blurred lines and potential disruptions to everyday operations.

Discreet and Timely Testing:

While it is ideal to do penetration tests before system launch, maintenance checks on live systems should be conducted discretely to avoid business interruptions. Authenticity in results is critical, and this frequently necessitates testing that is as quiet as feasible.

Netguru’s Best Practices for Penetration Testing:

Defined Test Scope:

 A defined test scope ensures focused and targeted testing while not interfering with system operations. To avoid a false sense of security, it is critical to incorporate a comprehensive component of the system.

Ethics and Experience:

To ensure safe  Tesand successful testing, as well as correct handling of any detected vulnerabilities, the pentest should be undertaken by competent and ethical hackers.

Testing Frequency: ting is essential for finding new vulnerabilities and maintaining system security

Acting Upon Pentest Report:

Following up on the recommendations in the pentest report is critical for addressing detected vulnerabilities and securing the systems and networks.

To summarize, successful penetration testing needs thorough planning, expert execution, and ongoing monitoring. Organizations can greatly improve the security and integrity of their systems and networks by following these principles and best practices.

Lucas Maes

Lucas Maes

Author

Cybersecurity guru, encryption wizard, safeguarding data with 10+ yrs of IT defense expertise. Speaker & author on digital protection.

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