Pen testing (or penetration testing) is a security exercise in which a cyber-security specialist seeks to discover and exploit flaws in a computer system. This simulated attack aims to find any weak points in a system's security that attackers may exploit.
This is analogous to a bank paying someone to disguise themselves as burglars to get into their building and access the vault. If the 'burglar' succeeds in breaking into the bank or burial, the bank will receive vital information about how to strengthen security systems.
Ethical hacking techniques, which imitate a cyberattack, assist security experts in evaluating the efficiency of information security safeguards within their businesses. The pen test seeks to breach an organization's cyber defenses by looking for exploitable flaws in networks, online apps, and user security. The goal is to identify system flaws before attackers do.
In the case of networks, the overarching purpose is to improve security by shutting unused ports, debugging services, adjusting firewall rules, and closing any security gaps.
Appknox's Pen testing tool is used to find, evaluate, and report on common online application vulnerabilities such as buffer overflow, SQL injection, and cross-site scripting, to mention a few.
Pen testing can also acquire privileged access to sensitive systems or steal data from a secure system.
Penetration testing is frequently used to supplement a web application firewall in the context of web application security (WAF).
Common Pen Testing Methods
Here are some regularly used penetration testing methodologies based on the organized organization.
External testingEntails assaults on the company's network perimeter utilizing processes outside the organization's systems, such as the Extranet and Internet.
Performed from within the organisation's environment, this test seeks to determine what would happen if the network perimeter is successfully breached or what an authorised user might do to access certain information resources within the organisation.
The testing team has little or no knowledge of the business. It must rely on publicly accessible information (such as the corporate website, domain name registration, and so on) to acquire information about the target and execute penetration tests.
Only a few people inside the organisation are made aware of the testing throughout this exercise. Because the IT and security personnel are not told or informed in advance, they are "blind" to the intended testing operations.
Helps organizations assess their security monitoring and incident detection processes and their escalation and response protocols.
In Blind Testing
The tester attempts to mimic the activities of a real hacker. Targeted testing, sometimes known as the lights-on technique, involves IT and penetration testing teams. Testing efforts and information about the goal and network design are known. Targeted tests take less time and effort than blind tests. Still, they don't always give as thorough a picture of an organization's security vulnerabilities and response capabilities as other testing methodologies.
Tools For Common in Network Penetration Testing
Pen testing provides IT teams with a new viewpoint on how to strengthen defenses, and it adds an effective set of tools and services to the armory of security professionals.
These are some examples:
- Scanners for ports
- Scanners for vulnerabilities
- Scanners for applications
- Proxies for evaluating web applications
1. The Network Mapper (NMAP): NMAP is a tool that identifies flaws in an enterprise's network infrastructure. It may also be used to do audits. NMAP takes newly formed raw data packets and utilizes them to determine:
What are hosts accessible over a certain network trunk or segment?
The versions and types of data packet filters/firewalls used by every given host
Organizations may use NMAP to construct a virtual map of a network segment and then determine the primary points of weakness that a cyber attacker might exploit. NMAP may be used at any stage of the pen testing process and is a free, open-source programme found at www.nmap.org.
2. Metasploit: Rather than a single tool, Metasploit offers a collection of pen-testing tools. It is a framework that is always improving to stay up with today's ethical hackers, who may also contribute to this platform.
Metasploit, based on the PERL platform, comes with a plethora of built-in exploits that can be used to do various types of pen tests, and many are even customizable. For example, it already has a built-in network sniffer and multiple access points to mount and coordinate various types of cyber-based assaults.
3. Wireshark: It is a network protocol and data packet analyzer that can detect network problems and assess traffic for vulnerabilities in real-time. It emphasizes data packet features, origin, destination, and more by evaluating connection-level information and the elements of data packets. While it detects possible vulnerabilities, it still requires a penetration testing tool to attack them.
W3AF (Web Application Attack and Audit Framework) is a pen-testing suite developed by Metasploit software developers. Its primary goal is to identify and exploit any security flaws in web-based applications, and it includes a plethora of tools for doing so.
4. John the Ripper: JTR is a quick and efficient password breaker that is now available for various operating systems (Unix, macOS, Windows, DOS, BeOS, and OpenVMS). Pen testers may use it to discover weak passwords and fix the underlying flaws in regular password use. JTR was designed and developed on an open-source platform, and it is available at http://www.openwall.com/john/.
What Is the Main Goal of Penetration Testing?
In recent years, penetration testing has become a frequently used security technique by enterprises. This is especially true for companies that retain and access sensitive or private information, such as banks or healthcare providers.
While the primary goal of a pen test is to uncover vulnerabilities or exploit flaws, it is crucial to remember that the primary purpose of a pen test is frequently linked to a business objective with an overall strategy.
As part of the Cyber Security Maturity Certification, Department of Defense contractors, for example, must have proper protocols in place to secure Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) (CMMC).
A penetration test is one of several security measures required to meet auditor criteria, depending on the degree attained by the contractor.
On the other hand, the security objectives of a software firm might differ substantially.
Application penetration testing, for example, aids in identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in code that may be vulnerable to an attack. Following that, developers strive to provide patches to update the codebase.
Finally, the sorts of penetration testing done are determined by the business goals, which we shall discuss momentarily.
Reporting on Results
After the testing phase is completed, a report is generated and submitted to corporate leadership and business owners. This is the true worth of any penetration testing project.
This report should give direction and recommendations for lowering risk exposure and practical measures toward resolution.
It is vital to note that penetration testing reports are customised to satisfy a company's cyber security needs based on the following criteria:
- How their network is configured.
- Business goals for conducting a pen test
- Software, servers, endpoints, physical controllers, and so on are all being tested.
- The monetary worth of tangible or intangible assets is safeguarded.
And a lot more!
What Are The Various Methods Of Penetration Testing?
Based on the information supplied and the sort of flaw to be discovered, testers choose one of three ways to penetration testing:
1. The white box
The testers in a white box test have comprehensive knowledge of the system and its access. This technique aims to thoroughly test the system and collect as much information as feasible. In this situation, the advantage is that because the tester has unrestricted access and knowledge of the system, including code quality and internal designs, the Pentest may uncover even distantly situated vulnerabilities, providing a full picture of the security.
2. The black box
As you might expect, the tester in this technique has no understanding of the system and constructs the test as an ignorant attacker. This method is the most realistic and requires a high level of technical expertise. This method takes the most time and costs more than the white-box method.
3. The grey box
As the name implies, this method falls between white box and black box testing. The tester knows very little about the system. The advantage of this strategy is that the tester has a more targeted area of attack with little knowledge and avoids any trial-and-error manner of assault.
What happens once a Pen Test is completed?
For a long time, open-source software was known as "free software." Richard Stallman founded the free software movement with the GNU Project in 1983. The free software movement was structured around user freedoms: the freedom to read the source code, alter it, redistribute it—to make it available and function for the user in whatever way the user required it to operate.
There is a free software alternative to proprietary or "closed source" software. Closed source software is extremely secure. Only the source code's owners have the legal right to view it.
Closed source code cannot be legally edited or duplicated, and the user only pays to use the product as intended—they cannot modify it or share it with their community.
However, the term "free software" has created some consternation. Free software does not always mean free to own; it simply means free to use however you see fit. "Free as in liberty, not beer," the community has attempted to explain. "The problem with the previous title, 'free software,' was not its political undertones, but that — to newcomers — the seeming concentration on price is distracting," said Christine Peterson, who invented the phrase "open source."