Glossary

Internal Penetration Testing

Internal penetration testing is a proactive approach to assess the security posture of an organization’s internal network infrastructure. Unlike external penetration testing, which focuses on identifying vulnerabilities from outside the network perimeter, internal penetration testing simulates attacks that could originate from within the organization’s network.

Internal Penetration Testing

What is Internal Penetration Testing?

Internal penetration testing methodically evaluates an organization’s internal network security measures. It involves simulating real-world attack scenarios to identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and weaknesses within the internal network infrastructure. The goal is to uncover potential security risks that malicious insiders or external attackers could exploit to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, systems, or resources.

When is Internal Penetration Testing Used?

Internal penetration testing is typically conducted as part of a comprehensive security assessment program or in response to specific security concerns or compliance requirements. Organizations may perform internal penetration testing regularly to proactively identify and address security weaknesses before attackers can exploit them. Additionally, internal penetration testing may be conducted following significant changes to the internal network infrastructure, such as deploying new systems or applications, to ensure that security controls remain effective.

How is Internal Penetration Testing Done?

Internal penetration testing follows a systematic process that involves several key steps:

  • Pre-engagement: The testing team defines the scope, objectives, and rules of engagement for the assessment. This includes identifying the assets, systems, and networks to be tested and any constraints or limitations.
  • Reconnaissance: The testing team gathers information about the internal network infrastructure, such as IP addresses, domain names, network topology, and system configurations. This information is used to identify potential attack vectors and targets for further exploitation.
  • Vulnerability Assessment: The testing team performs automated and manual vulnerability scans to identify known security vulnerabilities and weaknesses within the internal network infrastructure. This may include vulnerabilities in operating systems, applications, services, and network devices.
  • Exploitation: The testing team exploits identified vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to systems, escalate privileges, and move laterally within the internal network. This may involve various techniques, such as exploiting software vulnerabilities, brute-force attacks, and social engineering tactics.
  • Post-exploitation: Once access to systems or resources has been obtained, the testing team assesses the potential impact of the compromise and identifies any additional security vulnerabilities or sensitive data that may be at risk.
  • Reporting: The testing team documents their findings, including details of vulnerabilities discovered, the methods used to exploit them, and recommendations for remediation. The final internal penetration testing report is typically provided to the organization’s stakeholders, along with actionable recommendations for improving the security posture of the internal network infrastructure.

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Who Conducts Internal Penetration Testing?

Internal penetration testing is typically conducted by experienced cybersecurity professionals or specialized firms with expertise in network security, internal penetration testing methodology, and relevant industry standards and regulations. These professionals should have a deep understanding of attack techniques and internal penetration testing software and the ability to accurately assess the potential impact of security vulnerabilities on an organization’s operations and data.

Preparing the Homefront for an Internal Penetration Test

Organizations should follow a structured preparation process to ensure a seamless and network internal penetration testing experience. Here’s an internal network penetration testing checklist to guide you:

  1. Gather Scoping Information

Kickstart the project by gathering scoping/target information. This involves identifying all network ranges in scope, defining specific goals for compromise scenarios, and providing relevant details like account lockout policies.

  1. Review Rules of Engagement

Arrange a brief meeting with the testing team to review and confirm the penetration testing rules of engagement. Discuss project scope, testing timelines, objectives, and limitations, and address any queries or concerns.

  1. Deployment Preparation
  • For testing, decide on the deployment method—Virtual Machine (VM) or Physical Device (Small Form-Factor PC).
  • Select the virtualization technology (e.g., VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V) for VM deployment and determine IP address assignment preferences. Ensure the VM has internet access and required outbound permissions.
  1. Select Testing Scenarios

Choose between two common scenarios:

  • Third-Party Vendor Access: Testers gain access as a 3rd party vendor without needing credentials.
  • Insider Threat Simulation: Testers simulate an employee with access, requiring Active Directory credentials.

Consider exploring both scenarios to assess your network security comprehensively.

  1. Inform Relevant Teams
  • Notify your security operations center (SOC) or network operations center (NOC) about the scheduled internal penetration test. Share the IP address assigned to the test device for their reference.
  • Inform other pertinent teams within your organization about the impending test to ensure coordination and minimize disruptions.
  1. Ensure Network Connectivity

Verify that the testing device (VM or physical) has proper network connectivity, including internet access and any necessary firewall or routing configurations.

  1. Provide Necessary Credentials

If necessary for testing scenarios, furnish Active Directory credentials or any other pertinent credentials to the testing team to simulate insider threats effectively.

  1. Prepare for Post-Exploitation Activities

Anticipate post-exploitation activities such as infrastructure analysis, pivoting, identification, and exfiltration. Ensure your organization is prepared to respond promptly and effectively to any identified vulnerabilities or breaches.

  1. Maintain Communication

Foster open communication channels with the testing team throughout the preparation phase. Address any queries or concerns promptly to ensure clarity and alignment on expectations.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

Want to talk to Centraleyes about Internal Penetration Testing?

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