Glossary

Penetration Testing

What is Penetration Testing?

Cyber penetration testing is an effective way to show that your security program is capable of protecting your business. 

Pentesters that carry out the penetration test are “white hat hackers”. This means that they do not have malicious intent when hacking into a web application or network. Their purpose in breaking into a system is to identify security gaps that need fixing. 

Penetration testing prices can vary significantly depending on the scope and complexity of the test. A basic pentest of a small network or web application may cost a few thousand dollars, while a comprehensive pentest of a large enterprise network can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Simulating an attack on your system with penetration testing devices will teach you the following:

  • What vulnerabilities are hiding in your system 
  • How much risk each of them poses to the business
  • How to remediate or mitigate them
Penetration Testing

Six Steps of Penetration Testing

There are six penetration testing phases:

  1. Reconnaissance
  2. Scanning
  3. Vulnerability assessment
  4. Exploitation
  5. Maintaining presence
  6. Reporting

Read on as we take a closer look at each of these phases.  

  1. Reconnaissance

Reconnaissance is the initial step in a penetration testing process. The tester acquires as much data as they can on the target system during this phase, including details about the user accounts, operating systems, and applications, as well as the network topology. In order for the tester to develop a successful attack plan, the objective is to collect as much data as possible.

Depending on the techniques employed to obtain information, reconnaissance can be classified as either active or passive. While active reconnaissance involves directly interacting with the target system to gather information, passive reconnaissance draws information from sources that are already widely accessible. Usually, both techniques are required to acquire a complete picture of the target’s weaknesses.

  1. Scanning

It’s time to move on to penetration testing scanning once all the pertinent information has been obtained during the reconnaissance phase. The tester employs a variety of tools during this penetration testing phase to find open ports and examine network activity on the target system. Penetration testers must find as many open ports as they can in order to prepare for the subsequent penetration testing phase because open ports are potential points of entry for attackers.

In circumstances where this stage is carried out independently of penetration testing, it is known as “vulnerability scanning” and is typically an automated process. However, there are disadvantages to only running a scan without conducting a full penetration test. Scanning can spot a potential threat but cannot determine the degree and method to which hackers can gain access.

Scanning is essential for security assessment, but it needs to be complemented with human analysis in the form of penetration testing to reach security objectives. 

One popular scanning tool is Nmap. Nmap scans networks for open ports and services. It also includes features for identifying vulnerable applications.

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  1. Vulnerability Assessment

Vulnerability assessment, the third stage of penetration testing, involves finding potential vulnerabilities and determining if they can be exploited using all the information obtained during reconnaissance and scanning. 

Penetration testers can use a variety of tools to assess the risk of vulnerabilities found at this stage. One of them is the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), a database of vulnerability management information produced and maintained by the US government that examines the software flaws listed in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database. Using the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), the NVD assigns known vulnerabilities a severity rating.

  1. Exploitation

Exploitation begins when vulnerabilities have been found. The penetration tester makes an attempt to get access to the target system and exploit the vulnerabilities found during this phase of testing, generally by simulating actual attacks with a program like Metasploit.

The target system must be accessed by evading security measures, making this step of the penetration test the most delicate. Although it is uncommon for systems to crash during penetration testing, testers must still exercise caution to make sure the system is not compromised or damaged.

  1. Maintaining Presence

The objective here is to determine whether the flaw can be used to establish a persistent presence in the system being exploited—long enough for a malicious actor to obtain in-depth access. In order to steal the most sensitive data from a company, advanced persistent threats, which can frequently stay in a system for months, are imitated.

  1. Reporting

The tester creates a report summarizing the results of the penetration test when the exploitation phase is over. The final penetration testing phase’s report can be used to close any security holes detected in the system and strengthen the organization’s security posture.

In order for the organization to reduce its security risks, a penetration testing report must properly document vulnerabilities and put them into perspective. The sections of the most helpful reports comprise a thorough summary of discovered vulnerabilities, a business impact analysis, an explanation of the difficulties of the exploitation phase, a technical risk briefing, remedial guidance, and strategic suggestions.

Conclusion

Penetration hacking is a critical part of cyber security, and as more organizations and applications move to a cloud environment, the need for penetration testers will only increase. By thinking from the perspective of a hacker, penetration testers can enhance the security of IT systems and safeguard data.

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 Penetration Testing?

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