What Is Penetration Testing: Definition, Types, Benefits?

Sep 3, 2021 | Cybersecurity Explained | 0 comments

One of the best ways to protect your health is by having prophylactic examinations from time to time. In that way, if there is an issue with it can be spotted and treated at an early stage. You do that with your doctor and probably your dentist. You don’t show up on their doorstep when you are already screaming in pain from back pain or a bad toothache. The same principle goes for everything else in life. You invest in good locks and alarm systems to protect your home and office. Now let’s be honest – do you do the same when you take care of your security online? Or you are one of the business managers that think “this won’t happen to me”. Well, we have some bad news. We live in a time where cybersecurity breaches are going through the roof. And when companies don’t prepare, that costs them a lot. However, there are ways of prevention here as well. And it is called penetration testing. 

What is penetration testing and how do companies benefit from it?

Penetration testing (also referred to as pen testing or ethical hacking) is a process in which a cybersecurity expert company does a complete check on how vulnerable a specific organisation or business is to cyberattacks. There are several main steps in the process: 

  • Planning the areas and scope of the penetration testing; 
  • Carrying out the vulnerability tests;
  • Defining the risks and threats in the system;
  • Providing recommendations and support on eliminating the places for potential breaches. 

Any company that invests in penetration testing has the chance to find out the risks their systems have when it faces different types of cyberattacks. After they are mapped out, measures can be taken to prevent huge data breaches that can be very bad for the reputation and the finance of the business. 

What are the different types of penetration testing? 

You know how when you go to the doctor for full prophylactic examinations they run several tests – for blood, for a heart condition, allergies, and more. It is the same with the dentist – they check your teeth for cavities, they examine your gums. It is the same with penetration testing. Different types that can be carried out:

Black-box testing

In this type of testing, the cybersecurity experts will put themselves in the role of any random hacker out there that has taken your system on his radar. However, in this case, there won’t be any internal information available to them. This type of penetration testing targets more common vulnerabilities from the outside of the organisation and tests their defenses. 

When black-box testing is carried out, the experts in cybersecurity have to infiltrate your organization and hack your systems. 

Grey-box testing

In the scenario of grey-box testing, the experts carrying out the penetration test have limited information about the system that is in place. This type of knowledge mainly involves the average use and the elevated privileges. In that way, the person that carries out the test can target the more important systems. Those that have a higher value for the organisation. And as a registered user he or she will be able to simulate a cyber attack from someone that has long-term access to the network of the company. 

White-box testing

As you can imagine here the person doing the testing knows a lot about the systems he or she is attacking. Here the tools that take place can include code analyzers and debuggers having knowledge about vessel and shore sides such as: 

  • schema;
  • source code;
  • OS details;
  • IP addresses.

All of this information allows for discovering, and analyzing system-wide vulnerabilities that can be both internal and external. 

Network services testing

As part of the penetration testing, the network services testing targets specifically things like: 

  • Servers;
  • Individual computers of employees; 
  • Network printers;
  • Routers; 
  • Firewalls.

Wireless network testing

In post-Covid-19 times more and more companies moved to work online and offer flexibility to their employees. However, this has its risks, and here comes wireless network testing. This type of penetration testing focuses on potential rogue access points and weak security algorithms. Part of the process here are things like information leakage, session hijacking, and wireless sniffing.

Web application testing

As the name suggests, this type of penetration testing checks the vulnerability of web applications. The process goes through every aspect of a web application and determines if there is any security risk. In recent years cyber attacks on such types of apps have increased.

In this case, the experts that do the penetration testing will identify cyberattack vectors that can be used to target and affect web applications, hosting infrastructure, and data management of the organisation. 

Social engineering testing

Cyberattacks often are the result of a mistake made by someone from the staff of the organisation. This is where social engineering testing comes in. When it is carried out, it focuses on specific things like how employees might react to attacks that can cause a breach like: 

  • phishing email campaigns;
  • spear-phishing emails;
  • over-the-phone attacks (vishing);
  • SMS attacks (smishing). 

The good cybersecurity experts will go further and even do physical impersonation and verbal intimidation. 

Client-Side testing

Here the focus is on any client-side software and devices and the vulnerabilities they carry. The cybersecurity experts will check for potential breaches that may harm your organisation from external applications you use.

Segmentation testing

Segmentation testing is not so familiar but it is a very important part of penetration testing. It involves the segmentation and the usage of the networks by the organisation. While there are some with lower levels of security, they can still compromise the ones that have high security. 

In brief, those are the main types of penetration testing procedures. It is a very broad but very important aspect of cybersecurity. However, don’t feel overwhelmed by this information. Every penetration testing is different and it is designed by the professionals that carry it out. They define what types of tests should be conducted to detect vulnerabilities in your cyber defenses. This is why you should hire a company to develop a tailor-made approach for your needs. 

Penetration testing – a smart investment that can prevent huge troubles

As you see penetration testing is a complex procedure that involves many different aspects of detecting potential vulnerabilities in any organisation. Of course, not all of the mentioned above can be applied in every case – this is why the tailor-made approach is the best solution. However, one thing is for certain – if you wish to prevent troubles in the future related to cybersecurity, you should run penetration testing for your organisation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if and make an inquiry or ask some questions.

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