Everything you need to know about Penetration Testing
This article contains everything you need to know about cornerstones of IT security, penetration testing - otherwise known as pen-testing. We’re going to go over what penetration testing is and what types of pen testing there are, give some examples of how your organisation can utilise it and assess how essential it is to your business. We will periodically be updating this article to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about penetration testing.
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What is meant by penetration testing?
Penetration tests are intentional attacks on your IT system, executed to expose the weak spots in your system’s defences, including cross-site scripting, source codes, logic, and network configurations. Penetration tests give your IT team an understanding of the vulnerabilities in your infrastructures.
What is penetration testing with example?
Penetration tests (or pen tests) are attacks on your companies’ software and hardware systems, carried out by ‘ethical hackers’ to expose your system’s vulnerabilities.
One example is a web application pen test. Web apps, browsers and plug-ins can house sensitive financial or personal data, so hackers are increasingly putting their efforts towards gaining access to them. The test would examine the endpoint of every web application.
What are the types of penetration testing?
They are four types of penetration testing:
- External network pen tests involve an ethical hacker (hacking on behalf of you instead of themselves), trying to break into your organisation.
- Internal network pen tests are similar, but the It professional doing it has a degree of existing network access.
- Web application pen tests investigate the weakness of web apps, browsers and plug-ins, as they often house sensitive financial or personal data.
- Social engineering pen tests identify vulnerabilities in your workforce or workplace.
Is penetration testing difficult?
Some experts have compared penetration testing to a financial audit. Your financial team does their day-to-day work to track profit, loss and income, and an external group comes in to confirm that the internal team’s methods are up to scratch. Though your internal IT team may be skilled and experienced, penetration testers are specialists. It is essential for the survival of your business that you are as prepared as possible for risks to your day-to-day operations.
What skills does penetration testing require?
First and foremost, a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of system vulnerabilities that extends past merely using specific tools or search software. Not that software isn’t necessary, but an expert should be able to identify risks that don’t have an ‘exploit code’ that explicitly identifies what they are. Otherwise, testers are entirely reliant on whatever risk-searching software they are using.
A good pen tester isn’t supposed to be an expert on every aspect of testing, but they should be open to learning and keeping on top of what is happening in cyber security.
A tester with an ability to code (not necessarily to production quality level) would find the job easier and are likely be able to work with greater speed. Though coding languages change as time goes on, today’s pen testers should have at least a basic understanding of Python, Perl, Powershell and Bash.
It is important to remember that not all the skills and experience that make a great pentesters are technical. It is essential to be able to write readable reports, work within a team and communicate potential risks and solutions to clients. After all, clients hire pen testers to see where their company may be vulnerable and to outline an actionable plan to fix it.
To find a reliable pen tester, organisations like CREST
(the penetration testing accreditation body) are great for quickly finding pen testers that are guaranteed to be of an industry-recognised high standard.
How long does a pen test take?
The time that penetration testing takes depends on the size and complexity of your organisation’s system structure, as well as the scope of the test itself. For the ‘average’ company, a network penetration test should take around three days. For a merchant processing millions of credit cards a year, for example, a pen test will take over a week, or possibly two.
What is the goal of penetration testing?
The purpose of a penetration test is to check that your IT system is secure. Penetration testing should take place after your organisation has been fortified by your (internal or external) IT security team, as a way to gain assurance of your organisation’s safety. A penetration test is essential for your BC/DR plan and for guaranteeing information protection.
A penetration testing team is there to make sure that your system is secure, imitating the actions that a malicious hacker would take, to identify vulnerabilities.
What is GREY box penetration testing?
Grey box testing, as you might guess, is a hybrid of black box (testing without any information) and white box (testing with full access to the system) testing. Clients provide the testing company with snippets of information to assist in the testing process. This method is significantly more extensive than black-box testing but more cost-effective than white box testing.
Watch this space for more answers to your penetration testing questions.