What is Security Penetration Testing? Meaning, Procedure & Benefits

A penetration test or pen test is a simulated cyberattack against a computer system that is carried out to identify exploitable vulnerabilities. Within the context of web application security, penetration testing is done to augment a WAF or Web Application Firewall.

Now, penetration testing can include a range of attempted breaches across several application systems. For example, APIs (Application Protocol Interfaces) or frontend/backend servers. The goal here is to look for vulnerabilities that are open to code injection attacks.

The information gained through a penetration test can be utilized to shape WAF security policies and patch the identified vulnerabilities.

Penetration testing importance

Most industries want their data to be secure and completely free from breaches. This especially includes sectors such as investment banks, stock exchanges and banks. One of the best ways to ensure that these entities achieve robust security is by carrying out penetration tests.

Even if a software system has already been hacked, the affected organization can still rely on penetration testing to determine if threats are still present and leverage the insights gained towards developing future security measures.

The most effective safeguard against cyberattacks and hacks is proactive penetration testing.

The types of penetration testing

The type of penetration testing chosen by an organization or business depends on the scope of the operation and the kind of attack it wants to simulate; that is, an attack by an employee, an external source or a network admin. In general, there are three kinds of penetration testing you can carry out.

First, you have black box penetration testing. Here, the tester has no information regarding the systems that are to be tested. He/she is only responsible for collecting information about the target system or network.

In a white box penetration test, the tester is provided with information concerning the system or network that is to be tested. The information here can include the source code, details about the OS and the IP address. A white box penetration test can be considered as an attack from an internal source.

In a grey box penetration test, the tester has partial knowledge of the system. This can be categorized as an attack from an external source. The external source here is typically a hacker who has gained access to the network infrastructure via illegitimate methods.

How to carry out penetration testing

There are certain core activities that need to be carried out as part of a security penetration testing procedure.

At first, you have the planning phase, where the scope and strategy are determined. The scope itself is defined according to existing standards and policies. Then, we have the discovery phase, where information about the target system is collected, and vulnerabilities are scanned. This is referred to as fingerprinting.

The third phase is the attack phase, where the vulnerabilities are all exploited. The tester is provided with security privileges in this phase. The fourth and final phase is the reporting phase. Here, a detailed report of the findings is created. Information about the vulnerabilities and their impact on the business or organization is recorded. Solutions are recommended after that.

Now, in penetration testing, information about the system is gathered in two ways. The first is the one to one or one to many model, where the tester carries out attacks in a linear way against one or many target hosts.

The second model is the many to one or many to many model. Here, the tester makes use of multiple hosts to execute information collection methods in a random, non-linear fashion.

Good examples of penetration testing tools include Nmap, Nessus and Pass-The-Hash. The Nmap tool is used to carry out port scanning, route tracing, vulnerability scanning and OS identification. Nessus is for traditional network-based vulnerabilities, and Pass-The-Hash is primarily used for cracking passwords.

Benefits of penetration testing

There are several benefits to penetration testing. The first and most obvious benefit is the detection and arrangement of security threats. Businesses can gain knowledge about how to defend their applications, users, endpoints and networks after acquiring insights from a pen test.

The results of a penetration test confirm the existence of specific security vulnerabilities and faulty processes. This allows IT teams and security experts to develop appropriate solutions. Also, organizations can efficiently anticipate possible security threats and make sure unauthorized access is prevented.

The second benefit of penetration testing is that monitoring necessities can be met and penalties, avoided. IT departments are required to ensure compliance for various processes. Penetration tests come in handy here because they provide detailed reports that can help implement measures that prevent penalties for non-compliance. These tests also help organizations illustrate due diligence.

Finally, security penetration testing for businesses can help them protect their image and ensure customer loyalty. Data is very precious to businesses since data is what allows companies to understand their customers. However, the threat of a security breach and the subsequent possibility of data theft always looms large. But penetration testing addresses those exact problems. At DS Security,

These tests allow organisations to identify vulnerabilities and implement relevant solutions that prevent possible data breach attempts. Naturally, this goes a long way in protecting the reputation and image of these businesses.

So, as you can see, penetration testing is an effective way to fight security threats proactively.

At DS Security, we will undertake a full and detailed security audit and physical security penetration testing of your existing security measures, providing a confidential detailed report on any identified vulnerabilities or risks. Speak To Us for more details.

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