What is penetration testing?

We hear the phrase penetrating testing or pen testing used a lot. But what exactly does it mean? While it might sound invasive, it's necessary.

When it comes to maintaining enterprise security, privacy, and compliance, recognizing your weaknesses is as critical as keeping up to date with the latest updates, patches, and security tools.

It's crucial to understand how threat actors may attempt to breach your systems. What potential vulnerabilities will a "black hat" hacker exploit? This is where ethical hackers come in.

These "good guy" white hat hackers think like the "bad guys" and help enterprises secure their infrastructure before the "bad guy" hackers identify it. (You can read more about the key differences in our previous post).

Ethical hackers help identify weaknesses in the system by conducting thorough penetration tests or pen-tests. It's essentially a paradigm shift that dramatically improves your security posture, ensuring that your network security is more than sufficient to protect your sensitive data.

What is pen-testing?

Penetrating testing is essentially a security audit. One or more ethical hackers will attack your IT infrastructure to identify and exploit weaknesses with the company's network environment (with permission).

These pen testing exercises often have a set of objectives. This approach helps determine the differences between a successful pen test and an unsuccessful one.

It's not about guessing passwords (although you're asking for it if you didn't change the default admin/admin login and password credentials). It's about leveraging cutting-edge tools and expertise to breach your system.

What are the different types of penetration tests?

Pen-testing covers a wide range of testing protocols used by ethical hackers to identify weaknesses in your networks and infrastructure. While most test your security posture virtually or remotely, sometimes they might also "test" on-premises. No matter the approach, it always follows the OWASP standard and current industry trends.

API penetration testing

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a highly attractive target for threat actors. This is because APIs continuously transfer data across various networks and systems. This increasingly popular attack vector demands more than traditional penetration testing methodology. With the sheer variety and volume on the market, white hat hackers will take a meticulous approach to find ways to breach the system.

AWS penetration testing

If your company uses Amazon Web Services or AWS, it's essential to engage in pen-tests and vulnerability management. As companies don't own the cloud infrastructure, any security tests performed on their behalf will come with some legal constraints.

As the AWS environment varies greatly, these penetration tests are also tailored to whatever setting the organization has chosen. However, it's vital to only hire ethical hackers who have significant experience in security testing AWS products. This approach ensures that you get value for money while staying within the law.

Internet of Things (IoT) testing

As IoT forms the foundation of modern digitally transformed enterprises, the security risks connected with them are paramount. This means more than changing the default passwords. Pen-testers will look into the smart sensors, devices, and IoT networks to identify and rectify weaknesses.

Mobile application testing

Mobile applications generate data. Sometimes, this information is highly sensitive and needs to be adequately secured and managed. Mobile application testing is designed to ascertain your security posture. This approach helps plug all potential security holes missed by in-house teams.

Network & infrastructure testing

As threat actors use both internal and external networks and infrastructure to find weaknesses, you have to test both and secure them. Your company's external network acts as a perimeter and is often the weakest point of the entire system.

Network and infrastructure testers will try just about anything, including engaging disgruntled employees or external attackers with access to authentication data, to breach your systems. This approach also sheds light on the consequences of a "real" security incident.

Network and infrastructure testing include:

  • Configuration vulnerability testing and verification
  • Internal automated network scanning
  • Manual vulnerability testing
  • Port scanning
  • Scanning networks for known trojans
  • System fingerprinting
  • Third-party security configuration testing

Payment Card Industry - Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

If you're processing credit card transactions, it's vital to regularly test your systems to ensure that it falls in line with the current PCI DSS standards and requirements. This approach also helps ensure regulatory compliance.

Red Teaming

Red teaming is probably the closest thing to a black hat hacking experience. In this scenario, the company tells the ethical hackers their objectives, and the Red Team gets to work.

Whether it's to steal data from a CRM or take down the server, these white hat hackers will engage in reconnaissance missions, prepare an attack plan, and execute it.

This is the perfect pen test for businesses that are more than confident about their security posture. Red teaming will either validate it or bring you back down to reality.

Social engineering testing

Human error continues to be the weakest link that leads to security events. As such, social engineering tests are highly manipulative, and ethical hackers try everything within their means to gain access to enterprise networks.

Social engineering tests often take the form of phishing emails, malware on removable data, telephone calls, and so on. Sometimes, white hat hackers may also enter your offices to breach your systems. 

Source code review

A source code review fuses both automated source code tests and physical analysis by security experts. This approach helps ensure that your software architecture is designed correctly to meet IT security standards.

Wireless penetration testing

Enterprises often concentrate on their wired network and forget about the wireless network's security posture. This is a massive mistake as wireless networks are highly vulnerable and much easier to access from outside the physical building.

Wireless pen-tests often try to breach enterprise networks through Bluetooth or RFID. White hat hackers will try everything in their power to enter through your wireless network and make recommendations accordingly.

Website & web application testing

Website and web application testing cover both simple and complex application portals. In this scenario, ethical hackers use their extensive expertise and cutting-edge tools to breach the system.

Any business that wants to get serious and proactive about cybersecurity needs regular pen-testing services. By engaging in security testing, they are also better prepared to respond to a security event.

As such, regular penetration testing is an offensive security approach where the "good guys" think just like the "bad guys" to help the rest of us stay a step ahead and out of the headlines.

Do you want us to hack your enterprise networks and infrastructure? Schedule a commitment-free consultation now.

to top