What is Penetration Testing: Stages and Methods

Actually, in the concept of internet security, there are many types of security testing that can be used, one of which is penetration testing. But many people tend to be not very clear when it comes to explaining what penetration testing is. For that, the admin will explain what penetration testing is, what are the methods and stages.

What is Penetration Testing

Penetration testing or commonly called pen test is a simulated cyberattack against a computer system to reveal vulnerabilities, threats, risks in software applications, networks, or web applications that can be exploited by attackers. In the context of web application security, pen tests are usually used to add a web application firewall (WAF).

Vulnerability or vulnerability is the risk that an attacker may interfere with or gain authorized access to a system or any data it contains. Vulnerability is usually entered unintentionally during the development and implementation phases of software. Common vulnerabilities include design or configuration errors, software bugs, etc. Penetration analysis depends on two mechanisms, namely Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT).

The Purpose of Penetration Testing?

Simply put, penetration testing is done for one purpose, to protect the organization. With the efficient use of penetration test results, participating organizations can identify and mitigate their vulnerabilities.

Penetration is very important in a company because:

  * Financial sectors such as Banks, Investment Banking, Stock Trading Exchanges want their data to be secured, and penetration testing is very important to ensure security

  * If a software system has been hacked and the organization wants to determine if there is a threat in the system to avoid future hacks.

  * Proactive Penetration Testing is the best protection against hackers.

Penetration Testing Stages

1. Planning and reconnaissance

The first stage involves:

  * Determine the scope and objectives of the test, including the system to be handled and the test method to be used.

  * Collect data (eg, network and domain names, mail servers) to better understand how targets work and potential vulnerabilities.

2. Scan

The next step is to understand how the target application will respond to various intrusion attempts. This is usually done using:

  * Static analysis - Examines application code to estimate how it behaves as it runs. These tools can scan the entire code in a single pass.

  * Dynamic analysis - Checks that the application code is running. This is a more practical way of scanning, as it provides a real-time view of an application's performance.

3. Gaining Access

This stage uses web application attacks, such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection and backdoors, to uncover target vulnerabilities. Testers then try and exploit these vulnerabilities, usually by privilege escalation, stealing data, intercepting traffic, etc. To understand the damage it causes.

4. Maintaining access

The purpose of this stage is to see if the vulnerability can be used to achieve a persistent presence in the exploited system. If it's long enough, it can become a problem for bad hackers to gain deeper access. The idea is to emulate advanced persistent threats, which stay in the system for months to steal the organization's most sensitive data.

5. Analysis

The pen test results are then compiled into a report detailing:

  * Special vulnerability exploited

  * Sensitive data accessed

  * The amount of time a penetration test can remain in the system undetected

This information is analyzed by security personnel to help configure enterprise WAF settings and other application security solutions to patch vulnerabilities and protect against future attacks.

Penetration Testing Method

External Test

External penetration tests target company assets that are visible on the internet, for example, the web application itself, the company website, email, and domain name servers (DNS). The goal is to gain access and extract valuable data.

Internal Testing

In internal testing, a tester with access to the application behind a firewall simulates an attack by a malicious insider. This is not necessarily simulating a rogue employee. A common initial scenario could be an employee whose credentials are stolen due to a phishing attack.

Blind Test

In a blind test, testers are only given the name of the target company. This gives security personnel an instant view of how an actual application attack would occur.

Double-blind Test

In a double-blind test, security personnel has no prior knowledge of a simulated attack. As in the real world, they will not have time to shore up their defenses before committing an offense.

Targeted testing

In this scenario, testers and security personnel work together and assess each other's moves. This is a valuable training exercise that gives the security team real-time feedback from the hacker's point of view.

Examples of Penetration Testing Tools

There are various tools used in penetration testing, but the most commonly used are:

 1. NMap - This tool is used for port scanning, OS identification, router tracking and for vulnerability scanning.

 2. Nessus - This is a traditional network-based vulnerability tool.

 3. Pass-The-Hash - This tool is used for password cracking.

Penetration Tester Roles And Responsibilities

  * Testers must gather the necessary information from the Organization to enable penetration tests.

  * Find flaws that could allow hackers to attack target machines.

  * Testers must think & act like real hackers even if ethically.

  * The work done by the penetration tester must be reproducible so that it will be easy for the developer to fix it.

  * The start date and end date of the test run must be determined in advance.

  * Testers shall be responsible for any loss in the system or information during software testing.

  * An examiner must keep data and information confidential.


So penetration testing is the process of evaluating an organization's security by exploiting vulnerabilities in a way that attackers can exploit them and thus maintain and document attack procedures.

Testers have to act like real hackers and test the application or system and need to check if a code is written securely. Penetration testing will be effective if there are security policies in place. Penetration testing policies and methodologies should be the place to make penetration testing more effective.

Hopefully, this article about What is Penetration Testing: Stages and Methods, gives you a little insight. Also, read an article about What is PowerShell? Here's a Complete Explanation that you may need to know. Thank you.

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