Example of penetration testing

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing (also known as Pen Testing) is one of the most useful methods to test network security. Pen testing can help you determine if your network is secure and identify vulnerabilities before they are exploited. There are different types of penetration tests that you can use, depending on where your organization is located, what type of organization it is, and what types of threats you want to focus on. This article will describe each type in detail.

External Network Penetration Testing

In external network penetration testing, we perform a type of penetration test from outside of the organization’s network. It simulates what an external attacker might be able to access over the Internet.  This test scans for resources available to essentially anyone and probes for vulnerabilities and seeks to exploit those vulnerabilities.

The organization would take the ensuing report from the testing and seek to eliminate the vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by hackers or other malicious actors.

Internal Network Penetration Testing

Internal network penetration testing is a method of assessing the security of your internal networks. This includes the infrastructure, devices, and applications that make up your network.  It is meant to simulate attacks originating from insider threats or external attackers that have gained a foothold inside the network.

You can use this type of penetration testing to:

  • Test for weaknesses in your network. For example, you may want to see if there are any vulnerabilities or missing patches on servers or workstations that could be exploited by hackers. You may also want to test for misconfigurations (like allowing access via open ports) and weak passwords or passwords that weren’t changed when devices were installed.
  • Assess whether security controls have been properly implemented throughout all elements within an organization’s IT environment.

Wireless Network Penetration Testing

Wireless networks are vulnerable to attacks as they do not stop at your organization’s physical boundaries.  They allow access from next-door, the parking lot, or even from a distance with line of sight and a high-gain antenna. This makes it hard to restrict access to the network and increases the importance of ensuring it is properly secured.  That means that when you use wireless networks, your organization has an increased risk of potential compromise.

Performing penetration tests on your wireless network helps to identify potential holes in its configuration and defenses. This helps ensure they are remediated before they become problems for your organization later down the road.

Web Application Penetration Testing

Web application penetration testing is a method of testing the security of web applications. A “white hat” hacker, with permission from the owner of an application, will try to gain access to it using various techniques. This type of testing is used to find and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by malicious hackers.  This test may also evaluate security within the application using a legitimate user or administrator account.

Web application penetration testing is often performed by organizations that have any number of web applications. It is a way for them to ensure that their customers’ data is secure. Testing can also be used to find flaws in the security of applications that are not yet in use but have been designed with security in mind.

Social Engineering Penetration Testing

Social engineering is a form of penetration testing that involves tricking people into revealing sensitive information or performing certain actions. A social engineer may use pretexting techniques, such as pretending to be someone else in order to gain access to sensitive information.

Social engineering may include phishing or spear-phishing e-mails as well. Some additional examples of social engineering include:

  • Sending text messages with similar content or intent as phishing e-mails.
  • Phone calls asking employees for their password or other personal information over the phone.
  • Dropping malicious USB drives in the parking lot or common areas which when plugged in install malicious software that can provide a backdoor into the network or exfiltrate certain file types.

Many organizations do not realize that their employees could be falling victim to these attacks until it is too late–and sometimes not even then! That is why performing regular social engineering penetration tests is an important part of keeping your organization safe from cybercriminals who want nothing more than access into your network so they can steal confidential data or deploy ransomware.  This form of testing also serves as a measure of the effectiveness of a security awareness training program.

Physical Penetration Testing

Physical penetration testing is the most difficult type of vulnerability assessment because it involves gaining physical access to a target location and/or network.

The goal of this type of test is to determine if a malicious actor could gain access through physical means–for example, by breaking into a building or accessing an employee’s laptop while they’re away from their desk or plugging a rouge device into the network undetected.  Physical penetration testing ensures that physical security controls are deployed effectively and in the appropriate locations. This testing helps to safeguard your organization’s physical assets and bolster your overall security posture. It also tests employee awareness and adherence to training and policies.

Which Method Should I Choose?

Since most organizations have different systems and data to protect along with varying degrees of risk tolerance and target security outcomes, there is not a one size fits all solution related to penetration testing.  There may also be external drivers, such as compliance or contractual requirements that may dictate what tests to perform.

Many organizations start with an external penetration test to seek to eliminate vulnerabilities accessible by malicious actors over the Internet.  It’s also advisable to consider web application penetration testing if your business makes web applications available via the Internet.  It’s worth noting that these are two different types of tests seeking different types of outcomes.

Depending on the budget, organizations may choose to perform the various types of penetrations tests on a recurring basis.  Rotating the different methods in an effort to improve their overall security posture.

Penetration testing is a very effective way to test the security of your network. By utilizing these methods, you can ensure that your network is in optimal condition to defend against potential threats. Penetration testing often combines several different methods into one comprehensive test that can provide results quickly and efficiently.

At ETS, we understand the importance of proactive vulnerability management and are here to support you in this process. Our experts can provide you with practical guidance and actionable recommendations, helping you mitigate any potential risks and strengthen your overall security posture. With our assistance, you can confidently address the identified vulnerabilities and protect your organization against potential cyber threats.

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