Penetration testing, or an authorized simulated cyberattack on a computer system, can improve security by discovering issues that can be difficult to uncover using manual analysis techniques. Evaluating threats and vulnerabilities helps address the risks identified throughout the environment.
Pentest experts, also known as ethical hackers or white-hat hackers, simulate real-world attacks routinely done by criminal hackers, commonly known as black-hat hackers. Penetration testing is like hiring security consultants to secure a facility by identifying the loopholes and making their applications more secure. Tools like Netsparker Security Scanner, Wireshark, and Metasploit are highly regarded in penetration testing.
The process of penetration testing involves the following procedures:
Defining the Scope and Goal of the Test
Penetration testing’s scope and goals require gathering information and clarifying expectations about the systems to be addressed and the testing methods to be used. It’s important to determine the best scope in line with the company’s ultimate goal of learning and confirming where to invest resources in preparation for a real attack. Testing the security requires knowledge of what is supposed to be kept secure.
Reconnaissance and Discovery
Attackers identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities to create easy successful exploits as more useful information is obtained. Applications that for instance fail to flag a cookie that stores user session tokens is vulnerable to session hijacking. The target application's response to various intrusion attempts is monitored by inspecting an application's code to estimate how it behaves while running. It is a more practical way of scanning and providing a real-time view of an application's performance.
Performing the Penetration Test
Web application attacks, like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and backdoors, are used to uncover a target’s vulnerabilities. Testers then attempt to exploit these vulnerabilities by escalating privileges, stealing data, or intercepting traffic, which helps to understand the damage they can cause.
Recommendations and Remediation
Penetration test results are then compiled into a report detailing specific exploited vulnerabilities. Details of sensitive data accessed and the amount of time the pen tester could remain in the system undetected are analyzed to help configure an enterprise’s firewall settings and other application security solutions, to patch vulnerabilities and protect against future attacks.
The following are methodologies that your Pen Testing Vendor should help you implement/perform:
External penetration testing helps to identify firewall misconfigurations. Vulnerability identification and exploitation involves locating and compromising administrative services and interfaces. The penetration test determines potential attack vectors by which a system can be compromised remotely. It should be conducted annually or at least after any significant network changes to internet-facing systems and services.
These types of pen tests provide visibility as to how a remote attacker could compromise public-facing systems and gives insight into how to prioritize security spending based on actual risks.
It offers an opportunity to formulate an incident response plan related to the likely dangers, thus uplifting the security capabilities of IT teams. External pen tests show confidence and measure progress in achieving the business’s compliance and regulatory requirements.
Internal Penetration Testing
Internal pen tests facilitate organization’s testing incidents where an attacker has the equivalent of internal access. It simulates a hacker having access to unauthorized data disclosure, misuse, alteration, or destruction of confidential information. Companies are encouraged to test the internal network at least as frequently as they do the external perimeter.
In this incident, the pen-tester has limited information or knows nothing about the target, but the target is informed of the audit scope. Pen testers start an audit of the target organization's security based on the collected information.
Neither the pen-tester nor the target is informed of an audit scope before test execution in this incident. Both parties are considered blind to the test.
The following considerations should be appreciated in executing a pen test:
Evolution of Threats and Regulatory Changes
Constantly evolving tactics, targets, and attack vectors have created sophisticated threat actors, with attack motivation being monetary and espionage. Regulatory bodies now demand financial institutions to assess software vendors and demonstrate adherence to safe programming practices.
Identify High-Risk Assets and Business Workflow
The asset scoring system is defined by the risk and impact factors specific to the organization. These vary from business to business, but the two key metrics that should always be incorporated are the asset's effect if it is compromised and the likelihood of the targeted investment.
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