Types of Security Penetration Tests – Basic & Advanced Concepts

Today, the internet has taken over other offline mediums for providing all kinds of information. However, data over the internet is still vulnerable. Unauthorized intrusion is one of the most commonly faced problems by web data users. There is an immediate need to upgrade the security measures to keep confidential information for organizations safe.

What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing, better known as Pen test, is the practice of examining a network, computer system, or a web application for possible security issues. It is one of the most effective tests that ensure web data is safe from any malicious activity. The main goal of penetration testing is to recognize security vulnerabilities. Most of the organizations swear by this test to ensure their confidential data is protected over the internet. Penetration testing for businesses can be done manually or automated through relevant software applications.

Penetration testing for businesses

The pen test consists of five stages:

Stage 1: Planning and investigation

The first stage involves establishing the purview and objective of the test. It takes into consideration the network systems to be addressed and the testing methods to be applied.

Stage 2: Scrutinizing target application

This can be done in two ways:

Static analysis – Monitoring the application’s code to carefully inspect its behavior while running in a single pass.

Dynamic analysis – Scanning the code more practically, giving real-time visibility on the application performance.

Stage 3: Obtaining access

In this stage, application attacks are used to discover the target’s weaknesses. Pen testers dive deep to explore these vulnerabilities and understand its effects on the system.

Stage 4: Maintaining access

This stage tracks the duration for which the vulnerability continues to remain in the abused system. It helps testers gauge the time taken by the target to gain access to critical information.

Stage 5: Evaluation

In the final stage, a report is generated based on the results of the penetration test. It includes particular flaws detected in the system, critical information that was accessed during this test, and the overall time the tester was able to remain in the system, unnoticed. This detailed information is then passed on to the concerned firm’s IT and network departments. It helps them put effective mechanisms in place to avoid further attacks.

Penetration test techniques

Internal Testing – This test is usually performed to determine the extent of damage the employees of a company can do, using the critical information they have access to. The test involves imitating an attack behind the firewall by an authorized user with standard accesses.

External Testing – The main aim of this test is to figure out how easily an external attacker can gain access to sensitive information through the company website or devices.

Blind Testing – In this type of testing, the individual or the team that’s performing the test is given only the name of the target company. This test proves to be time-consuming as one has to work with limited information, requiring further analysis.

Double-Blind Testing – As the name suggests, in this type of testing, knowledge about the simulated attack is shared with limited people. This test checks how well the company is prepared for a data attack. It inspects the organization’s security procedures and its response to these attacks.

Targeted Testing – In this testing mechanism, the tester and the IT team work together. This type of testing can be an eye-opener for the company’s IT team to gauge if they can survive such data attacks. Also, this pen test helps companies improve their current security mechanisms.

Penetration testing importance

Penetration testing aims to find out the defects in the company’s security system. It also questions the firm’s awareness of such attacks and provides knowledge on effective response mechanisms. This testing procedure also helps companies revise their policies concerning security threats.

The reports generated through pen testing helps companies understand their current state of preparedness for malicious attacks. It provides necessary information to devise better strategies to avoid data attacks in the future.

Companies should perform penetration testing at least once a year. This facilitates the organization’s IT and network departments to upgrade their current security threat policies.

Apart from conducting penetration tests annually to revise company security policies, other factors need to be taken into consideration. Instances such as the addition of a new application, modifying or upgrading the current applications, setting up new workspaces in other locations require such tests to be conducted.

There are a few other factors to look into while thinking of implementing penetration testing:

Company size – Penetration tests work well for larger organizations as compared to smaller ones as hackers generally target well-established companies for data exploitation.

Cost concerns – Penetration test can be expensive, hence conducting such tests annually may not be possible. Companies must have sufficient funds to carry out this test. Alternatively, organizations with a limited budget can invest in such tests once every two years.

Penetration tests must be customized for each company and should meet the industry standards. Post the test, timely follow-ups and continued assessments must be prioritized to action any new security threats found in the system. This mechanism would keep such data incidents at bay, providing better data security to companies.

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