A penetration test is carried out to identify existing IT infrastructure vulnerabilities, demonstrate in practice the possibility of exploiting vulnerabilities (using the most critical ones as an example), and form recommendations for eliminating identified vulnerabilities. Penetration testing of security weaknesses almost always succeeds.
Penetration Test – Main Features
A penetration test is an authorized and simulated cyberattack on an IT system (or systems) to evaluate existing defenses. When conducting a penetration test, the organization’s IT team – the defenders – authorizes a group of experts from among the ethical “hackers” to try to compromise the organization’s security and, for example:
- Access or elevate account privileges;
- Install simulated malicious code;
- Change the system configuration;
- Demonstrate how data is leaked or business processes are disrupted;
- Perform any other type of attack that attackers can attempt
Conducting a penetration test allows you to get an up-to-date independent assessment of the security of an information system from attacks from outside, as well as identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the information security system.
The information obtained allows you to create a list of necessary work to improve protection and estimate the budget required for their implementation.
Penetration Testing: what tools are used?
Since there are so many different types of attacks, it makes sense to have many other penetration testing tools. These include, for example, port scanners, vulnerability scanners, sniffers, packet generators, or password crackers.
Many penetration tools (even double blind testing) have been specifically designed to perform network security tests and are tailored to specific testing areas.
The attacker’s goal may not only be accessible to the local network. During the attack, they can carry out other threats. For example, take control of a company’s web application and use it to distribute malware, attack customers, or disrupt the site. Compromising employee accounts is dangerous because an attacker can access domain authentication resources, primarily e-mail. An attacker can read confidential correspondence and send any letters on behalf of company employees, including its leaders.
The pen testing process corresponds to the steps of a real hack:
- search for goals;
- search for vulnerabilities in sensitive data;
- target system exploitation of application protocol interfaces;
- expansion of privileges and zones of influence.
Reasons for Penetration Testing
In principle, the more valuable your data is, the greater the threat the attack poses. For example, governments and banks that manage various valuable personal items and customer information are just as attractive to criminals as successful companies with valuable data on their servers. However, if you manage data or projects in your network, which are not so helpful, do not reassure yourself with a false sense of security.
In addition to the economic impact, it can damage your company’s reputation if customers are harmed, or the attack goes public.
The penetration test is carried out using Social Engineering methods. The test’s main purpose is to identify the level of awareness of the customer’s personnel about information security requirements. Additionally, in the testing process, the reaction of users and personnel responsible for information security to organizational penetration methods used by intruders is determined.
Attackers often use social engineering methods and are usually aimed at end users. For example, as a result of a successful attack, an attacker can gain control over workstations, obtain confidential customer documents, use customer resources to organize attacks on systems of other companies, send spam, etc.
Result of Penetration Testing and Targeted Testing
The result of the penetration test is a report that contains data on all identified vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the security system that can be used to gain unauthorized access to the information system. Also, according to the test results, a log is provided. All attacks on the system under test are noted with a fixation of the time they were carried out for subsequent analysis within the company. Penetration testing stages:
- Summary – generalized conclusions from the results of a penetration test without going into technical details. This section clarifies the overall picture of the effectiveness and reliability of protection against unauthorized access to the information system and the work of employees responsible for information security.
- The general report of pen tests is a compilation of the most critical vulnerabilities and weaknesses in information security, with a description of the reasons for their occurrence and the possibilities for cybercriminals to use them.
- A detailed report is the most complex section, which lists all identified vulnerabilities and information security flaws, their causes, and recommendations for elimination based on penetration tester results.
The result of a penetration test (or internal testing) – with defenders holding off attackers – demonstrates the value of existing attention and investment in security. And the “failure” of a penetration test – when testers prove that they can compromise key systems – clearly shows the business’s dangerous consequences. And since penetration testing is based on real attacks, modern penetration test companies use the main methods and tools to improve security measures in practice.
For these and other reasons, pentesting can be a vital and revolutionary investment in security. Unfortunately, employees of the security team of the customer organization are not suitable for this role, as they are directly interested in the result and may simply not have the required level of knowledge. An outsider with minimal knowledge of the customer’s security architecture is more likely to discover security vulnerabilities.
Penetration testing has a number of limitations: lack of time and high cost of testing; limited scope of testing based on requirements over a given period of time (which may lead to neglecting other important areas)
A pen test is an opportunity to assess the level of protection of an information system from illegal penetration into it from public networks. This allows network system managers to respond to possible threats quickly.
Integration – penetration tests a group of interacting modules. System – testing the system as a whole. Modern technologies facilitate the work of testers and allow cloud pen testing.