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Cyber Penetration Testing: Everything You Need to Know

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Cyber attacks on information systems are crucial when it comes to personal information leakage and system destruction. With this, the development of various security solutions comes to life. These methods enhance the security system and make it more effective in defending against attacks from malicious sources. One way of improving cybersecurity is what we call penetration testing. But what is penetration testing, and how can it help you increase your system protection. Learn more about it and prevent any data theft and damage. 

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing or simple pen testing is a method that simulates a cyber attack. This method helps to determine how effective and strong an organization’s cybersecurity is. Usually, cyber professionals do this. They “try” to hack the organization’s computer system to test and pinpoint the vulnerable spots in the system that the attackers could breach. 

Pen or penetration testing is a vital part of every system since it helps protect any private data and even allows the organization to identify any risks, assess impacts of attacks, and measure the ability of a network’s system defense. With penetration testing, a business can validate, improve, and meet compliance requirements in security controls.

How Does It Work?

A weak cybersecurity system can have a significant impact on any business organization. To avoid this from happening, thorough penetration testing takes into action. This method considers how an attacker would try to hack the organization and determine the level of success they would achieve if they do it.  

Usually, cyber professionals will try to identify the areas of improvement such as the following:

  • Application Layer Defects. Cyber professionals will determine if certain layer defects such as an insecure direct object, weak session management, injection flaws, and the like.
  • Hardware and Software Level Defects. This area will help determine the cyber professionals need to strengthen the passwords, fix misconfigurations, insecure protocols, and more.
  • Network and System-Level Defects. It will help in pinpointing vulnerabilities in the wireless network, rogue services, and product-specific vulnerabilities.
  • Physical Barriers Defect. It helps the cyber professional determine if there are problems in locks, sensors, cameras, and the like.

Pen Testing Types

The goals of the pen tests will depend upon the organization the tester will provide alongside the varying degrees of information and target system. The three types of penetration testing include:

  • White Box Testing. Cyber professionals will access systems and system artifacts such as source codes, binaries, and the like in this type. It provides the highest level of assurance even in a short amount of time.
  • Gray Box Testing. In this type, the pen testers will construct examinations based on the target system’s design documents and architectural diagrams. 
  • Black Box Testing. In this type of pen testing, the team does not know about the target system’s internal structure. They will act as hackers who will probe for exploitable weaknesses. 

Stages of Penetration Testing

You can use penetration tests in fine-tuning your WAF or Web Application Firewall security and patch-detect any vulnerabilities. The stages of pen testing include the following:

Stage 1 Planning and Reconnaissance

The first stage in performing pen testing is planning and surveillance. This stage includes defining the scope and goals of the test. The cyber professional will first determine the systems that need concern and what specific testing method is required to solve any problem. After doing so, there will be a gathering of intelligence such as network and domain names to understand potential vulnerabilities in a given target.

Stage 2 Scanning

This stage is necessary to understand better how the target will react to the cyber attacks. It involves two essential steps:

  • Dynamic Analysis. It is a method that involves inspection of an application code in a running state. It provides a real-time view of an application’s performance, making it a practical way of scanning.
  • Static Analysis. It involves inspecting the way an application code behaves while running. One of the great things that this method can do is it allows the entirety of a code in just one pass. 

Stage 3 Gaining Access

In this stage, the web application will use SQL injection, backdoors, and other web application attacks to uncover any target vulnerabilities. The cyber professionals will then examine these vulnerabilities by escalating privileges and stealing data to understand better how they cause damage and the appropriate solutions for them. 

Stage 4 Maintaining Access

The primary goal of this stage is to look for vulnerabilities that can have a persistent presence in the exploited system. Since its existence is long enough, it becomes a bad actor and gains in-depth access. With this, it can imitate even the advanced persistent threats that can remain in a system for some time and steal an organization’s sensitive data. 

Stage 5 Analysis

The last stage of Pen testing is the analysis and compilation of the results. The analysis includes exploited vulnerabilities, sensitive data, and the amount of time the penetration test remains undetected. 

Benefits of Penetration Tests

Penetration tests protect critical information in an organization. It can dive into different aspects of a system, assess it, and even make the system more potent enough to resist attacks. Here are some of the benefits of pen testing that you would like to take into consideration.

Vulnerability Management

Pen testing and vulnerability scanning are often done together to help an organization align security strategies and determine specific target risks. The data that pen testing was able to gather will help to stop potential attacks intelligently, apply the security patches, and allocate the security resources where they are most necessary.

By having keen knowledge of cybersecurity, you can effectively prevent potential vulnerabilities that can make your system damage severe. 

Requirement Compliance and Fine Avoidance

Industry protocols are essential in every business. Various requirements are necessary and must be given attention to. Once you complete a penetration test in your organization, you will be able to avoid penalties that can cost you fines. Also, even though you were able to avoid penalties after their completion, you still need to abide by the other requirements and use the necessary data to make your organization better.

Gain Customer Loyalty and Preserve Good Image

There are two potential issues that you need to seek attention to. First, you perform pen-testing to your system organization, yet you forget to patch the vulnerabilities, and second is you fail to conduct a penetration test. You don’t want to find yourself in these situations, don’t you? With penetration tests, you will take over your business ownership and establish rapport within your organization that reflects upon your customers. It makes your customer and the market feel that you care about the security of those you work with. 

Cyber Defense Capability Test

Each system organization must be able to detect attacks, respond and resist them. If you were able to detect intrusion, you must take action immediately. You may perform investigations, discover intruders and block them regardless if they are malicious or cyber experts who are testing your system’s security defense. 

The feedback for this test will tell you the necessary actions that you must take to improve your system defense. 

Business Continuity

Pen testing sees to it that your operations are running smoothly 24/7. Disruptions might affect your business and leave you with a negative impact. Through penetration tests, you will prevent potential threats that can make your operations suffer from loss of accessibility. Thus, these tests act as a business continuity audit. 

Identify and Prevent Potential Attacks

Regular penetration testing allows you to evaluate web applications, including internal and external network security. It enables you to have a better grasp of the necessary security controls. The risks give the organization an advantage to anticipate and prevent whatever threats and malicious attacks from occurring. 

Final Thought

Regular penetration testing is something that you need to do on a regular basis, like all other security precautions. Usually, ideal pen testing is performed at least once a year, though its frequency will depend on the type of tests and why those tests are necessary. Doing so will help to ensure network security management and discover threats along with the emerging vulnerabilities a hacker might exploit. 

Before performing any penetration testing, you must ensure that you hire an expert. You don’t want to risk all essential and personal information, do you? Before choosing one, you may do some research first or ask for referrals.

If you are unsure of the steps you need to take, never hesitate to ask for an expert’s help. They can help you solve your security dilemma and even increase your security system’s defense against suspicious malware and other threats that might have a negative effect on your organization’s system.