Penetration Testing guide

Step By Step Cybersecurity Penetration Testing

By ERMProtect Staff

Your business's newest enemy isn't a burglar down the street – it’s a hacker who can steal data from anywhere.

Cybersecurity penetration testing is a method many companies use to test their vulnerabilities before hackers exploit them.

In essence, you allow a trusted cybersecurity company to hack your system. Then you can see its vulnerabilities and address them before you lose valuable data to a criminal.

Keep reading to learn more about ethical hacking and the basic steps of pen testing. Such knowledge will keep your company safe from nefarious hackers.

Types of Penetration Testing

Not all penetration testing is the same. There are three basic types of penetration testing. The amount of information a company gives its ethical hacker determines the type.

  • Black Box: when a company gives the ethical hacker no information and thus the testing simulates an actual cyberattack
  • White Box: when a company gives an ethical hacker inside knowledge of their IT structure
  • Gray Box: a blend of white and black box testing when a company gives partial information about the company

Each type of testing has its advantages. Black box testing best simulates an outside attack. On the other hand, white box testing simulates an inside attack from someone who understands the network structure.

Stages of Penetration Testing

To adequately test IT security, ethical hackers will carry out a structured attack. They behave just like an unethical hacker would but with a company's permission. Here, generally, are the stages of penetration testing.

Conduct Reconnaissance

First, an ethical hacker scopes out a target. They use different hacking tools such as NMAP and Hping to acquire information about their targeted business.

Scan the System

Next, the ethical hacker breaks out tools like Nexpose and NMAP. These tools expose a system's vulnerabilities.

Gain and Maintain Access

After finding the weaknesses, an ethnical hacker then exploits the weaknesses. They use tools and manual processed to gain access to the company's IT system.

To maintain access, the “hacker” installs backdoors into the company's IT system. These backdoors allow access in the future for further mischief.

Clear Footprints

An ethical hacker will then clear all signs of their attack. They want to make sure there's no evidence left, just like a regular attacker would behave.

Write a Report

Ethical hackers then write a report for their clients. This report documents several items:

  • Vulnerabilities found
  • Tools used to find these vulnerabilities
  • The success rate of penetration testing
  • A ranking of the most serious risks (high, medium, low) to help clients prioritize remediation steps
  • Recommendations to shore up security

Domains Covered by Penetration Testing

Ethical hackers cover five different areas when they conduct penetration testing.

  • Web Applications: this includes applications like Outlook
  • Network Services: this involves the entire network infrastructure
  • Client side: some pen testing will find vulnerabilities in a company's software on their client's computers
  • Wireless: this includes company smartphones and tablets
  • Social engineering: this includes trying to trick an employee to reveal information such as through phishing emails

An ethical hacker will use penetration testing to beef up a company's cybersecurity in all of these areas.

Tools Used in Penetration Testing

Hackers, but ethical and unethical, use the same tools. The more tools your ethical hacker has in their toolbox, the more easily they can mimic a nefarious hacker.

The dynamic nature of cybersecurity will lead to more tools as time goes on. Thus, a company with quality penetration testing will start with these and then even develop some of its own hacking tools. This means companies with a lot of experience and years devoted to pen testing are a good pick for organizations considering hiring an outside firm.

Beyond Penetration Testing

One simple penetration test can reveal the current vulnerabilities in a company's IT system. It does not, however, protect a company from vulnerability forever.

Penetration testing is a part of the bigger picture that can protect your company. Often cybersecurity companies will offer regular vulnerability scans with their annual penetration testing. Such scans take place automatically in the background of a company's system. Cybersecurity companies can also offer other services such as risk assessments, ransomware readiness assessments, compliance assessments and incident response plan development and testing to further harden their client’s security.

If you suspect your IT system has vulnerabilities, we can help. Our technicians can evaluate and test your company's IT system. We can also propose solutions to protect your system.

For more information about penetration testing services click here. For a free quote, please contact [email protected] or call 305.447-6750.

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