What is Penetration Testing?
A penetration test is an attack on a computer system, network or Web application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit with the intention of finding security weaknesses, potentially gaining access to its functionality and data.
Why go for Penetration Testing?
The compliance requirements for data security such as those for the Payment Card Industry (PCI DSS) and others can be very strict when compared to other industries. A network security professional ensures your system remains in compliance with specific standards and requirements in your particular industry. These network security professionals can also suggest effective alternatives in the event of there being any issues within your business network.
Prevent Data Breach
Conducting a pen test is very similar to a disaster recovery or fire drill to ensure your business is prepared in the event of a catastrophe.
When a pen test is performed properly to simulate a network exploit, businesses will be the first to know whether or not there are potential security risks within your network.
Ensure system security
When implementing a new application, It’s vital for a business to perform a full security assessment before putting the application into use. If the application’s main purpose is handling sensitive data, it makes sense to have a network security professional perform a security assessment on that application to prevent a data breach.
Spending money on hiring a network security professional is more cost effective that coping up with a data breach.
Test your security controls
Network security professionals are well trained in other business security controls such as encryption processes, firewalls, data loss prevention and layered security processes. A network security specialist possesses the required knowledge and expertise to conduct the proper penetration test to ensure the network security controls are working properly.
Steps of Penetration Testing
Step 1: Introduction and Objectives –
A Penetration testing method is one of the oldest and most used network security technique for evaluating the securities of a network system. Using this technique, organizations can marginally reduce the risk of getting their network system compromised and can fix their security weaknesses before it’s too late.
The main objective of a penetration testing process is to evaluate the security weaknesses of an organization’s network system. It’s other objectives are –
Finding security gaps
With the help of a penetration test, businesses can identify security gaps in their network system and can develop an action plan to reduce threats.
Help to create a strong business case
A penetration test result document will help a manager to present a strong business case at the implementation stage of an application and pinpoint security flaws.
Helps in discovering unidentified threats
Penetration testing techniques will help an organization to quickly identify new threats, if any and take the necessary remedial action.
Helps in maintaining regulatory compliances
Organizations can meet their regulatory compliances using penetration testing tools and techniques.
Provide valuable feedback
A well drafted penetration testing report provides businesses with the required feedback to reduce potential risks when implementing a new application to the business network system.
Step 2: Information gathering –
Gathering as much information about the target application is the first and probably the most critical step of an application security test. Testing the application’s code base and mapping all possible paths through the code to facilitate thorough testing is paramount in this step.
Step 3: Vulnerability analysis –
In this step, a penetration tester will try to identify possible vulnerabilities existing in each target application and it’s system using some automated tools which maintain their own record of the latest vulnerabilities found with their specific details.
At this stage, a penetration tester will test the systems by giving invalid inputs, random strings, etc. to check for any errors or unintended behaviour in the system’s output.
Step 4: Simulation –
This step is where the actual process of penetrating a application and it’s network system begins. Testers intend to replicate the methodologies and techniques of both internal and external attackers, more commonly known as ‘simulated security assessments’.
Simulation here is the practical imitation of threat actors practiced in real-world environments, as opposed to the virtual alternative.
Step 5: Risk assessment –
After completing simulated security assessments, studying and understanding the risks that could impact sensitive data within an application or a network system is an important part of any penetration testing service. Ascertaining how you are set up to prevent, detect and respond to potential incoming threats is the essence of conducting a penetration test.
Only after you correctly get an idea of the real risks your secure environment faces, you can begin to formulate a plan to protect it.
Step 6: Providing the report –
Penetration test reports are really important as they give you structured details of the pen test after it has been successfully completed. However, often this critical documentation lacks key aspects of what should be included. Here’s what a pen test report must have –
- Executive Summary for Strategic Direction
- Walkthrough of Technical Risks
- Potential Impact of Vulnerability
- Multiple Vulnerability Remediation Options
- Concluding Thoughts
1. Network Reconnaissance
Network Reconnaissance means researching and gathering useful information about the application and it’s network system before any real attacks are planned. And we try to collect as much information about the target application as we can. To achieve this, many different publicly available sources are used for collecting relevant information – search engines, social networks, WHOIS databases or the Domain Name System (DNS). And both technical and non-technical information is gathered about the target application. Technical information may include IP-ranges, insight of the internal network infrastructure and even secure passwords and nontechnical information can also prove to be interesting in the context of a pentest, like social structures and location information of the application.
When technical and non technical information are used in combination, they can often prove to be very helpful and the systems of the company are completely safe during this phase.
2. Vulnerability Identification
After gathering all the technical and non technical information about an application, we identify the most vulnerable parts of the target system and figure out where to launch an attack.
3. Vulnerability Exploitation
What Is a Vulnerability?
A vulnerability in a system is basically an unintended API that has not been documented in the system. Once an unintended API is found, attackers can use it to command the software to act in a way that it’s not intended to. With vulnerabilities, ethical hackers are typically attempting to solve a puzzle about what they can get away with before they launch an actual attack.
We use a vulnerability scanner that automatically parses through the APIs to identify which ones may be exposing the system to danger. And the more information the scanner has, the more accurate will be its performance. Once our team gets their hands on the report of such vulnerabilities, our penetration testers use penetration testing as a means to see where the weaknesses are, so the problem can be fixed and future mistakes can be steered clear of.
What Is an Exploit?
Performing an exploit is the next step in our penetration testing’s playbook after finding a vulnerability. Exploits usually exercise the unintended API’s. From gaining financial information to tracking a user’s whereabouts, exploits are used for a number of different reasons and can also take place behind firewalls where they’re harder to spot, and they’ve been known to cause irreparable damage to a business if they go undetected and unattended for an extended period of time.
4. Vulnerability Rating
We use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) as a framework for rate the severity of security vulnerabilities in the target application or software. The CVSS uses a special algorithm to determine three vulnerability severeness rating scores: Base, Temporal and Environmental. The scores are numeric and it ranges from 0 to 10 with 10 being the most severe.