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.
Steps of Penetration Testing
Step 1: Introduction and Objectives –
The penetration testing method is one of the oldest and most commonly used techniques for evaluating the securities of a network system. Using this technique, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of their network system becoming compromised and can fix their any weaknesses before it’s too late.
While 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 report 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 any new threats 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. It is paramount to test the application’s code base and map all possible paths through the code to facilitate thorough testing.
Step 3: Vulnerability analysis –
In this step, a penetration tester will try to identify possible vulnerabilities existing in each target application and its system, using some automated tools which maintain an independent record of the latest vulnerabilities found, complete with their specific details.
At this stage, a penetration tester will evaluate the systems by giving invalid inputs, random strings, etc. to check for any errors or unintended behavior in the system’s output.
Step 4: Simulation –
This step is where the actual process of penetrating an application and it’s network system begins. Testers attempt 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 real-world threat agents, 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 vitally important for any penetration testing service. Ascertaining how you are 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 can you begin to formulate a plan to protect it.
Step 6: Providing the report –
Penetration test reports are crucial as they give you the structured details of the pen test once it has been successfully completed. Unfortunately, this critical document can often lack key aspects of what a proper pen test report should have. Here’s what should be included –
- 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 its network system before any actual attacks are planned. We try to collect as much information about the target application as we can. To achieve this, a variety of publicly available sources are used for collecting relevant information – search engines, social networks, WHOIS databases or the Domain Name System (DNS), both technical and non technical. Technical information may include IP-ranges, insight of the internal network infrastructure, and even secure passwords. Non technical information can also prove to be insightful 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 useful, 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 its performance will be. Once our team receives the results of any such vulnerabilities, our penetration testers use penetration testing as a means to see where the weaknesses are, so the problem can be fixed and to steer clear of future mistakes.
What Is an Exploit?
Performing an exploit is the next step in our penetration testing 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 to 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 range from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most severe.
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