What is Penetration Testing:
Penetration testing, or security testing, is a form of ethical hacking involving the process of intentionally launching simulated cyber attacks by using strategies and tools designed to access or exploit computer systems. In doing so, the goal is to mimic a real world scenario where a black hat hacker attacks the system. If something vulnerable or exploitable is found, then the penetration tester can responsibly disclose it.
Phases of Penetration Testing:
1. Reconnaissance: It is the most important part of penetration testing. This is the phase where the attacker attempts to gather as much information about the target as possible.
Some common methods are:
- Internet Searches , domain registration certificates , advanced search engines tools like Shodan , Censys, etc.
- The use of different tools to gather information such as subdomains, virtual hosts , open ports on the targets if there are any , what WAF(Web Application Firewall) they are using, etc.
2. Scanning: The penetration tester uses various scanning tools to explore the system and network weaknesses. This pentest phase identifies the system weaknesses that are potential threats or could be exploited.
This is also important as it is the process which differentiates the successful penetration test from just running a scanner not knowing what it is supposed to work.
3. Gaining System Access: This involves the actual exploitation of the system via different vulnerabilities such as xss, sql injection, ssrf, and others, while trying to get the depth of the system to achieve RCE , which then fully compromises the system.
4. Persistent Access / Post Exploitation: The attacker now uses the initial foothold it gained by trying to gain privilege and try to make the attack more persistent in the exploited system.
5. Analysis and Reporting: This is the result of a penetration test. The penetration tester or security team prepares a detailed report describing the entire penetration process.
Some details it should contains are
- The seriousness of the risks emanating from the vulnerabilities discovered.
- The tools that can successfully penetrate the system.
- Highlighting points where security measures had been implemented correctly.
- Any recommendations on how to prevent these likely attacks in future.
Benefits of Penetration Testing:
- Find weaknesses in the system.
- Support compliance with data privacy and security regulations.
- Provide qualitative and quantitative examples of current security posture and budget priorities for management.
- Determine the robustness of control.
Cons of Penetration Testing:
- If the process is done incorrectly, it can create significant damage such as crashing servers, exposing sensitive data, and/or corrupting crucial production data.
- You are required to trust the penetration tester as you’re inviting someone to hack into your systems, so you’re relying on the tester not to abuse their skills and knowledge.
- Non realistic test conditions.
Though regular penetration testing may seem like a hectic task for an organization, doing so provides protection through different attacks and patches the system in time even if new vulnerabilities or CVEs are dropped.
Penetration testing gives the organization the idea or the entry points to which they need to take more considerations than others as some of them are public facing and can be accessed all over the internet.