Penetration Testing - Steps and Types

Penetration Testing

For security-conscious companies, being compliant with industry-standard security policies is a top priority.  Being in non-compliance with industry standards can result in fines.  More importantly, it can lead to increased cyber-attacks on your company, employee data, and customer data. Cybersecurity experts recommend conducting regular assessments to mitigate the risks of cyber-attacks. A step in improving your organization’s security posture is performing penetration testing services regularly. In a pen test, the engineer will actively make efforts to take advantage of weaknesses in an environment. By acting as if they are a hacker trying to leverage weaknesses in your environment, they can evaluate whether the security controls in place are strong enough to counteract a security breach.

How the Test is Performed?

Pen tests can be conducted manually or automatically. Many experts recommend a combination of the two. Automating the penetration testing services allows for regular testing that continuously checks on the environment’s security posture. The benefit of manual testing is that the person performing the pen test can use their own intuition to solve any issues that come across during the test.

The steps of a typical penetration test include:

Automated Security Scanning: The engineer performing the test will use commercial scanning tools to identify any potential vulnerabilities
Report Development and Interpretation: During this step, the results of the scan will be analyzed. It is then that any false positives will be removed.
Network Architecture Review: review and identify any weaknesses in the network security design
Manual Exploit Testing: By performing manual in-depth testing techniques you can validate weaknesses that were found in the automated report
Security Policy Review: In many cases, the team will go beyond the penetration test and help the organization review its security policies to find any gaps in procedures
Automated Security Re-Scan: Re-scanning is a critical way to continuously review your environment for weaknesses and make patches where necessary

Why Regular Testing is Critical

Cybersecurity experts have seen that customers who conduct penetration tests on a bi-yearly basis are able to take a proactive approach to their security. Customers who do not conduct regular pen tests are more likely to have to take a reactive approach to their security. Organizations that take a proactive approach to security are more likely to detect threats before they harm their environment. Whereas organizations that have improper security hygiene are forced to take a reactive approach, cleaning up their security after a breach has already occurred. Penetration testing services are often performed by a certified ethical hacker. By acting as if they are hacking your environment on a routine basis, they are actively searching for areas in which someone could hack your environment. They then can make remediation recommendations as they see fit.

Why Conduct a Penetration Test?

The goal of implementing penetration testing services is to keep data safe from malicious activity. The information that is gathered during a pen test will be used to provide remediate recommendations to work towards mitigating any vulnerabilities within your environment. Conducting a pen test can also help build upon the security awareness of the employees within your organization. Employees can often be a company’s weakest link from a security standpoint. Conducting assessments can improve your employees understanding of security policy. Additionally, a pen test can help you understand if your current security policy and incident response plans are effective. During penetration testing services, you may find that there are aspects of your security policy that are preventing your organization from having a good security posture.

3 Main Types of Penetration Testing Consulting Services

Internal Penetration Testing: During an internal penetration test, the engineer conducting the test will simulate an attack coming from the inside of the company. A malicious insider attack could either be an employee with malicious intentions or a hacker from the outside that has taken over an insider account.
External Penetration Testing: During an external penetration test, the engineer will simulate an attack coming from the outside of an organization. This involves scanning for open ports, probing services, or login attempts.
Web Application Penetration Testing: This type of penetration test is designed to help you meet the best practices for PCI, HIPAA, or Red Flag industry standards. During this test, the engineer will attempt to gain unauthorized access to systems connected to a web application.

Other Types of Penetration Testing Consulting Services

Blind Testing: A blind penetration test is when the person conducting the test is given the name of the organization being tested at random. This is designed to further stimulate an external hacker, as the tester must gather additional information in order to perform the attack.
Double-Blind Testing: In a double-blind test, both the client and the tester is working blind. This tests the ability of the security team to respond to an intruder in their environment.

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