Cybercrime is mostly conducted from an off-site facility where cybercriminals can gleefully act out their mischievous conduct without being hindered. For this reason, most people are oblivious to the extent of the damage that this type of crime can cause.
More often than not, these delinquents depend on your negligence to gain access to your system. By making simple, small errors, you create vulnerabilities that severely weaken your network’s security. Therefore, it’s essential to take precautionary action to find and fix these problems. One of the most common methods to do this is called a ‘penetration or pen test.’
Derived from Emagined best practices (click for details), we can conclude that this form of testing is done to safely identify specific weaknesses in your cybersecurity that an attacker could exploit. However, to find out precisely what pen testing is and how it works, we need to delve a bit deeper.
Penetration Testing Explained
The definition of penetration testing is:
- A legal and authorized simulated cyber attack against your network to locate and successfully exploit it to make your system more secure.
The role of the ‘white hat hacker’ is to probe for weaknesses and provide proof of concept (POC) attacks to demonstrate that the vulnerabilities are real. These exercises are usually performed to augment your network’s firewall. As it’s vital to improve your establishment’s overall protection, pen testing should be included in your security plan.
The conclusions drawn from these tests’ results are useful in patching detected exposure and fine-tuning your firewall security policies.
Which Methods Are Used for Penetration Testing?
Most commonly, testers use the following methods for pen testing:
- Internal. The specialist gains entry to an application behind your system’s firewall to simulate an attack by a rogue employee or someone that has gotten hold of stolen credentials.
- External. This is typically done from a remote server. The goal is to target your company’s visible assets on the web to gain access and extract valuable information.
- Targeted. These are valuable training exercises. Your security personnel and the specialist work in-sync and keep each other informed of their movements. It provides your team with real-time observations from a hackers point of view.
- Blind. The tester is only given the name of the targeted company. This provides your security squad with a real-time view of what an actual attack would look like.
- Double-blind. During these tests, your team is given no prior warning that a staged attack will take place, giving them no time to boost their defenses. It’s an invaluable training exercise that’ll provide them with experience in countering an attempted breach.
Pen Testing Phases
Penetration testing is broken down into five stages.
1. Recon and Planning
Phase one involves:
- Determining which methods to use and systems to address
- Gathering data to identify potential weaknesses and better understand how the targeted network operates
This step is vital to understanding how the targeted application will respond to various breaching attempts. It’s commonly conducted by using the following types of analysis:
- Static. This inspects the application’s algorithm to determine how it behaves while running.
- Dynamic. This inspects the program’s code while it’s running to provide a real-time view of its performance.
3. Obtaining Access
Stage three uses web application attacks, such as SQL injection and backdoors, to identify the target’s weaknesses. The specialist then attempts to exploit these vulnerabilities to determine the potential damage that can be caused. This is usually done by:
- Escalating privileges
- Intercepting traffic
- Stealing data, etc.
4. Sustaining Entry
This phase aims to establish if the vulnerability can be used to establish a prolonged presence in the exploited network that’ll grant an intruder enough time to gain in-depth access. The intent is to simulate an advanced persistent threat, capable of sustaining entry for several months without detection with the goal set on stealing your company’s most sensitive data.
5. Analyzing the Results
The final phase comprises of an analysis report detailing:
- Exploited weaknesses
- Which sensitive data was breached
- How long the specialist was capable of sustaining entry without detection
This report can then be used to:
- Patch the exposed areas
- Configure your ventures WAF (firewall) and other security solutions settings
- Improve the overall security of your network to guard against future attacks
The Bottom Line
Weaknesses in your network’s security leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. By implementing scheduled penetration testing frequently, you’ll be able to identify the exposed areas. This gives you enough time to take the necessary action and fix the exposed areas before a hacker has the opportunity to breach your system.
Becoming a victim of cybercrime can be a costly experience. Prevention is critical, act now before it’s too late.