A Brief Introduction To Pentesting

Cybercrimes are extremely rampant in today’s world. Approximately 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses. However, only 17% of them are equipped to defend themselves. Being a cybercrime victim is probably an online business owner’s worst nightmare. It is a very messy situation to be in and it will tarnish your brand name. One measure you can adopt to revamp and strengthen your defenses against cybercrimes is pentesting.

Pentesting is a popular security practice. There are different types of pentests and numerous benefits of conducting them. Let’s go through some basic things you have to know about penetration testing.

What is Pentesting?

Pentesting or penetration testing involves directing simulated cyber-attacks to an application. By doing so, testers find vulnerabilities and probe into them. Penetration testing mimics hackers and cyber-attacks so that you can be ready for the real deal.

But do you really need pentests, especially if you’ve done a vulnerability assessment scan? The answer is yes!

A vulnerability assessment scan only lists out the potential vulnerabilities on the application. However, a pentest is more effective. Penetration tests also find out how hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities and the damage that results from them. All this information can be used to strengthen the security of the application.

Types of Pentesting

There are a few different approaches to how testers perform penetration testing. They are as follows:

1. Black Box Pentesting

During a black box pentest, the tester is not given any inside information about the application prior to the test. This form of testing replicates how hackers would hack the system. The idea is to understand how external threats can exploit the system. However, this testing will not analyze internal threats and loopholes.

2. White Box Pentesting

This type of pentest involves informing the tester about the internal working structure of the application. It is also called oblique or crystal box pentest. The objective of the pentest is to uncover hidden vulnerabilities inside the system. Also, this method is cost-efficient and time-saving.

3. Gray Box Pentesting

You can say that gray box testing is a mix of both the other tests. That is, the tester has partial knowledge of the internal working structure.

How to perform pentesting?

Some of the popular methodologies of performing penetration testing are OWASP, OSSTMM, NIST, and PTES. These are pentest standards that are widely accepted and practiced in the industry.

You can divide a pentest into 5 different phases. Let’s look at them one by one.

1. Collecting Information

This phase involves collecting various information about the application from different sources. It also involves finding fingerprints in the backend of the application. The tester then uses all the information to plan attacks.

Tools you can use to execute this phase: NMap, Spiderfoot, The Harvester, Shodan, etc.

2. Scanning

In this phase, the tester tries to study how the application reacts and responds to various attacks. By doing so, the tester can list out all the vulnerabilities. The two types of analysis testers use for this are static and dynamic. During the static analysis, the tester tests the application in a single pass. Conversely, dynamic analysis involves testing during run time.

Tools that can help you during scanning: Nikto, Open Vas, etc.

3. Gaining Access

This phase involves exploiting all the vulnerabilities that were identified during the previous phase. Testers attack the application using various techniques like web application attacks such as CSS, SQLi, backdoors.

Tools that you can use in this phase: Metasploit, Xsser, sqlmap, etc.

4. Maintaining Access

After gaining access to the application it is crucial that you maintain access. This helps in studying the severity of the damage each vulnerability can cause. You can prioritize and allot resources to fixing vulnerabilities accordingly. You can also check if the cost of the damage caused by a vulnerability is greater than the cost of fixing it.

5. Report and Retesting

All the information from the above phases is put together in the form of a report. This report also contains suggestions for fixing all the loopholes and weaknesses identified during the test. After receiving the report, you have to make appropriate changes to your security system. To find out if the changes you have made are effective, you need to conduct the penetration test once more.

6. Penetration Testing Certification

After every successful penetration test, you should ask your penetration testing company or service provider for an industry-recognized penetration testing certificate that can help you build customer trust and showcase your platform as more secure and reliable. Here’s an example of pentesting certificate:

Benefits of Pentesting

Conducting pentests on a regular basis has numerous benefits, like:

  • You can protect your organization from a potential security breach.
  • Pentests can uncover and probe into any hidden vulnerabilities on your system.
  • Pentests also enhance data protection.
  • Conducting pentests comply with regulations like PCI-DSS, GDPR, etc.
  • Pentests can help evaluate the efficiency of the existing security measures.

Conclusion

Pentesting plays an integral role in strengthening the security system of your application. It provides numerous benefits to your organization. This article explains the various steps involved in pentesting and also mentions some of the tools you can use to do the same. Hope this helps deepen your understanding of penetration testing.

 


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