The digital transformation brings numerous benefits for businesses, but also vulnerabilities. As such, it is critical that businesses ensure that their systems are protected from potential cyberattacks. Apart from implementing strategies and tools like firewalls and two-factor authentication, it is equally important to periodically test the strength of your security system through penetration testing.
In this article, we’ll explain what penetration testing is, how it works, the benefits of penetration testing, and the different tools you can use.
What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing (or “pentesting” for short) is a type of security test that is used to assess the effectiveness of an organization’s IT infrastructure. A penetration test simulates a real-world attack on your system to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors.
Penetration testing is an important part of any cybersecurity program for a business, as it helps you to identify weaknesses in your system before they can be exploited by criminals. It gives you an understanding of how secure your system or network really is, and where any potential risks are located.
Pentesting can be done manually by a security professional or with automated tools, which can help speed up the process. Manual testing requires more time and resources but can provide more detailed results than automated testing. However, automated testing can be more efficient for larger networks with multiple components. Both options offer great ways to test a system’s vulnerabilities.
How Does Penetration Testing Work?
Penetration testing generally consists of four stages: information gathering, scanning, exploitation, and post-exploitation.
The first stage, information gathering, is when the tester gathers information about the target system. This information can be gathered through public sources such as Google or through more direct methods such as social engineering.
Once the tester has enough information about the target system, they will begin scanning for vulnerabilities. This can be done using automated penetration testing service or manual methods.
If the tester finds any vulnerabilities during the scanning stage, they will attempt to exploit them to gain access to the system. Once they have gained access, they will conduct a series of tests to determine what information they can glean from the system and what actions they can take on behalf of the attacker.
Finally, once the tester has completed their tests, they will document their findings and provide recommendations for mitigating any identified risks.
3 Types of Penetration Tests
Broadly speaking, there are two types of penetration tests: black-box tests and white-box tests. Gray-box testing, another popular type, is a combination of the two.
Black-box testing is a method of software testing that relies on public information and social engineering attacks to gather information about the system under test. This type of testing is often used to assess the security of a system, as it can help to identify vulnerabilities that may be exploited by attackers.
While black-box testing can be an effective way to evaluate security, it is important to note that it can also be time-consuming and may not always produce accurate results. In addition, black-box testing should always be conducted in conjunction with other methods of testing, such as white-box testing, in order to provide a comprehensive assessment of the system under test.
White-box testing is a method of testing software that takes into account the internal structure of the code being tested. Unlike black-box testing, which focuses solely on the functionality of the system under test, white-box testing takes a more holistic approach, looking at how the system is built and how it works to identify potential flaws.
This type of testing is typically conducted by developers or QA testers who have a deep understanding of the code base. White-box testing can be used to find both functional and non-functional defects in software. In many cases, it is used in addition to black-box testing in order to provide a more complete picture of the quality of the code being tested.
Gray-box testing is a testing method that falls between black-box and white-box testing on the spectrum of test access. In gray-box testing, the tester has partial knowledge of the system under test. This type of testing is typically used when the tester has access to limited information about the target system.
Gray-box testing can be useful in situations where the tester does not have full access to the code or internals of the system, but still has some knowledge that can be leveraged in designing tests.
When designing tests, the tester will take into account both the functionality of the system and the internals that are known. This approach can help to uncover errors that would not be found with black-box testing alone. Gray-box testing is an important tool for testers who want to ensure that their tests are comprehensive and effective.
What are the Benefits of Penetration Testing?
Vulnerability testing helps you identify weaknesses in your system before they become serious problems. It also gives you an understanding of how secure your data is and any possible flaws that could be exploited by hackers. By monitoring the system for any potential problems, you can ensure that your data is kept safe and secure.
1. Improved Security Posture
As anyone in the IT security field knows, keeping your systems safe from hackers is a never-ending battle. There are always new vulnerabilities to worry about, and no matter how much effort you put into securing your systems, there’s always the possibility that something could slip through the cracks. That’s where penetration testing comes in.
By hiring someone to test your system for vulnerabilities, you can identify potential weak spots before they’re exploited by malicious actors. And by taking action to fix these vulnerabilities, you can make your system stronger and better equipped to withstand attacks.
2. Obtain An Outside Perspective
When it comes to cybersecurity for businesses, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. One way to do this is by conducting penetration tests on your system. This type of testing can help you identify weaknesses that you may not have been aware of. By getting an outside perspective, you can be sure that your system is as secure as possible. This is especially important in today’s landscape, where new threats are constantly emerging.
3. Deployment of Defense in Depth Security Mechanisms
One of the benefits of a penetration test as a security measure is that it can help you deploy defense in depth security mechanisms. By testing your system for vulnerabilities, you can find and fix weak spots before they’re exploited by attackers.
In addition, penetration testing can help you determine what security measures are most effective against specific types of attacks. This helps you be better prepared to handle an attack if one does occur, and you’ll be able to respond quickly to mitigate the damage.
4. Meet Compliance Requirements
As any business owner knows, compliance with industry regulations is essential to operating a successful company. Not only can failure to meet these standards lead to hefty fines, but it can also damage your reputation and jeopardize your relationship with customers.
Penetration testing is a valuable tool that can help you ensure that your system meets all the necessary security requirements, such as those set by the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).
5. Improved Awareness Among Employees
While penetration testing can be an important part of protecting a company’s assets, it can also help improve awareness among employees. When you make your staff aware of these potential threats, they’ll be more likely to spot suspicious behavior and respond quickly if an attack does occur.
6. Better ROI on Security Investments
On top of simply improving your security posture, penetration testing can also help you get a better return on investment from your security investments. By identifying and fixing vulnerabilities quickly, you’ll be able to reduce downtime and minimize the impact of cyberattacks.
7. Peace of Mind
When you understand where your system is vulnerable, you can take steps to shore up its defenses. This in turn gives you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your system is secure and prepared to handle any potential threats.
8. Extra Layer of Protection
While no system is ever 100% secure, security penetration testing tools can help to dramatically reduce the risk of a successful attack. By simulating real-world attacks, penetration testers can identify weaknesses in your system before an attacker has a chance to exploit them.
In addition, penetration testers can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your current security measures. When you constantly test and improve your system, you can make it more difficult for attackers to succeed.
The Disadvantages of Penetration Testing
While penetration testing has numerous benefits, it does pose some drawbacks that are worth considering, such as:
- Cost – penetration testing can be costly, especially for businesses with complex systems and how comprehensive you want the test to be.
- Time Commitment – the process requires significant time and effort, especially for small businesses with limited resources.
- False Positives – pentests can return false positives, which can lead to unnecessary changes and course corrections that could have been avoided.
- False Sense of Security – penetration testing could lead organizations to become complacent with their
- Insufficient Testing – penetrating testing may not cover all potential vulnerabilities, which means that some threats may go undetected, leaving your system vulnerable to attack.
Penetration testing provides many benefits for businesses, including improved security posture, early detection of potential threats, and the obtainment of an outside perspective. However, it can seem like a steep cost for some. If you’re considering penetration testing for your business, keep these advantages and disadvantages in mind.
Vulnerability Testing Vs. Penetration Testing
Vulnerability testing and penetration testing are both effective ways of finding potential cybersecurity weaknesses. However, their approach to strengthening cybersecurity differs.
Penetration testing focuses more on identifying how a real person could exploit various vulnerabilities of a system. In contrast, vulnerability testing focuses only on identifying the weaknesses of a system rather than attempting to exploit them. It can help you identify potential issues with your company’s software and hardware, as well as any configuration errors that might be present. By finding these vulnerabilities before hackers do, you can take steps to patch them up and protect your system from potential attacks.
Vulnerability testing can be done more quickly and is less disruptive than penetration testing. However, of the two, penetration testing is more likely to uncover hidden vulnerabilities.
The Different Penetration Testing Tools and Software
Nmap is a versatile network exploration and security penetration testing tool that can be used to scan for open ports on systems. It is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, and it can be used to assess the security of networks and identify vulnerable systems.
Nmap can be run in stealth mode to avoid detection, and it can be used to conduct port scans, enumerate hosts, and perform OS fingerprinting. In addition, Nmap can be used to launch denial-of-service attacks. While Nmap is a powerful penetration testing tool, it is important to use it ethically and responsibly. Malicious use of Nmap can result in network downtime and may even lead to legal consequences.
Rapid7 Nexpose is a vulnerability management tool that helps you find, prioritize, and fix vulnerabilities across your system. Nexpose is available in both on-premises and cloud versions. Pricing starts at $2,000 per year for the on-premises version and $3,600 per year for the cloud version. Nexpose is a comprehensive vulnerability management solution that offers many features and benefits.
With Nexpose, you can scan your system for vulnerabilities, prioritize them by risk level, and generate reports to help you track your progress. You can also schedule scans and create alerts to notify you of new vulnerabilities as they are discovered.
In addition, Nexpose includes several built-in security controls to help you mitigate risks. For example, you can use Nexpose to block malicious IP addresses or quarantine compromised systems. Rapid7 also offers various professional services to help you deploy and use Nexpose effectively.
Kali Linux Is a Debian-based Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is available as a free download from the Offensive Security website.
Kali comes with over 600 pre-installed penetration-testing programs, making it a powerful tool for ethical hackers and security professionals. The distribution includes a wide range of tools for tasks such as reconnaissance, vulnerability scanning, information gathering, exploitation, privilege escalation, password cracking, post-exploitation, and more.
Kali also provides an extensive collection of resources for challenges such as reverse engineering and malware analysis. In addition to its many features, this penetration testing tool is also highly customizable, allowing users to tailor the distribution to their specific needs.
The Metasploit Framework is another powerful penetration testing tool that can be used to test the security of systems and networks. It provides a comprehensive set of utilities that can be used to launch attacks or exploit vulnerabilities. The Metasploit framework is available as a free download from the Rapid7 website.
Metasploit can be used to launch attacks against systems using known vulnerabilities. It can also be used to exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to system resources. In addition, Metasploit can be used to generate reports detailing the results of security tests. These reports can be used to assess the security posture of systems and make recommendations for improving security.
Burp Suite is a web application security testing platform that combines several different tools into one integrated package. The suite is available in both free and paid versions, with the paid version providing more advanced functionality. Prices for the paid version start at $399 per year.
Burp Suite is a popular choice for web application security testing because it is easy to use and provides a comprehensive set of features. The suite includes tools for performing tasks such as website crawling, fuzzing, and brute force attacks. Additionally, Burp Suite can be used to scan for vulnerabilities such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting.
One of the most important tools for penetration testing is WireShark. It is an open-source packet sniffer that can be used to see all the traffic on a network. This includes all the data that is being sent and received by all the devices on the network. This is valuable information for a penetration tester because it can be used to find vulnerabilities.
For example, if there is unencrypted traffic on the network, a hacker could intercept it and read the data. WireShark can also be used to sniff for passwords and other sensitive information. In addition, it can be used to monitor traffic for suspicious activity. This makes WireShark an essential tool for any penetration tester.
Nessus is a commercial vulnerability scanner developed by Tenable Network Security. It can be used to identify hosts and services on a network, as well as scan for over 60,000 known vulnerabilities. Nessus is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Nessus is a highly versatile tool that can be used to conduct various types of tests, including remote network audits, server infrastructure assessments, and web application vulnerability scans. Nessus is also one of the most widely used penetration testing tools for compliance testing, as it can be used to verify compliance with multiple industry-specific security standards.
Pentera is one of the most common penetration testing tools in the Philippines and can be used to test the security of any website or web-based application. Pentera works by launching a series of attacks against the target system, attempting to exploit any vulnerabilities that may be present. It can be used to test for a variety of different security issues, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and directory traversal. On top of this, Pentera can also be used to test for common web server misconfigurations, such as weak passwords and insecure file permissions.
While Pentera can be an invaluable tool for security professionals, it is important to note that it should only be used in a controlled environment, such as a lab or test network. Attempting to use Pentera on a live system could result in serious damage or disruption.
Keep Your Business Protected All Year Round
Penetration testing provides multiple benefits for businesses, including improved security posture, early detection of potential threats, and the obtainment of an outside perspective. The process may seem costly and disruptive but keep in mind the benefits of penetration testing and of keeping your systems secure.
If you’re considering ways to strengthen your business’s cybersecurity, Kital can help you with a range of cybersecurity services, including penetration testing services in the Philippines.
Talk to us today to learn how you can fortify your business from cyberattacks.