Are you want to become a penetration tester? But don’t know what a penetration tester is and how a penetration tester is differentiated in terms of different types of penetration tester or other approaches. Let’s dive into penetration testing in brief.
Penetration testing is one of the fastest-growing fields in cybersecurity. It is a very vast domain.
As black hat hackers advance in skill and knowledge, it is the responsibility of organizations to guarantee that their cybersecurity systems can withstand attacks.
Pen-testing is one of the essential instruments that businesses may employ to defend themselves.
A cybersecurity expert uses the same tactics as a black hat hacker to access your IT systems during penetration testing.
They employ every means that a criminal could engage, including password cracking, malware, and even social engineering.
Another name for penetration testing is pen-testing. So, penetration testers are also known as pen testers.
Six Reasons You Need to Invest in Pen Testing:
- Pen testers expose an organization’s weakness before real evil hackers do.
- It can show which areas of security require investment.
- It gives you an outsider’s perspective on your security.
- It will help you to save the organization money.
- It represents a real-world cyber-attack situation.
- It will support you in complying with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
What is penetration testing?
A penetration test requires testing the security of an information system by performing attacks, identifying system vulnerabilities, and recommending security fixes.
Some people think that penetration testing and vulnerability testing are the same. But the fact is, both of them are very different in the real world.
Vulnerability testing includes automatic scanners to identify the most common vulnerabilities quickly. Pen-testing takes a long time because it involves logical faults that automated tools cannot detect and a phase of manual exploitation of discovered vulnerabilities.
A more precise and time-tested security audit method allows for the full impact of any flaw to be measured.
What is the fundamental goal of penetration testing?
In recent years, organizations have become a widely used security practice by pen-testing.
Pen testing is especially proper for industries that store and access sensitive or private information, such as banks or healthcare providers.
A pen test’s primary goal is to disclose vulnerabilities or exploit weaknesses. It is essential to highlight that the primary purpose of a pen test is frequently related to a business objective with a broad strategy.
An auditor has some requirements fulfilled in the penetration test according to the level attained by the contractor.
The security objectives of a software company may differ.
For instance, application pen-testing recognizes vulnerabilities and faults in code that might be powerless against an assault. Following that, developers work to create fixes to update the codebase.
Finally, the types of pen-testing performed are determined by the business goals.
What are the different approaches to penetration testing?
The approach to penetration testing and the project’s scope depends on the information provided to the pen tester.
The organization decides how much information to give to the pen tester.
The different approaches to pen-testing include:
- Black Box Pen-testing
- White Box Pen-testing
- Gray Box Pen-testing
Black Box Penetration Testing
Black Box Pen-testing is also known as External Penetration Testing.
The pen tester provides little to no information about an organization’s IT infrastructure during black-box testing.
In this method, the pen tester should think like an outside attacker (a black hat hacker).
White Box Penetration Testing
Internal Pen-testing, Clear Box Testing, and Glass Box Testing are other White Box Penetration Testing names.
The pen tester provides in-depth information about an organization’s IT infrastructure and access to the source code during white box testing.
White-box pen-testing aims to conduct an in-depth security audit of an organization’s systems.
White box tests have some drawbacks. For example, given the pen tester’s level of access, deciding what areas to focus on may take longer. Furthermore, this testing method frequently requires highly advanced and costly tools such as code analyzers and debuggers.
In the end, whether you perform a black box or a white box penetration test is irrelevant as long as the primary goal of the test achieves.
Gray Box Penetration Testing
During a grey box penetration test, the pen tester has only limited knowledge of or access to an internal network or web application.
A pen tester may be given user privileges on a host and told to escalate their rights to a website admin. They could also ask to access software code and system architecture diagrams.
The reporting provided by a grey box penetration test provides a more focused and efficient assessment of your network’s security.
For example, rather than investing time with the “trial and error” approach, pen testers playing out a grey box penetration test can survey the network graphs to distinguish spaces of most danger.
Pentester can recommend appropriate countermeasures to fill the gaps.
Types Of Penetration Testing
Each penetration test requires specific information, methodology, and tools and is aligned with a particular objective.
To achieve the organization’s objectives, it is also necessary to develop an awareness of social engineering attacks on their employees. It will help them implement secure code development to detect vulnerabilities in software code in real-time or meet regulatory or compliance requirements.
The different kinds of penetration testing include:
- Network Penetration Testing
- Web Application Penetration Testing
- Client-Side Penetration Testing
- Wireless Penetration Testing
- Social Engineering
- Physical Penetration Testing
Network Penetration Testing
Network Penetration Testing represents the steps hackers would use to target any corporate network, network apps, website, and devices connected.
This model seeks to detect security flaws early on before hackers can find and exploit them.
Penetration tests, when performed correctly, go beyond simply preventing bad actors from gaining unauthorized access to an organization’s network and data.
It helps generate real-world conditions to show corporations how successfully their present security systems would behave when confronting full-scale cyber attacks.
Network penetration tests are carried out to protect your organization from common network-based attacks such as:
- Firewall Misconfiguration And Firewall
- Bypass IPS/IDS Evasion Attacks
- Router Attacks
- DNS Level Attacks
- Zone Transfer Attacks
- Switching Or Routing Based Attacks
- SSH Attacks
- Proxy Server Attacks
- Unnecessary Open Ports Attacks
- Database Attacks
- Man In The Middle (MITM) Attacks
- FTP/SMTP Based Attacks
Since a network delivers mission-critical services to an organization, internal and external network pen-testing should be performed yearly. Pen testing offers your organization enough protection against these attack vectors.
Web Application Penetration Testing
Web Application Penetration Testing aims to identify vulnerabilities or security threats in web-based applications.
Different types of techniques and attacks are used to break into the web application.
A web application penetration test’s standard scope covers web-based applications, browsers, and associated components such as JSP, Silverlight, Servlet, EJB, and Applets.
Because these tests are considerably more thorough and focused, they consider more complicated. Endpoints of any web-based application that interacts with the user regularly must identify to perform a successful test.
From planning to executing the test and eventually generating a usable report, this involves effort and time.
Testing methodologies for web application penetration are constantly changing due to the increasing number of daily threats originating from web apps. This danger has grown significantly after the outbreak of COVID-19, leading to a 600% rise in cybercrime.
A primary objective for doing a web application penetration test is to discover security flaws or vulnerabilities in web-based applications and their components, such as databases, source code, and back-end networks.
It also helps by prioritizing the discovered flaws or vulnerabilities and suggesting potential mitigation solutions.
It is considered excellent practice in software application development to enhance the codebase continually. The phrase “deploying secure and agile code” is frequently used to characterize this technique.
Client-Side Penetration Testing
Client-side pen-testing is performed to identify vulnerabilities or security flaws in client-side applications.
These might include Putty, email clients, web browsers (such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and others), Macromedia Flash, etc.
Client-side testing is carried out to detect certain cyberattacks, such as:
- Cross-Site Scripting Attacks
- Clickjacking Attacks
- Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS)
- Form Hijacking
- HTML Injection
- Open Redirection
- Malware Infection
Wireless Penetration Testing
Wireless Penetration Testing involves identifying and analyzing the connections between all devices linked to the organization’s Wi-Fi. These gadgets include laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other internet of things (IoT) devices.
Wireless pen-testing was carried out on-site since the pen tester must be within range of the wireless signal to access it. Alternatively, a NUC and Wi-Fi Pineapple (optional) are put on-site to run the test remotely.
Wireless communications are a service that runs anonymously and allows data to move in and out of the network. As a result, any flaws in this wireless network, such as illegal access or data leakage, must be addressed.
Important points to be considered:
- Pentester should identify all-access issues.
- Avoid using poor encryption methods.
- The data flowing in or out of the system is encrypted.
- Place monitoring systems to identify unauthorized users.
- All wireless access points should use the WPA protocol.
Social Engineering Penetration Testing
During social engineering pen-testing, a malicious person attempts to convince or deceive people into disclosing sensitive information, such as a login and password.
- Phishing Attacks
- Vishing Attacks
- Imposters (i.e., Fellow Employees, External Vendors, or Contractors)
- Name Dropping
- Dumpster Diving
According to recent data, social engineering is used in 98 percent of all cyber attacks. Internal users are one of the most dangerous risks to a network’s security and how profitable the scams are.
Social engineering testing and awareness campaigns are some of the most successful attack mitigation techniques.
Physical Penetration Testing
Physical pen-testing simulates a real-world threat. A pen tester attempts to breach physical boundaries to access an organization’s infrastructure, facility, systems, or individuals.
Suppose an attacker gains physical access to the server room of any organization. In that case, they can take complete control of your network. Most organizations underestimate the situation.
This impact could have on your organization, consumers, and business partners.
The significant advantage of a physical penetration test is that it exposes gaps and vulnerabilities in physical controls (locks, barriers, cameras, or sensors) to fix problems immediately. By detecting these flaws, suitable solutions implement to enhance the physical security posture.
Penetration Testing Methodology
This methodology is a comprehensive, systematic approach used in penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the overall security posture of an organization.
- A clear, methodical, and systematic approach to testing.
- Ensures that tests are reliable, accurate, and consistent across the board.
Note: Pentesting methodologies must be highly comprehensive and accurate to perform a penetration test successfully.
Both proprietary and open-source methodologies exist. We will be focusing on open-source options.
Open-source penetration testing methodologies:
- OSSTMM – Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual
- OWASP Testing Methodology – Open Web Application Security Project
- NIST – Technical Guide to Information Security and Assessment
- PTES – Penetration Testing Methodology and Standards
- ISSAF – Information System Security Assessment Framework
These are not the only methodologies that exist. Every hacker creates or modifies existing methods to their comfort or convenience.
With the experience, anyone can easily modify methodologies according to their tools.
A basic penetration tester methodology:
- Reconnaissance: Reconnaissance is combing through a range of external sources (internet searches, social engineering, etc.) to look for indications that may give information about how the organization’s security network functions. Reconnaissance is also known as Information Gathering.
- Scanning: Scanning entails checking a network’s perimeter protection to look for apparent vulnerabilities.
- Gaining and maintaining access: Gaining and maintaining access involves bypassing security measures and keeping on the network long enough to fulfill their duties. This phase puts the security team’s capacity to find and control the danger, and the pen tester’s ability to remain elusive, to the test.
- Covering traces: The procedure concludes with the pen tester attempting to go undiscovered so that, if they were a genuine hacker, they might return for subsequent assaults.
Penetration Testing Tools
The most crucial element of performing penetration testing is choosing the correct tool for the job based on the challenges you’re experiencing. Some of the popular tools are:
Penetration Testing Certifications
Penetration Tester Salary
According to Glassdoor, the average base salary in the United States is around 1 Lakh dollar.
According to PayScale, the average base salary in the United States is around 88 thousand dollars.
Salary varies from freshers to experienced:
- Graduate or junior penetration testers often earn between £20,000 and £30,000 as a starting salary.
- With experience, you may earn between £40,000 and £65,000, with senior and team leader jobs paying up to £70,000. This sum, however, might be much higher depending on the industry in which you operate.
- Freelance penetration testers may expect to make between £400 and £500 per day.
Pen-testing and vulnerability testing are two ways of penetration testing that are highly distinct. A penetration test aims is to expose and exploit flaws in an organization’s IT infrastructure. Pen testing is beneficial in areas where sensitive or private information is stored and accessed, such as banks or healthcare providers. Each penetration test demands specific information, methodology, and tools and is focused on a particular goal.
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