6 Effective Steps to Carry Out Penetration Testing Successfully
When it’s about data security and cyber security, most companies (if not all) are on their toes to discover vulnerabilities and correct them ASAP. There’s no better way to proactively deal with hackers and ensure network security than carrying out a thorough round of Penetration Testing.
What is Penetration Testing?
Network and application penetration testing services or, shortly put, pen testing services, are a security testing method used to identify vulnerabilities in software and network applications using various techniques. The test’s primary purpose is to dig deep to uncover vulnerabilities and protect critical data from unauthorised sources.
Pen test also determines if the existing protection measures are strong enough to prevent a data breach and make suitable recommendations to upgrade the system and protect it from outsiders like hackers.
Different types of penetration testing include–
- Black box penetration testing
- White box penetration testing
- Grey box penetration testing
- Internal and external penetration testing
- In-house and third-party penetration testing
- Blind and double-blind penetration testing
Why is Penetration Testing Crucial?
According to IBM and the Ponemon Institute’s research, the cost of a data breach in today’s market is close to $3.9 million which can go up as high as $8.19 million depending on the data’s quantity and quality.
Another report states that in 2019, the number of data breach cases increased by 54%. Considering these alarming figures, it’s apparent that data security is now necessary more than ever.
Companies are now heavily investing in cybersecurity and relying on penetration testing to ensure security control and authorised access. It is essential for all enterprises dealing with customers’ personal and financial details such as banks, stock exchanges, investment banking, social media websites and the like.
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Pen testing is also highly imperative for online academic websites such as assignment help services or essay help services in Sydney, London, or other educational hubs worldwide where thousands of students sign up to pay for essay assignments and academic assistance.
Significant benefits of pen testing are:
- Identifying potential threats
- Protecting critical data while transferring between networks
- Securing organisation data
- Discovering vulnerabilities in the system
- Accessing the potential damage of an attack
- Implementing effective security protocol
- Categorising vulnerabilities
- Avoiding hefty fines for data breach
- Protecting businesses from financial and reputation damage
When Should a Business Perform Pen Testing?
A business should conduct penetration testing regularly to ensure security and protection of the system, especially when you:
- Detect a new threat in the system
- Add a new network infrastructure.
- Update the system with new software.
- Relocate business
- Set up a new end-user program
How to Perform Penetration Testing?
Step 1: Planning and preparation:
Penetration testing is successful when you have a clear scope in mind. The pen tester joins the client to define the goal of the testing considering the common objectives, which are:
- Identifying the vulnerabilities and improving the security systems
- Increasing infrastructure security
- Confirming IT security by an external party
Having a specific goal in mind can save you and the tester’s time and your money, of course!
Step 2: Gather written permissions and set work rules:
It’s crucial to sign a non-disclosure agreement with your tester, keeping in mind the ethical considerations. The best thing about penetration testing is that you can do it in your in-house network or outsource it to a remote consultant.
In case of third-party testing, define the work rules and align your in-house team in the process. Keep everything transparent and get everybody on the same page to avoid professional ego clash.
Step 3: Reconnaissance phase:
In the first phase, your pen tester would act as any other hacker and gather all available information from the internet, including the social media sites and the system. It will include all technical and non-technical data which the tester will analyse to conclude.
While technical information includes email addresses, IP addresses, and IT infrastructure, non-technical information includes your location, industry, and internal personnel structures.
Step 4: Discovery of vulnerability phase:
After analysing the reports from the reconnaissance phase, the tester will draft out a plan to attack and dig deeper to gather information from systems. This step’s primary goal is to scan all networks, operating systems and web servers and gain access to the target and compile a detailed idea of the systems and list potential threats to destroy.
Step 5: Exploitation phase:
It is the most crucial phase where the actual destruction begins. A tester can use different kinds of pen tests – network, physical, and wireless – individually and in combination.
Once the tester identifies the possible routes to access confidential data, s/he would give you the details of the exploited vulnerabilities and the techniques used to access the systems.
The provision of your agreement plays a vital role in this phase. The penetration tester should complete the agreed-upon project without any data breach while still exploiting the existing threats.
Step 6: Evidence phase:
Once the pentester has completed the necessary actions, it’s understandable that you expect evidence from the tester such as screenshots, password files, downloading and uploading files, recording files, and so on.
Along with how the tester was able to move around and what s/he accomplished, the pentester should share a complete report of the threats and the successful exploits that you can use to secure the systems when needed.
Step 7: Report preparation phase:
A report must include:
- Complete summary of penetration testing
- The steps used to gather information during the testing
- Details of the identified vulnerabilities and threats
- Details of exploiting the treats and techniques used to fix the systems
- Recommendation for future security
Examples of Pentesting Tools
While there is a wide range of pentesting tools, here’s a list of some of the testers’ most commonly used.
- Nessus: Identifies malware and network configuration issues
- Sqlmap: Detects and exploits SQL issues in your system’s database
- Wireshark: Used to monitor and analyse data packets moving through a network
- Nmap scanner: Identifies ports and services in your network
- Rapid 7Nexpose: Scans vulnerability and refurbishes network exposures
- Cain and Abel: Used to crack network keys and encrypted passwords
Penetration testing is no longer an option but a necessity to protect your cloud-based application and company data. Identifying vulnerabilities and threats within your IT framework is vital to avert data breach and potential attacks. By conducting penetration testing from time to time, companies can take definitive security measures to correct the risks and stay prepared for a prospective attack in the future.
Author Bio: John Mark is a software engineer working at a reputed IT firm in Australia. He is also available at MyAssignmenthelp.com, a top-ranked online essay help in Sydney, where he assists computer science students with their queries on request. Apart from being a computer geek, Joseph loves to play guitar, hike, and gorge on delicious food.