Penetration testing is the process to identify security vulnerabilities in an application by evaluating the system or network with various malicious techniques. The purpose of this test is to secure important data from outsiders like hackers who can have unauthorized access to the system. Once the vulnerability is identified it is used to exploit the system in order to gain access to sensitive information.
Possible causes of vulnerabilities
- Design and development errors
- Poor system configuration
- Human errors
Why should one do penetration testing?
- Financial data must be secured while transferring between different systems
- Many clients are asking for pen testing as part of the software release cycle
- To secure user data
- To find security vulnerabilities in an application
It’s very important for any organization to identify security issues present in the internal networks and computers. Using this information organization can plan a defense against any hacking attempt. User privacy and data security are the biggest concerns nowadays. Imagine if any hacker manages to get user details of social networking sites like Facebook. An organization can face legal issues due to a small loophole left in a software system. Hence big organizations are looking for PCI compliance certifications before doing any business with third party clients.
What should be tested?
The types of penetration testing that can be done
Human errors are the main causes of security vulnerability. Security standards and policies should be followed by all staff members to avoid social engineering penetration
attempts. An example of these standards includes not to mention any sensitive information in an email or phone communication. Security audits can be conducted to identify and correct process flaws.
- Application Security Testing
Using software methods one can verify if the system is exposed to security vulnerabilities.
- Physical Penetration Test
Strong physical security methods are applied to protect sensitive data. This is generally useful in military and government facilities. All physical network devices and access points are tested for the possibilities of any security breach.
Pen Testing Techniques
- Manual penetration test
- Using automated penetration test tools
- Combination of both manual and automated process
The third process is more common to identify all kinds of vulnerabilities:
It’s difficult to find all vulnerabilities using automated tools. There are some vulnerabilities that can be identified by manual scan only. Penetration
testers can perform better attacks on applications based on their skills and knowledge of system being penetrated. The methods like social engineering can be done by humans only. Manual checking includes design, business logic as well as code verification.
Let’s discuss the actual process followed by test agencies or penetration
testers. Identifying vulnerabilities present in the system is the first important step in this process. Corrective action is taken on these vulnerabilities and the same penetration
tests are repeated until the system is negative to all those tests.
We can categorize this process in the following methods
Various methods including Google search are used to get target system data. One can also use a web page source code analysis technique to get more info about the system, software, and plugin versions. There are many free tools and services available in the market which can give you information like database or table names, DB versions, software versions, hardware used, and various third-party plugins used in the target system.
Based on the data collected in the first step one can find the security weakness in the target system. This helps penetration testers to launch attacks using identified entry points in the system.
This is a crucial step. It requires special skills and techniques to launch an attack on the target system. Experienced penetration testers
can use their skills to launch an attack on the system.
- Result analysis and report preparation
After completion of penetration tests detailed reports are prepared for taking corrective actions. All identified vulnerabilities and recommended corrective methods are listed in these reports. You can customize vulnerability report format (HTML, XML, MS Word, or PDF) as per your organization needs.