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What is Penetration Testing? A brief Guide

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Penetration testing or pen testing is a technique that organizations use to unveil and test the security loopholes and vulnerabilities in their security protocols. Trained professionals or cybersecurity experts who simulate the actions and strategies accomplish the pen testing process. These third-party professionals or in-house teams assess the vulnerability of an organization’s computer system, applications, and networks.

Every time you hear the term cybersecurity, the first thing that comes to your mind is hacking. Pen testers can be considered ethical hackers who work for the benefit of the organizations and use their hacking knowledge to secure the system for other companies. They use techniques and methodologies similar to a real-world hacker to make the design stand firm against cyberattacks and prevent security and data breaches in difficult situations. 

Introduction to Penetration Testing

There is news of cyberattacks on the most prominent websites or applications of the world quite often. Cybercriminals keep researching and come up with more sophisticated and advanced techniques to sneak into a system and steal their information or inject malware or spyware to fulfill their malicious intentions.

What can one do in order to prevent their system from going into the hands of a hacker? The answer is Penetration testing or Pen testing that can help block all the loopholes that a hacker can exploit to break into your system. Penetration testing is a method to evaluate the security of a system, improve it before a hacker does it, and misuse those security issues.

Penetration testing is a method to help you understand and design the best security protocols to implement for your business to secure it in the future and how to mitigate the risks and loopholes present to prevent data or security breaches.

Professionals use both manual and automated methodologies to perform pen-testing and compromise the endpoints, web apps, network devices, servers, mobile devices, etc., in an orderly fashion. The results of a pen-testing process are jot down, and a detailed report is presented to the organization for the management and security team to make the right decisions to resolve the risk issues.

Significance of Penetration Testing

The penetration market is expected to grow up to $4.5 billion by the end of 2025. The main reason behind companies opting for penetration testing is due to the security and safety of sensitive data that they store. Organizations are providing online facilities to almost all the sectors of the economy, from education to banking and finance. The user dependency on the internet is growing with these services, and cybercriminals take advantage of this boom of internet usage.

Cybercriminals leave no opportunity to target the weakly secured or unsecured systems either to promote their illegal products, redirect visitors to malicious sites, or inject malware in visitors’ systems or ask for ransomware from business owners. Pen testing prevents all such obstacles to the business growth of an organization.

Hackers take control of your system and tarnish your SEO rankings and affect your visitors, which results in trust and financial issues. Pen testing is the key to maintain your trust amongst the audience and keep earning. Pen testing creates an environment that would happen if your system is under attack in a real-world scenario and mitigate the risk before they are exploited.

Phases of Pen Testing

Pen testing is crucial from the security aspect of an organization. Therefore, it requires a well-planned methodology to yield successful results post the process. The pen testing process consists of several phases that define what to test, how to test, gain details of the system under test, attack, and pen down the results of the entire process.

The phases of pen testing are as follows:

  • Scope and Planning: The cyber experts and the client discuss the goals and the scope of the pen testing to perform. The professionals should know what they need to test, what information will be shared with them, and what limitations they have to exploit the system. The client clarifies their goals and briefs all the required details.

The planning or reconnaissance phase is where the professional tries to get as much information as possible from public or private sources about the target system. These sources could be social engineering, internet search, domain registration details, network scanning, etc. It depends on the scope and goals of the pen-testing. In iOS applications, penetration testing methods. mainly focus on security. The iOS penetration testing is a security assessment of an iOS application.

  • Scanning: Pen testers use a wide range of tools to examine the system under test to explore the loopholes, open ends, security issues, and open source vulnerabilities. Scanning is of two types, static and dynamic. The static analysis includes inspection of the application’s code to understand its behavior on runtime. Dynamic analysis is to inspect the code while it is running.
  • Gaining Access: Pen testers define the most appropriate tools and procedures to access your system via the vulnerabilities present or using other techniques like malware. Experts then exploit the vulnerabilities present via a data breach, traffic interception, and other exploitation activities.
  • Maintaining access: The main target of an attacker is to stay in a system unidentified for as long as possible to exploit the vulnerabilities in the best possible manner and cause maximum potential harm. This phase checks if the vulnerabilities are helpful for the attackers to maintain a persistent presence in the target system to gain complete access.
  • Analysis and Reporting: Once the expert’s complete penetration testing, they jot down all the attacks targeted on the system, how they were conducted, what were the findings, tools used, etc., in a formal report that is submitted to the client. This report is the document that acts as a detailed guide about the vulnerabilities present and what can be done to fix them.

Closing Words

Pen testers act like real hackers and attack your system to explore all the vulnerabilities and help you decide the action plan to secure your system from malicious actors. Pen testing also aims to educate the employees and check the application’s code for lack of awareness and using insecure coding practices in the development phase.

Pen testing is a necessary process that every organization must opt for to secure their environment and assure they seek help from reliable service providers to fix the issues related to their system.