Penetration tests have utmost importance for organizations willing to secure their systems against cyber attacks. Cyber security experts perform these tests to measure the current security levels of networks and other systems. In this guide, we have compiled everything you may want to know about penetration tests.
- 1 What Is a Penetration Test?
- 2 What Is the Purpose and Importance of the Penetration Test?
- 3 Which Systems Should Be Included in Penetration Tests?
- 4 What Is the Penetration Test Methodology?
- 5 What Are Penetration Test Methods?
- 6 What Are Penetration Test Types?
- 7 Importance of Penetration Tests in Cyber Security
- 8 What Are the Risks of Penetration Tests?
What Is a Penetration Test?
In penetration tests, cyber security experts try to penetrate the systems and access the information infrastructure of an organization by using the exact same methods hackers use in the real world.
In this way, cyber security experts implement penetration and unauthorized access scenarios by thinking like a hacker and trying all methods that real hackers would try. Thus, organizations can experience what kind of difficulties they may face in case of a real attack.
Accordingly, they can fix vulnerabilities before they are exploited by cyber criminals or take additional measures to improve their cyber security.
Cyber security experts use licensed or open-source tools as well as automated scanning tools to carry out manual tests designed especially for a particular organization. Thanks to these practices, organizations can identify all vulnerabilities and have enough time to fix them before they are exploited by cyber criminals.
What Is the Purpose and Importance of the Penetration Test?
Any possible cyber attack can lead to devastating results on the profitability and reputation of an organization. In general, penetration tests aim to prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities before an unwanted attack happens.
It is possible to list some of the prominent purposes as follows:
- Determining whether existing software, hardware or network infrastructure needs a change or upgrade,
- Providing a comprehensive plan that identifies actions that can be taken to prevent future attacks, penetration, and exploitation attempts,
- Evaluating the efficiency of network security devices such as firewalls, routers, and web servers,
- Revealing the risks and threats present in the networks and systems of an organization,
- Systematically implementing patches suitable for identified vulnerabilities,
- Reducing costs of security audits by providing comprehensive and detailed analysis of the security capacity of an organization,
- Providing usable data to audit teams collecting data for compliance with standards,
- Implementing vulnerability scanning internally and externally,
- Testing and auditing the efficiency of the security policies and controls of an organization.
It is important to make a risk assessment, which will reveal the main threats that the network may suffer before the penetration testing of the organization.
Which Systems Should Be Included in Penetration Tests?
It is important to perform comprehensive tests to get the best results. If you are unsure about which systems you should include in penetration tests, we can help you. Moreover, you can contact us at any time to get detailed information and consultancy.
In general, the systems you need to include in the risk assessment includes:
- Systems belonging to your customers,
- Important production systems,
- DNS firewall, passwords, FTP, IIS, and web servers,
- Websites, email servers, remote access platforms,
- All systems that ensure the transmission and storage of sensitive information,
- Communication and e-commerce services.
What Is the Penetration Test Methodology?
In 2010, Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES) was published to standardize penetration testing. According to PTES, a penetration test needs to have 7 main stages. These are;
This stage includes the explanation of the methods and tools, which are going to be used in the tests. Moreover, cyber security experts need to provide additional information and support for the scope of the testing, how long it will take to complete the test, which systems will be tested, and other important details.
This stage includes intelligence gathering about the entry points of the organization. Thanks to this information, cyber security experts can create a strategic attack plan for testing.
In this stage, cyber security experts identify and categorize the assets of the organization. Thus, they identify possible threats and create a threat model that centers on the organization’s assets.
This stage reveals the system and application vulnerabilities, which may seem quite appealing for cyber criminals.
In this stage, cyber security experts gain access to the system and resources by bypassing security restrictions. Thus, they find the main penetration point of the organization and identify high-value assets.
In this stage, testing experts determine the value of the data available in the penetrated system. They also maintain the control of the system for use at other destinations on the network.
The final stage is reporting, and our cyber security experts include all the technical details about the test and the assets and components agreed upon for testing.
We also provide information on attack techniques, used methods, degree of impact, and risk by providing recommendations and improvements.
What Are Penetration Test Methods?
There are three different penetration test methods an organization can prefer. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can prefer one of the methods.
Whitebox Penetration Testing
In this method, the organization provides information about the system, infrastructure, and organization employees. Testers are going to have prior knowledge about the system and perform detailed testing.
Blackbox Penetration Testing
Unlike Whitebox penetration testing, the organization does not provide any prior information about the system, infrastructure, and organization employees. Testers will be totally unfamiliar with the system and carry out their tests accordingly.
Graybox Penetration Testing
Graybox penetration testing is the combination of Whitebox and Blackbox penetration testing methods. However, the organization is going to provide information about the system, infrastructure, and organization employees to a certain extent.
What Are Penetration Test Types?
As you can guess, this detailed test has different types. Often, organizations prefer one or more of the following testing types for comprehensive testing.
Below, you can find the penetration test types:
- Social Engineering Penetration Test
- Wireless Penetration Test
- DoS/DDoS Penetration Test
- Mobile Penetration Test
- Network Penetration Test
- Web Application Penetration Test
Importance of Penetration Tests in Cyber Security
Thanks to the development of information technologies, today, most of us perform most of the daily transactions on the digital system. Thus, besides making sure that systems respond to requests, keeping these systems secure is also important.
It is mainly because these systems contain much personal and confidential information. Moreover, if cyber criminals can access this data, it can lead to extremely dangerous problems for organizations and system users.
Thanks to penetration tests, organizations can reduce all these threats to seriously low rates. Penetration tests identify the vulnerabilities on systems and applications before cyber criminals exploit them and offer solutions.
Thus, organizations can take action quickly and improve their security against cyber attacks. Below, you are going to find some of the important aspects of the importance of penetration tests in cyber security.
Importance of Penetration Tests for Risk Analysis
Cyber security experts make risk analysis for cyber security management for systems, cyber security infrastructure components, and information technology process controls. Thus, penetration testing can make a valuable contribution to risk analysis, directly or indirectly.
Importance of Penetration Tests for Cyber Security Process Controls
Penetration tests are directly involved in cyber security and information technology processes and these secure application and system development. Therefore, these tests are included in information technology project management processes.
However, since new system and application vulnerabilities continue to emerge, it is beneficial to repeat the penetration tests, especially for critical network parts, systems, and applications regularly.
Importance of Penetration Tests for Audits
Penetration tests alone cannot replace cyber security audits. On the other hand, cyber security audits can greatly benefit from the results of penetration tests.
Although you may not include penetration tests in the audit plans, it is important to benefit from them during the audit planning stage and process and security infrastructure audits for related systems.
What Are the Risks of Penetration Tests?
Penetration tests can potentially affect the continuity of systems and, in some cases, data integrity. Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate this risk. However, cyber security experts can make exploit attempts in coordination with system administrators to keep the risk under control.
For example, they can perform tests for sensitive systems when the workload is low and take database backups for critical applications. In addition to this, experts must clean the attack codes uploaded to the relevant systems.
Although penetration tests are very effective and sometimes an admirable task for a complete takeover of the system or network, the process includes malicious attack tools that infect the target systems. If the organization or system administrators do not have knowledge of cyber risks and understand the critical consequences of the tests, reaching this point may lead to an unnecessary system infection.
As MS Cyber Security, we serve with prestigious and experienced experts with enough testing experience and necessary certifications. We offer detailed recommendations and tailored plans to reduce risks, fix all security vulnerabilities and support your information security process.
Keep in mind that penetration tests are a necessary element of information security for any organization.