In the world of information security, one of the most important and least understood disciplines is penetration testing. This is a term used to describe a variety of activities that involve testing a computer system or network for security flaws and breach points. Pentesters simulate real-world attacks in order to find and exploit weaknesses in security defenses. In this article, we discuss the different types of pentesting, stages of a pentest, what pentesting is used for. We will also outline steps that you can take to perform independent penetration testing and list some tools to help you with this.
3 types of penetration testing
There are three main types of pentesting: black-box pentesting, white-box pentesting, and grey-box pentesting
Black-box pentesting is the most common type. The pentester has no information on the target system and will first have to gather information on the system being tested.
White-box pentesting is where the pentester has full knowledge of the system being tested, including passwords, user accounts, and network topology.
Grey-box testing is somewhere in between; the pentester has some information about the system but not everything.
5 stages of penetration testing
The five stages of a penetration test are:
- Reconnaissance: Gathering information about the target system and its users.
- Scanning: Identifying open ports and services on the target system.
- Attacking: Attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in the target system.
- Post-Exploitation: Taking advantage of any access gained during the attack phase.
- Reporting: documenting the findings of the pentest and providing recommendations for remediating vulnerabilities.
What is pentesting used for?
Pentesting can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- Assessing the security posture of an organisation
- Testing the security defences of a system or network
- Finding flaws that could be exploited by attackers
- Investigating cyber attacks
- Training security staff in how to defend against attacks
What should a penetration test report include?
A good penetration test report should include:
- An executive summary describing the overall findings of the pentest
- A description of each stage of the pentest and what was found
- Details on any vulnerabilities that were exploited including risk levels
- Recommendations for remediating any vulnerabilities found
Steps for independent penetration testing:
- Identify critical vulnerabilities: Before you start any penetration testing, it’s important to identify the most critical vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. This can be done by researching the organisation being tested or using vulnerability scanning tools.
- Understand the risks and vulnerabilities well: Pentesters need to have a good understanding of the risks and vulnerabilities that are present in order to exploit them.
- Plan your attack: Once you have identified the vulnerabilities to target, you need to plan how you will exploit them. This involves researching the target system and determining which approaches are most likely to succeed. This also involves using specific tools or techniques that are designed to exploit certain vulnerabilities.
- Executing your attack: A software penetration testing is all about exploiting vulnerabilities, so start by trying out the methods you have planned.
- Minimise damage: Once you have gained access to the target system, it’s important to take steps to minimise the damage that can be done. This includes deleting any evidence of your attack and not tampering with or deleting any data that is not intended to be compromised.
- Report your findings: After completing the pentest, it’s time to compile a report documenting the findings. This should include a description of each stage of the pentest, details on any vulnerabilities that were exploited, and recommendations for remediating the vulnerabilities.
5 great tools for penetration testing:
- Astra Pentest: The powerful and best tool for penetration testing developed by Astra Security. It packs a whole lot of features like live threat updates, risk scores, testing against 2500+ known vulnerabilities, SaaS application testing, smart contract audits, etc.
- Metasploit: A framework for generating and executing exploits, used by many pentesters.
- Nmap: A network exploration and security auditing tool that can be used to find breach points in networks and ports.
- Hydra: A password cracking tool that can be used to exploit vulnerabilities in authentication systems.
- Kiwi (mimikatz): A tool for extracting passwords and other sensitive data from memory dumps.
Penetration testing can be a great way to assess the security posture of an organisation or test the defences of a system or network. It’s also useful for investigating cyber attacks, training security staff, and identifying vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.
In order to be successful, pentesters need to have a good understanding of the risks and vulnerabilities that are present in the organisation being tested. They also need to be able to exploit these vulnerabilities using specific tools or techniques. The final step is compiling a report documenting the findings of the pentest. This should include a description of each stage of the pentest, details on any vulnerabilities that were exploited, and recommendations for remediating the vulnerabilities.
Tools like Astra Pentest, Metasploit, Nmap, Hydra, and Kiwi can be used to help pentesters exploit vulnerabilities and gather information about the target system. By following these steps, you can perform an independent penetration test with minimal risk to the organisation being tested.