What is a Pen Test?

What is a Pen Test?
Pen testing (penetration testing) is a type of cybersecurity exercise where cybersecurity professionals or ethical hackers identify and exploit vulnerabilities in an organisation’s system. Here, we explore the importance of pen tests – what they are and why we need them to protect the long-term security of our businesses.

Definition: Pen Test

A penetration test, known informally as a pentest, is a simulated cyberattack on a computer system carried out by cybersecurity professionals to evaluate the security of the system. These simulated attacks are used to detect weak spots in a system’s defences so that they can proactively work to fix them and prevent attacks. Companies should include regular pen testing as a key component of a robust security strategy, allowing them to stay ahead of attacks and safeguard their system in the face of emerging cyber threats.

Types of Pen Tests

Different types of pen tests serve different functions. Here are the most common types of pen tests.

Black Box Testing

Black box testing refers to pen tests which are carried out with no former knowledge of a system’s internals. This test works from the perspective of an external attacker and can be used to evaluate a system’s security posture, performance and functionality. It makes sure that the software meets user requirements and expectations and is protected in the case of external malicious attacks.

White Box Testing

White box testing is when the tester has complete knowledge of the system being tested, with access to source code and internal documents. It adopts the perspective of someone with inner knowledge who could attack the system. The in-depth visibility of white box testing helps to highlight issues that won’t be seen during black or grey box testing and white box testing can use techniques that can’t be used in the other tests such as path checking, output validation, loop testing and data flow testing.

Grey Box Testing

Grey box testing combined methods of both black box and white box testing. This type of testing searches for any defects that may arise from improper structure or improper usage of applications. The tester will have partial knowledge of your system’s internal details – less than white box testing but more than black box testing.

The Pen Testing Process

The pen testing process follows multiple steps: 1.Planning and preparation This stage involves working together with the testers to define the scope and objectives of the test. The testers will then get to work gathering information and intelligence (also known as “reconnaissance”. If they are carrying out a black-box test, this will mean doing a deep dive into publicly available information to see if they can use that to exploit the system and gain entry. 2. Scanning and enumeration The testers will use this stage to detect any vulnerabilities, weaknesses and potential entry points and create a comprehensive list. 3. Exploitation Using the list from the previous step and information uncovered in step one, the testers will then attempt to exploit these identified vulnerabilities. 4. Post-exploitation After the exploitation attempts, the testers can look at the impact of any successful exploitations and its  potential to disrupt the business. 5. Reporting The testing company will provide a comprehensive report on the different findings (including the weak points identified, the exploitation attempts and their results) as well as laying out recommendations for remediation and clear actions to take to improve the company’s security posture. 6. Remediation and Re-Testing At this stage, vulnerabilities will be addressed and fixes will be validated. Re-testing is crucial to make sure that no other vulnerabilities have arisen while introducing fix-ups to the system.

What are the Benefits of Pen Testing?

There are various benefits of regular pen testing including:
  • Identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities
  • Enhancing your organisation’s overall security posture
  • Ensuring ongoing compliance with industry standards and regulations
  • Building trust with stakeholders and clients

Closing Thoughts

Regular pen testing will help improve your company’s security posture and ensure that you are protected from emerging cyber threats. These tests allow you to stay ahead of cyber attacks and are crucial as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Organise your next pen test today!