There are several definitions of pentest. Often this term is called security analysis, which allows you to binary evaluate the level of security – can you penetrate the perimeter or not?
Unlike other types of security analysis, a penetration test is understood as some simulation of an attacker’s actions. This is not just a series of checks but a test that sets the task of getting from a conditional point “A” to a dependent point “B” – for example, from an external perimeter inward or an internal segment to an isolated part, the network.
Hacking specialists and pentesters are already well-established professions in the information security market. Since many companies are now active only on the Internet, the need for the services of such specialists is growing exponentially every year.
Penetration Tests – The Basis of Project Security
Many critical vulnerabilities are identified at the stage of information gathering – with minimal impact (reduced risk of cyber attacks) on the tested objects. Therefore, a combined penetration test, which includes social engineering and external/internal penetration testing, is the most effective – most users of the attacked system are susceptible to sociotechnical attacks.
There are now extensive collections of penetration testing tools compiled by experienced penetration testing vendors. An important aspect of how pentesters work with these tools is that there are a large number of them, and they are divided into categories and specific areas. One of these is mobile application pentesting tools, designed exclusively for testing mobile projects.
The advantage of these penetration tests is that all important tools are pre-configured, ready to use, and combined into a single interface.
Importance and Purpose
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of any penetration testing is not to demonstrate the possibility of a successful attack (anything can be hacked, and no one has canceled the “sledgehammer” method) but to use the results of such tests to improve the information security management system. But, of course, this can be achieved only with the correct interpretation of the data obtained and with a wide coverage of possible and most probable attack options.
The value of penetration testing lies in the ability to simulate the sequence of actions performed by a potential attacker in conditions as close to reality. This allows you to identify the most vulnerable places in the information system, analyze the causes and consequences of a successful attack (if implemented), and check the reliability of existing protection mechanisms in general.
Pentest shows the real state of security and security assessment, which, unfortunately, in most cases is radically different from that described in the documents.
The result of the pentest is an expert opinion with a list of all identified vulnerabilities and a detailed action plan to eliminate them and protect company resources from attacks.
The main restrictions that distinguish a pentest from a real attack, making it difficult for testers, are the criminal code and ethics. For example, pentesters most often cannot attack the customer’s partner systems, employees’ home computers, or telecom operators’ infrastructure. They do not use intimidation, threats, blackmail, bribery, and other very effective methods of criminals in social engineering. The results of successful penetration within the framework of a “pure” pentest are all the more convincing. If your pentester breaks the law as part of the work, think ten times over whether to let such a person into your key systems.
How to find a professional penetration tester
Hackers basically want to gain access to data, the task of a penetration test is to take the place of hackers in order to be the first to identify unknown vulnerabilities and fix them. A serious level of training is needed to detect vulnerabilities and ensure the system’s security. Pentesters often think like hackers, code like developers, and analyze like engineers. Reputation and customer reviews are also very important, so you should always pay attention to them.
The penetration tester should record all the steps and results of the pen test. The main areas they should focus on will be clarified in advance. This way, you will have an optimal basis for understanding the individual steps and assessing the situation. Typically, the tester also provides you with accurate estimates of the most vulnerable threats to your network security.
Penetration Test Risks
In addition, there is always the risk that a penetration test will cause damage that cannot be repaired later, even if you conduct the test. Also, pen tests that constantly run in the background have the disadvantage of only providing snapshots of your network systems. Therefore, you should never use a security framework as an excuse to forego conventional safeguards because it has been optimized based on a penetration test.
Moreover, social engineering is not among the risks of traditional penetration testing. As a result, many companies offer training to help their employees combat these human security flaws.
Pentest is a universal security analysis tool. It can be used both to test the entire security infrastructure of a company and to search for vulnerabilities in its components and even specific software products. Penetration testing differs in its methods from retiming, vulnerability scanning, and the operation of BAS systems. The result of the penetration test is not only a list of detected deficiencies but also a report with recommendations for their elimination. The pentester tries not only to find a vulnerability but to follow the path of a potential attacker – from the attack start point specified by the scope to the target system. Specialized companies with extensive experience in pentesting and ready-made experienced penetration testing teams allow penetration testing to be carried out efficiently.
Most often, important and critically necessary objects (sensitive data, payment systems, security measures, etc.) fall under the attack. It is worth spending time and money on them, but there are those categories that in no way will interest attackers. Therefore, spending much money on testing process of low-risk items that can take days to break into is impractical and not recommended. Conduct penetration testing should be done no more than once a year.
Often, a pentest is aimed at ensuring that the security controls system itself is impregnable and does not aim to harm. But sometimes, due to incorrect instructions and requirements, a penetration testers (testing team) who is not fully familiar with the client’s system can accidentally damage it. But these are extremely rare cases, and all errors will be identified at the testing stage.
Conducting a penetration security testing allows you to get an up-to-date independent assessment of the security of an information system from attacks from outside, as well as identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the security system. Such testing allows you to quickly and effectively respond to possible threats and attacks.