Updated March 15, 2023
Introduction to Penetration Testing
The following article provides an outline for Penetration Testing. The network and web interface of any organization are the main two things that can lead to a security breach in the organization. They are the only platform that can allow the cyber attack to be performed on the organization. In order to make sure that the organization or the enterprise is secure, these are the two essential things that have to be taken care of with high priority.
Regardless of how securely the web application has been developed, there will always be any flaw that makes it vulnerable to cyber attack. In order to make the organization free from security issues, the security professional of that organization has to be very careful about handling the company’s network and the web application.
When it comes to handling the network or web application of any organization, it is very important to sincerely take each security aspect. One of the approaches to keep it secure is by deploying Antivirus, firewall, IPS and IDS systems, etc. The role of their software is to ensure that no attack can cause harm to the system.
In this approach, we have the security professional try to hack our own system just to make sure how an actual hacker can compromise our system. As it is done with all the system owner’s consent, it is also called ethical hacking.
What is Penetration Testing?
- Penetration testing may be defined as exploiting the system with the system owner’s consent to get real exposure to the existing vulnerabilities. In this approach, the security professional tries to hack the system using all the ways that a hacker can use to compromise the system.
- Through it happens with the consent of the system’s owner, it might depend if they want to share the internal details of the system with the ethical hacker based on the kind of ethical hacking they want to get performed in their system.
- All three kinds of hacking, white hat, grey hat and black hat, could be performed under the penetration testing test. The professional who does pentesting is called pentesters.
- Penetration testing could be done on web applications as well as in the network. The ethical hacker follows all the steps from information gathering to exploiting the system to get all the possible flaws, which can weaken the system’s security.
- Based on whether the web application or the network has to be hacked, different tools and technologies are available to leverage. Also, based on what kind of security the organization wants to ensure, it depends on how the pentester will choose the approach of hacking. The pentester can also be asked to hack the life or the under-construction websites to get the idea of how it is developed and how it is being developed, respectively.
How is Penetration Testing Performed?
Penetration testing involves the open approach, which means the way pentesting could be performed varies from person to person. But overall, all the pentesters apply the same approaches or follow the same steps to implement their ideas.
Below are the steps that are usually involved in penetration testing:
- Reconnaissance may be defined as the way of performing the footprinting of the system by finding all the related details of the target.
- It includes finding the target’s physical location, gathering information about its surroundings, finding details about it through social media, being engaged with the people who are the legitimate user of the target, and so on.
- This step plays a vital role by making the hacker aware of the target.
- Scanning, as the name states, this step is all about scanning the target in order to get all the technical details about it.
- It is the hacker actually uses the most important step as the hacker’s technical details gathered during this phase to exploit the target.
- Scanning has to be done very carefully on the target else, and it could alert the owner or the system administrators if the smart software backs it.
3. Gaining Access
- After performing the scanning and gathering all the crucial details about the system, it is about how the details could be leveraged to break into the target.
- In this phase, it takes all the expertise of the hacker to get completed successfully.
- It is important for hackers to be aware of all the possible approaches to exploit the system using their knowledge and experience.
4. Maintaining Access
- After the system has been compromised, it is now the turn to manage the access in the target without the knowledge of the system administrator.
- Creating the backdoor to get regular access to the target falls under this phase.
- The hacker can create the backdoor using trojan so that they can use the target for their purpose whenever required. While residing inside the target, it is very important for the attacker to remain hidden; else, they can be thrown out of the target.
5. Clearing Track
- When all the phases are completed, and it turns to clear all the evidence that the attacker might have left while attacking the system, the attacker has to opt for the techniques to erase everything they did.
- It is the final phase as penetration testing is considered completed after this phase.
Penetration Testing Techniques
Penetration testing can be done in various ways. A good penetration tester is supposed to have their own skills that they can use to break any system. It all depends on what kind of system has to be compromised in an overview manner if it comes to penetration testing techniques. If the system is the web application or the network or what kind of system it is, it all decides what kind of approach or technique has to be applied to compromise the system.
It is very important to understand that different systems have different specifications, and in order to break them, it needs expertise in these particular specifications. The ethical hacker usually prefers to have a checklist of all the vulnerabilities that might exist in the system.
Also, based on if the penetration testing has to be done is either SAST or DAST, that also defines what kind of technique the ethical hacker will follow. In SAST, the penetration testing has to be done in the local system, due to which the security checks are less as compared to the system that is working live in the public network.
In some networks or web applications backed by security applications, it is very tough to bypass through them, making it very tough to perform the DAST penetration testing. The outcome of the penetration testing is then presented to the system administrators or the system owners to get those remediated.
Penetration Testing Tools
In order to perform penetration testing, the pentester requires the tools along with the techniques. With the advancement in technology, there are several tools being developed that are capable enough to support ethical hacking and can be used in the different phases of hacking.
Below are some of the important penetration testing tools:
Burpsuite may be defined as one of the sniffing tools that catch the packets that are transmitted from the web browser to towards the server. The sniffed packets can be then changed or manipulated to launch the attack. It carries various important data that the hacker can use in various ways to exploit the system.
2. OWASP ZAP
OWASP ZAP stands for the Zed Attack Proxy project. It is one of the products by OWASP, which is used to scan the vulnerabilities in the web application. There is an option to spider the web application. The tools walk through several pages to determine what kind of vulnerabilities exist in the web application. It is considered as one of the very important tools when it comes to ethical hacking.
Wireshark may be defined as the network traffic sniffing tool that can catch the network packet flowing through any network and get all the details that have been carried by it to exploit the system. If any of the users are doing some critical transaction, the Wireshark application can catch the packer involved in the transaction and can discover the data it is carrying to the server.
Nexpose is the other tool used to find or scan the vulnerability of any network. It runs the map behind the system in order to get the status of the ports and the services running on them. It is a very important tool to find out the existing vulnerabilities in the network. In addition to finding the network’s weakness, it also suggests the steps that have to be followed to remove all the weaknesses.
Metasploit is the inbuilt tool in Kali Linux used to perform the actual exploit. It is used in the terminal of Kali Linux, where it lets the hacker get access to the target system. It is a very big tool that lets us hack several devices that run the various operating systems on it. It has to be considered very seriously when it comes to exploiting the weakness of any system.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Penetration Testing
Given below are the advantages and disadvantages mentioned:
- Penetration testing ensures the safety of the system by making sure that the actual hacker cannot breach the security by finding the flaws in the system.
- It gives the idea about what kind of vulnerability actually exists in the system so that the system owner could remediate those.
- Cybersecurity is considered the mandatory checks that the organization has to go through to find out what is going wrong with their system.
- There are security breaches that could be only explored if the ethical hacker can try to exploit the system by applying all the approaches that a real hacker can do.
- The outcome of penetration testing is very important, while they have to be resolved in order to make sure that the system is free from the weak points.
- If the system is the production system and some of the important measures are not taken care of, it may lead to system downtime, which will definitely lead to the organisation’s performance.
- Sometimes, the pentester unintentionally leads to disclosing the critical information that is supposed to be kept secret, which could lead to the system’s actual hacking.
- It takes the extra cost to get the penetration testing done of any site as the hacker these days charges well sum to perform the system’s penetration testing.
- It is sometimes very time taking to perform the penetration testing, due to which the organization has to devote some of the time if there is any need to manage the downtime of the system.
Penetration testing is a crucial component of cybersecurity, and all of the organizations that are willing to secure their system should take advantage of it in any way. The outcome of penetration testing is very lucrative to the hacker, so it must have to be protected from them and has to remediated on an urgent basis; the pentesters these days are well cognizant about how the systems could be exploited, and so does the hackers. There is actually a cyberwar going on between the ethical hacker and the real hackers or malicious users. So in order to ensure the safety of the organization, one just has to get the penetration testing of their system done.
This has been a guide to Penetration Testing. Here we discuss the introduction, testing techniques, testing tools, and the advantages and disadvantages. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –