These days, the increasing rate of cyberattacks calls out the importance of taking vulnerability scans. In addition to these regular scans, penetration tests should be there to identify the flaws and hence ensure the functioning of cyber controls on a regular basis. The enterprise networks across the globe handle huge volumes of business data that are overly sensitive and are owned privately. It is unaffordable for them to lose this data and hence automatically they became the main victims of cybercriminals. They use different types of malware attacks to hack the networks, exploit and handle the private data which is stored by the enterprise network. To fight against these standing cyber-attacks by ensuring strong IT security of our network, it is a good practice to employ ethical hackers in our business. Fortunately, that is the only secure way against these attacks.
Ethical hackers will perform some penetration tests in their enterprise networks by creating mock attempts to break the security walls of the network and penetrate and manipulate hacking by making mock vulnerabilities. The risk and also merit lies in this method is that these kinds of penetration tests made the security holes visible across some enterprise personnel and hence it is very much mandated to build strong solutions before a suspicious person, a hacker could find it. The usual story of building strategies for cyber securities will be planning and analyzing the existing infrastructure of the company and this will go so far. To make an airtight plan for security, you should view the company through a hacker’s eye. That is what we are implementing in the penetration test. A penetration test is an authorized hacking, performed on a business with the knowledge of the enterprise. This is also called a pen test or ethical hacking. In Pen Test, the ethical hacker will go into the company’s defenses for real and this will discover the standing vulnerabilities and assess the strength of the network before a cybercriminal gets the information.
Why is Network Penetration Testing critical?
1. Rather than using application-based vulnerability scans and other automated networks or simulations, Pen Test enables organizations to identify the flaws of high risk in a very much realistic manner. This exposes the security system of an organization in front of real-time vulnerabilities and gauges the actual risk that would have happened to the enterprise network.
The simulations and vulnerability scans can tell the story of some weaknesses that exist in the network, but an ethical hacker who has access to all the networks and uses manual methodical processes for exploiting these actual weaknesses.
2. Penetration test is an effective way to assess the capability of the defender’s team to successfully detect and respond to attacks. A frequent and one of the main factors in this test is to measure the ability of the defensive tools used and the personnel skill to respond to cyberattacks. The real value of tools like antivirus, intrusion detection systems, and firewalls becomes clear when enterprises see them stop malware and attackers – or fail to do so.
The ability check of defensive personnel also lies in the ability of defenders in analyzing alerts and logs of the detection of underway attacks.
3. Pen Tests give knowledge about the increased investment in security programs, technology and personnel to the organization. Many of the enterprises nowadays use penetration testing in order to assess how effectively their security systems are working and the cost-effectiveness as an IT security organization.
Usually, organizations assess the effectiveness once an initiative is complete and evaluate the strength of the defense system in that or they will test it right before a new project starts as a part to justify the budgetary spend.
4. Tests identify the standing vulnerabilities in the security system of an enterprise before it is exploited by an external hacker. The tests also help the organization to obstruct potential breaches. As we said before, vulnerability scanners cannot do anything beyond finding the weaknesses of the system.
So, the use of penetration tests and considering the test findings with at most care will build the cyber security of an organization in a very much improved manner. As with any other stories, during pen tests, the vulnerabilities of easy remediation will be found out like low-hanging fruit on a tree, but that is the one that allows hackers easy access to the environment.
5. Penetration tests help enterprises meet their compliance requirements, including Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, 201 CMR 17.00. Some compliance frameworks – like PCI – explicitly require an annual penetration test as a mandatory activity.
The outcome of a penetration test is as usual a detailed report which tells the organization about the areas of possible hacker entries and weaknesses within the organization. The report will also advise the company with the mandatory steps which take into action for migrating identified weaknesses.
This will help the organization to focus more on its security efforts. In addition, as we mentioned earlier, the report will highlight that “low- hanging fruit” and hence support an effective and manageable remediation process.
From these results, we can view this penetration test as a solid financial investment for the companies. We can see this is at most, required for an organization with the emergence of high regulatory requirements to protect the data of a safety-conscious customer. Most, if not all these standards carry hefty fines for those companies that fail to comply. Other than bearing these heavy penalties, organizations must face other damages which include legal trials if they could not be able to make the customer’s data secure in their hand. So, it is mandatory to submit to the penetration test and make sure to not get caught up in a data breach. Because the impact on an organization’s image after a data breach could be irreparable.
So, from an organization’s perspective, it is very curious that they must showcase their capability of securing their customer’s data. Clients are always extremely sensitive regarding the protection of their data and hence it is important to show how an organization takes care of their data by showing up the penetration test result and actions taken.
What are the key steps to consider during Network Penetration Testing?
Basically, there are 7 Phases of Penetration Testing
- Requirement Analysis
- Define, Identify, Classify and prioritizing vulnerabilities.
- Test Results Review
- Requirement Analysis
The first and foremost step among the seven steps of penetration testing is the requirement analysis.
The company, which needs to undergo penetration tests should provide the tester with all the general information about the targets that are in scope.
The Research stage is very crucial as it enables a tester to identify additional information that needs to be overlooked or it is unknown or not provided in the requirement.
The research will strengthen a penetration tester to frame their test cases and it will help both internal and external penetration. But these research steps are usually not performed while doing the Pen test in web application, API Penetration testing or mobile application.
In this step, basically, discovery activities are done. The information and data gathered from the above two steps used for discovering the ports or domains if any were made available to the hosts targeted or any subdomains are there for web applications.
- Define, Identify, Classify and prioritizing vulnerabilities
In this section, a vulnerability scan/assessment will be performed.
This is conducted for gaining knowledge about and identifying the potential weaknesses in the security systems that can allow the external attacker to take access to the environment or to the technology under test. This is not at all a replacement for the Pen Test, instead, it is a strong initial step before getting into the Penetration Test.
Here comes the action. An ethical hacker turns into an attacker!
A penetration tester analyzes, interprets and consolidates the results got from the vulnerability scan as well as the discovery steps. They will exploit those vulnerabilities and attack the system through manual attacking techniques, make use of automation tools, human intuition, etc.
This is the outcome of the Pen Test. Results are delivered in Report format.
This report is really a detailed comprehensive one that narrates the story from where the tester started the testing, how he found the vulnerabilities and flaws of the system and in which way he exploited the same. It details the scope of security testing, findings, methodologies used and advice/ recommendations for the corrections against the system vulnerabilities.
If it is demanded, the report will also explain the tester’s opinion on the test result whether the penetration test adheres to the framework requirements of the application.
- Test Results Review
The last but most important step of all the seven stages is this step. The company is now made aware of the effectiveness of its security system.
The organization must use the findings to rank the vulnerabilities noted in the system, analyze the impact of those flaws highlighted in the tester’s report, determine the remediation strategies needed to start over and inform the decision- making team move forward.
The security testing methodologies are unique from each other and are efficient because they are not based on the typical assessment methods or static techniques. In order to make the penetration testing most effective, the tester should be vigilant and diligent in putting efforts to find the vulnerabilities, security system weaknesses just like a real malicious individual. This seven-step penetration test will make an organization capable of facing the attack from an outsider and handles the vulnerability of the system effectively.
Below are the 15 best web application vulnerability scanners that we can make use of for penetration tests.
- Burp Suite Pen Tester
- Zed Attack Proxy
As we go through the story of penetration testing, we can frame several points in conclusion that first and most important is that the Pen Test is being executed in an application that is working properly as per their norms and standards. If so, a different approach of testing will be performed depending on the requirement of the application. This catches the vulnerable areas of the application in advance by an ethical hacker so that it will not be made visible to an unauthorized hacker.
Penetration Test stands as a primary way and the first best method to analyze the effectiveness of the cyber defense of an organization. Recently, some companies are leveraging new techniques and tools, several red teaming exercises which are more advanced, capturing flag competitions and providing continuous testing through bug bounty programs, but still, the traditional penetration test stands as important. Having a genuine cybersecurity professional regardless of having an ethical hacker attack your system instead of a legitimate attack before an outside attacker targets your organization, the defense weaknesses can be bolstered.