About Penetration Testing

A penetration test is an authorized simulated cyber attack on a computer system, performed to evaluate the security of the system. The test is performed to identify both weaknesses including the potential for unauthorized parties to gain access to the system's features and data, as well as strengths, enabling a full risk assessment to be completed.

Penetration testing is an everyday part of the job description. In addition to performing Penetration Testing, we have to answer on an almost daily basis this question: “What is a penetration test and why do I need it?”

Here’s what you need to know.


What is a Penetration Test

In a nutshell, a penetration test is a comprehensive way of testing an organization’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities. If a hacker were going to target you then how would they do it and would they be successful?

Penetration testing views your network, applications, devices, and/or physical security through the eyes of both a malicious actor and an experienced cybersecurity expert to discover weaknesses and identify areas where your security posture needs improvement.

This testing doesn’t stop at simply discovering ways in which a criminal might gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or even take-over your systems for malicious purposes. It also simulates a real-world attack to determine how any defenses will fare and the possible magnitude of a breach.

Comprehensive penetration testing considers several areas:


Application Pentest

Application Penetration Testing Identifies application layer flaws such as Cross Site Request Forgery, Cross Site Scripting, Injection Flaws, Weak Session Management, Insecure Direct Object References and more.

Network Penetration Testing

Focuses on identifying network and system level flaws including Misconfigurations, Product-specific vulnerabilities, Wireless Network Vulnerabilities, Rogue Services, Weak Passwords and Protocols.

Physical Penetration Testing

Also known as physical intrusion testing, this testing reveals opportunities to compromise physical barriers such as locks, sensors, cameras, mantraps and more.

IoT/Device Penetration Testing

Aims to uncover hardware and software level flaws with Internet of Things devices including Weak Passwords, Insecure Protocols, APIS, or Communication Channels, Misconfigurations and more.

What’s Involved —

All of these risk-based approaches typically involve several steps:

Information Gathering —

The stage of reconnaissance against the target.

Vulnerability Analysis —

Discovering flaws in systems and applications using a set of tools, both commercially available tools and internally developed.

Exploitation —

Simulating a real-world attack to document any vulnerabilities.

Post-Exploitation —

Determining the value of compromise, considering data or network sensitivity.

Reporting —

Outlining the findings with suggestions for prioritizing fixes. For us, that means walking through the results with you hand-in-hand.

Why Do I Need A PenTest?

Cyber security is a complex landscape with rapidly evolving technologies, architectures, and policies. At the same time, there’s an ever-motivated group of people out there seeking to exploit vulnerabilities for not-so-virtuous purposes: to gain access to information, take over networks, install malware, disrupt services and more. 

Will your tools and configurations stand up to the test? Do they meet industry standards? A penetration test is what will tell.

Penetration testing examines the real-world effectiveness of your existing security controls when a skilled human actively tries to hack in. While automated testing can identify some cybersecurity issues, true penetration testing considers the business’s vulnerability to manual attack, too. After all, bad actors aren’t going to stop their attacks just because the standard automated test doesn’t identify a vulnerability.

Regular automated and manual testing can determine infrastructure, software, physical, and even personnel weaknesses and help your business develop strong controls.

Even the Pentagon in 2016 turned to outside help for a fresh perspective. Its “Hack the Pentagon” bug bounty program asked volunteer hackers to identify security issues affecting its public, non-classified computer systems. In just three months there were more than 1,400 hackers who registered to participate uncovered more than 100 unnoticed security issues.

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