Penetration Testing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Ethical Hacking
In this article, you’ll learn what penetration testing is and why it is used. It also highlights the different types and approaches to penetration testing.
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Every day, we use and generate huge amounts of data. And this data is used by different sectors like healthcare, finance, marketing, and others. However, data breaches are increasingly rampant these days. That’s why such sensitive information should be safeguarded.
This is where penetration hacking comes in handy. Penetration testing or ethical hacking is used to get access to resources. Hackers carry out attacks to uncover security vulnerabilities and assess their strengths.
In this article, you’ll learn what penetration testing is and why it is used. It also highlights the different types and approaches to penetration testing. Lastly, the article listed some of the most popular tools used by pen testers.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing (pen testing) includes evaluating an application or infrastructure for vulnerabilities. Pen testing identifies numerous vulnerabilities inside the system. In addition to this, it also determines what causes these vulnerabilities.
After identifying system flaws, the process directs you on how you can find and fix them. In essence, each detected vulnerability is assigned a specific grade. And this is based on which of these companies should prioritize fixing first.
Penetration testing is usually required by companies to check their systems for any vulnerabilities. In most cases, there isn’t any need for obfuscation.
However, there are times where black box pen testing is required. This is a type of testing where security specialists deal with things like firewalls. This interferes with testers while they run checks. They can block them, but it gets time-consuming.
To get around these restrictions, the IP address should be changed. In this case, a blazing seo proxy can be helpful to do the job. A proxy server establishes a TCP connection on behalf of the server. It, then, exchanges network packets with that server. You will be able to use your local DNS server at the same time and be given a name for each request. The site, then, will remember the address where the DNS requests came from.
Why Penetration Testing Is Used?
Penetration testing is used to verify vulnerabilities. Also, testers use this to evaluate how secured the system is.
Today’s technology is advancing. However, human error still accounts for 88% of data breaches. Modern hackers target security misconfigurations that occur at any level of an application stack. To know if your security system can handle such attacks, you need to put them to the test.
Here is a list of how companies benefit from penetration testing:
- The test identifies weaknesses in an organization’s hardware, software, or human assets to establish controls.
- The test makes sure that the three most important aspects of cybersecurity are maintained. These three aspects include confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
- The test assures that the controls put in place are adequate.
- The test provides insight into a company’s established security measures. This is done by determining how it will be attacked, as well as the steps needed to secure it.
- The test improves a company’s overall security posture.
Types of Penetration Testing
1. Network Penetration Testing
The physical structure of the system is examined to discover dangers in the organization’s network. The penetration tester conducts tests in the network. This is so they can identify faults in its architecture, operation, or implementation. The tester checks various components of the business, like computers and devices, for possible flaws.
2. Physical Penetration Testing
This type of penetration testing imitates real-world risks. The pen tester takes on the role of a cyber-attacker, attempting to breach the physical security barrier. This test is used to look for flaws in physical controls such as security cameras, lockers, obstacles, and sensors.
3. Web Application Penetration Testing
In this type, testers look for flaws in web-based systems. Web application penetration testing identifies possible vulnerabilities within websites and apps. It also searches for security issues that can occur as a result of unsecured development.
Websites and apps that have transaction pages need this type of pen-testing. Examples are online shopping websites, banking apps, and other eCommerce websites.
4. Wireless Network Penetration Testing
This type of pen testing examines the connectivity of all devices connected to the company’s internet. The purpose is to avoid data leakage that can occur when data is shared between devices over a wireless network.
3 Approaches to Penetration Testing
There are three ways how testers perform penetration testing. All of these depend on the sort of information available at hand.
1. Black Box Penetration Testing
In the black box or external penetration testing, the tester has no knowledge of the company’s IT architecture. This procedure is like a simulation of a real-world cyber-attack and usually takes longer to complete.
2. Grey Box Penetration Testing
In this approach, the testers have some information about the company’s structure. This includes IP addresses, operating systems, email addresses, locations, and network maps.
It’s a more targeted method since the pen tester only has limited access to the internal network. This, then, allows them to concentrate their efforts on exploiting potential vulnerabilities. As a result, this saves them more time and money.
3. White Box Penetration Testing
White box penetration testing is also termed internal or clear box penetration testing. The pen tester has complete information like the IT infrastructure, source code, and environment.
It is a more extensive and in-depth pen test where every aspect of the application is tested. This usually includes the quality of the code and the basic design. Furthermore, pen-testing of this nature normally takes two to three weeks to complete.
Tools Used in Penetration Testing
Penetration testing relies heavily on tools. These tools aid in the detection of security flaws in the network, server, hardware, and software. Penetration tools are software applications that are created to check for gaps that are exploited by actual hackers.
To execute different penetration testing procedures, there are hundreds of tools accessible on the market. Here are some of the most popular penetration testing tools useful for common testing aspects.
1. SQL Map
SQL map is a program that automates the discovery and exploitation of SQL injection problems. It includes a robust detection engine that works with any database management system. It supports all SQL injection techniques. With suitable authentication, IP address, port, and database name, you can connect to the database without using SQL injection.
To discover any vulnerabilities, the web application attack and audit framework (W3af) is employed. It gets rid of things like DNS, cache poisoning, cookie management, and proxy support.
Wireshark is the most used network protocol analyzer in the world. This tool allows testers to examine network activity at a tiny level. It also allows for a thorough examination of hundreds of protocols, as well as live captures and offline analysis. Wireshark is compatible with all major operating systems like Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Solaris.
Metasploit is a popular tool for penetration testing. Testing teams use it to check and manage security assessments, keeping white hat hackers at bay. Metasploit includes a command line as well as a user-friendly GUI interface. It runs on all operating systems, including Mac OS, Linux, and Windows. While that is the case, Linux is the most popular.
The tool allows penetration testers to break into a system and find serious weaknesses. With this tool, testers can exploit weaknesses and carry out genuine attacks.
Nmap is free, versatile, powerful, portable, and simple to use. It is used in different ways, such as:
- Examining and managing service upgrade schedules
- Monitoring host and running services for uptime, and
- Managing network inventory
It determines whether or not hosts are available by analyzing raw IP packets. Nmap is also used to see what services are running on a host. Additionally, it can also check the application name, version, and operating system information.
Testers are able to see what sort of packet filters are used. Nmap can scan anything from a single computer to massive networks. It is compatible with nearly all operating systems.
Many companies all over the world use Nessus as one of their most trusted pen-testing tools. It is used to scan IP addresses, websites, and sensitive data searches. Nessus can assist in identifying missing patches, malware, and mobile scanning. Additionally, it has a fully-featured dashboard, broad range scanning capabilities, and a multi-format report facility.
Web application penetration testing is important to identify key security flaws in a system. It is also essential to determine vulnerabilities in an IT infrastructure or web app. As cyberattacks become more prevalent, it is becoming increasingly important to detect threats and vulnerabilities. That’s why penetration testing is a must.
There are many tools and approaches to pen testing that differ from one company to another. However, the goal still remains the same: to secure a business’s assets from outside intruders. Penetration testers with advanced skills can uncover an increasing number of flaws. This can then be patched to make systems safer.
Penetration testing is now being expanded to include mobile devices and cloud security. As a penetration tester, you need to be prepared and knowledgeable about vulnerabilities, it’s also important to know how to conduct testing in these areas.
Remember, a penetration tester must always be one step ahead of a black hat hacker. There can only be one victor in this game, and it should be the company you’re working for.
Published at DZone with permission of Anish Roy. See the original article here.
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