After a while, or when the need arises, most companies, both large and small, including startups, come to maturity and understand the need to audit their infrastructure, establish interaction schemes, the business logic of services, security, and services for the consumer, the need to comply with regulatory requirements. One way to conduct an information security audit in this vein is a pentest.
Basics of Pentest
It is worth turning a little to theory to understand the basics of pentesting and how it differs from “bug bounty” or a new automated direction in security testing services. In a general sense, penetration testing or penetration testing is a method for assessing the security of information systems by simulating the actions of a real attacker. There is an internal pentest (the executor has access to the customer’s infrastructure or must gain such access and develop an attack) and external (the executor is outside the infrastructure perimeter and audits external business and web services).
Benefits of Pentest for Companies
We can say that if a company is interested in a comprehensive security audit of its services and systems, then pentest is an excellent and reasonable choice:
- The work is transparent.
- The testing coverage is defined.
- The result is clear.
- The requirements of the regulator or the business are met.
The service provider will clarify all stages of work, develop a testing strategy, and offer options for eliminating threats to identify vulnerabilities. The most important factor is not only the search for vulnerabilities and flaws in protection but also the verification of the business logic of services – manual analysis of remote banking processes, mobile applications, and web forms, bypassing CAPTCHA. Often, the perimeter does not create security threats. Still, the business logic allows an attacker or fraudster who legitimately has access to the company’s systems to withdraw money or otherwise harm.
Penetration test steps:
- Coordination and approval with the customer of the testing method and the responsibility of the parties;
- Collection of information;
- Determination of the network security perimeter;
- Port scanning;
- Analysis of the collected data;
- Definition of attack vectors;
- The exploitation of security vulnerabilities.
Pentesting: Ethical Hacking
Unlike real intruders, the test team follows certain ethical rules when carrying out all work:
- Any dangerous actions are performed only by prior agreement with the customer.
- The entire scanning process is transparent and planned.
- The operation of critical business processes is not disrupted.
- At the end of the test, the customer receives an objective report on the state of affairs in its security system that is understandable to IT specialists and the business.
The existence of various methods for conducting penetration tests does not cancel the creative component of the process, which requires the team that performs it to have deep knowledge in the field of IT security and, at the same time, the ability to think outside the box, apply social engineering methods, collect and analyze information.
Penetration testers act like intruders and combine information gathered from technical and sociotechnical penetration tests to demonstrate how hackers can piece together data breaches to bypass existing security measures, escalate network privileges, gain access to sensitive information, change your DBMS, or convince users to opt-out of enforcing existing policies security.
Network Penetration Test
The Penetration Test assists in the detection of weaknesses in protecting corporate networks and component network infrastructure, and it is important to choose the right service provider.
The criteria for each specific case may be different. For example, if an external penetration test is required to comply with the regulator’s requirements, then, in this case, the coverage is clear and limited; the needed result is also obvious. For network penetration tests, specialized specialists with experience and knowledge of the matter are ideal.
The procedure for testing the perimeter of networks for penetration includes the following processes:
- Planning a penetration test of networks.
- External security basic research
- Test penetration into the system structure (exploitation and vulnerability scanning)
- Development and provision of reporting documentation on penetration testing networks.
- Cleaning the network system from the consequences of testing.
Pentest Services For Network Security
The entire range of necessary actions by the type of search for network vulnerabilities or security weaknesses is included in the standard list. In addition, external network penetration testing may be needed to understand the company’s future work scope clearly.
Accordingly, the choice of pentest service should be stopped at those companies for which this type of work is considered core, which have a staff of qualified specialists and a separate project manager for directing pentests, who clearly understands what is required from his team, how to work with the customer and how to achieve a result. A non-core company with a high probability will give external penetration testing for outsourcing with an unknown final result.
Internal and External Penetration Testing
Penetration testing can be done with or without the knowledge of key information security personnel such as system and network administrators. Executing a simulated attack without alerting these employees will give senior management a real picture of the effectiveness of existing security controls. However, if the server and network environment have been misconfigured or security teams are not responding well to a simulated attack, such “unannounced” testing can lead to network disruption.
For this reason, penetration tests are often divided into external and internal stages. First, specialists try to break into the perimeter, for example, by installing malware on workstations. Then, if this external phase is successful, they will coordinate with the system administrators before proceeding to assess measures to counter the internal attack.
Happy End of Pentest
Sooner or later, many organizations using this or that software come to the need to organize the testing process. It should be noted that pentesting is not a one-time procedure. Technologies are developing, and methods and tools are evolving for hacking all networks. After half a year or several years after pentests, you cannot be sure that your system’s security features are up to date. The good news is that pentesters evolve much faster and often create malicious schemes for future projects and testing.
The regularity can vary from one-time control checks to a full-fledged transfer of work on infrastructure security testing to a third-party contractor. The analysis is not limited to technical verification of systems and business logic, if necessary, expanding through social engineering and stress testing methods. The main thing is that the customer must clearly understand what he wants from the pentest service and what result is required.
Modern specialists use the most relevant testing tools for external and internal network pen tests, conduct outer perimeter and internal infrastructure checks and wireless networks, and engage in targeted phishing as part of social engineering for the most detailed vulnerability assessment.
Penetration testing is a method of assessing the security of computer systems or networks aimed at obtaining an objective assessment of the level of information security posture, namely the detection of vulnerabilities and weaknesses. In addition, a penetration test allows you to understand whether the protection measures are effective in keeping sensitive data from being hacked.
There are several methodologies for conducting analysis: ISSAF; OWASP; Penetration Testing Execution Standard; NIST Special Publication; Manual Pentesting technology.
There are a lot of free automated tools for penetration testing on the web, for example, RainbowCrack, mitmproxy, Wireshark, etc. They differ in functionality and application but will be indispensable for self-acquaintance.