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August 26, 2021

What is Pen Testing or Penetration Testing?

One of the biggest problems when creating a cybersecurity program for a company is finding qualified professionals with adequate experience in the field.

However, the lack of qualified personnel is countered by a large number of cybersecurity attacks and threats that are committed every day. Applying pen testing or penetration testing can be the key to forming the most solid cybersecurity strategy for your company. We’ll tell you what it consists of!

What is Pen Testing?

Penetration testing or pen testing is a simulated cyber-attack that attacks a company’s computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities. It is, therefore, one of the usual tests to increase the application firewall (WAF).

It can be applied on any number of system applications (protocol interfaces, frontend or backend servers, etc.) or on unsanitized entries that are susceptible to code injection attacks.

The main objective of this practice is that the information gleaned from these pen tests is used to fine-tune your WAF security policies and patch vulnerabilities.

Who Performs the Penetration Tests?

For a pen test to be successful, it is best to have it performed by a professional who is unfamiliar with the company’s security system. This will make it easier for them to see the blind spots that the creators would have missed if they were familiar with it.

For this reason, it is quite common to resort to external “ethical hackers” to hack the system and increase security.

Why is Pen Testing Important?

At a time when there are more and more cyber threats to companies and public entities, being prepared with the best possible protection is crucial.

Some of the main reasons to apply pen testing are:

  • Identify and prioritize our company’s security risks
  • Manage vulnerabilities intelligently
  • To take advantage of a proactive security approach
  • To verify the performance of existing security programs and discover their strengths
  • Increase confidence in the security strategy
  • Comply with regulatory requirements

Penetration Testing Tools

When we talk about pen testing tools, we refer to the different stages of the process. In this case, there are 5:

  1. Planning and Reconnaissance: This stage focuses on defining the scope and objectives of the test in order to better understand its operation and potential vulnerabilities. The systems to be addressed and the test methods to be used must be taken into account.
  2. Scanning: It is necessary to understand how the targeted application will respond to various intrusion attempts. This can be done in two ways: with a static scan (while the application is running in its entirety) or a dynamic scan (in real-time in the running state).
  3. Gaining Access: We go on to perform attacks on web applications to discover the vulnerabilities of a target. The aim is to exploit these vulnerabilities by escalating privileges, stealing data, intercepting traffic, etc., in order to try to see the damage it can cause.
  4. Maintaining Access: This stage tests whether the vulnerability can be used to achieve a persistent presence on the system, exploited in order for a malicious agent to gain deep access.
  5. Analysis and Retest: The results gathered in the previous phases are compiled in a report detailing the vulnerabilities exploited, the sensitive data accessed, and the time during which the pen tester was undetectable. With this information, security managers can configure their company’s WAF settings to protect against future attacks.

Penetration Testing Methodologies

There are several types of tests and methodologies to perform pen testing. These are the most important ones:

  • External Testing: targets a company’s assets that are visible on the Internet to extract valuable data. Sometimes the pentester does not even enter the company’s building and does so from a remote location.
  • Internal Test: the attack is simulated behind your firewall from the company’s internal network. This does not always refer to an attack that could be executed by a disgruntled employee of the company; it is also done to see what impact a phishing attack would have.
  • Blind Testing: the hacker is only given the name of the company to attack, but nothing else. This is so that the staff can see in real time what a real attack would look like.
  • Double-blind Test: here the internal security staff will have no prior knowledge of the simulated attack. This is the most ‘realistic’ test, as they will not have time to prepare and reinforce the protocol.
  • Targeted Testing: here the hackers do have information about the security system and work with internal staff to train them and be aware of possible security movements.

At Plain Concepts, we are very aware of the importance of having a robust and solid security strategy. We have specialized in it, and that has made us Microsoft Security Partner of the Year, thanks to our work with the CCN.

Do you need to improve your security strategy? We can help you!

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Elena Canorea
Elena Canorea
Communications Lead