What Is Penetration Testing?

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What’s penetration testing? Penetration testing, which is also referred to as pen testing or “ethical hacking,” is a simulated cyber attack on a computer system, network, or web application to find out what their security vulnerabilities are that a cyberhacker could exploit.

Besides identifying a company’s security weakness, penetration testing can be used for several other reasons. The reasons for penetration testing can include whether or not an organization has the ability to identify and respond to security incidents, testing the security policy of an organization, if a company adheres to mandated compliance requirements, and lastly, (but definitely not least) their employees’ level of security awareness.

Both the penetration testing training and penetration testing can be done manually or automated with special software. Penetration testing is recommended to be done once a year to ensure proper network security. If you’re a part of IT Management and looking to clarify what the various penetration test strategies are to your employees, below are seven test strategies used by security professionals.

1. Blind testing

Blind testing can be expensive due to the time invested in completing the test. With blind testing, the individual doing the penetration test is only given the name of the company’s system they are testing. Therefore, the blind testing procedures mimic the actions of a real cyber hacker who’s trying to access a network with minimal information to assist them.

2. Double-blind testing

Similar to blind testing, double-blind testing is done with giving the tester little to no information. To make it “double-blinding,” the penetration test is done where only one or two people within an organization know that the test is occurring. Double-blind tests can be used to check if the IT of an organization is properly monitoring the network’s security, and their response procedures when or if they realize their system has been “hacked.”

3. Black box testing

Black box testing is the same as blind testing. However, the tester receives no information before the test takes place. If the tester doesn’t receive information before the test, it means the pen testers must find their way into the system themselves.

4. White box testing

Unlike the black box testing, white box testing gives the penetration testers information about the target network before the start of the test. The information provided can include details such as IP addresses, specific protocols that are used, including the source code and specific network infrastructure schematics.

5. Targeted testing

Targeted testing is completed by both an organization’s IT team and a penetration testing team working together. The target testing is considered to be cost-effective as it can be done in less time as blind testing. However, when compared to blind testing or double-blind testing, it skews the results of the response procedure outcomes due to the organization knowing that the testing is occurring.

6. External testing

The point of external testing is to figure out if an outside cyberattacker can break into your company’s network. If so, this determines how far they can get in once they have initially gained access (before the company is alerted). Most external testing is aimed at a company’s external visible servers and devices which include email servers, firewalls, web servers, or domain name servers.

7. Internal testing

Internal testing is a great way to gauge what an employee can do, whether they intend to cause harm or not. The internal test patterns itself as an insider attack behind a firewall by an authorized user, like an employee who has standard system access.

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