What is penetration testing?

Penetration testing, commonly referred to as a pen test, mimics an online attack on your computer system in order to find vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Penetration testing is implemented in web application security in addition to a web application firewall (WAF).

In order to uncover flaws like ambiguous inputs that are susceptible to code injection attacks, penetration testing may involve attempting to enter any number of application systems (for example, frontend/backend servers, APIs, etc.).Your WAF security policies can be adjusted based on the findings of the penetration testing, and any vulnerabilities discovered can be fixed.

Penetration testing stages

Penetration testing stages

1. Preparation and reconnaissance

The first stage of penetration testing entails the following:

  • Defining the scope and objectives of a test, as well as the systems to be tested and the testing techniques to be used.
  • Obtaining intelligence to learn more about a target's operations and any potential weaknesses, such as network and domain names and mail servers.
penetration testing

2. Scanning

Finding out how the target application will respond to different intrusion attempts is the next step in the penetration testing process. Typically, the following is used:

  • Static analysis - Static analysis is the process of inspecting an application's code to estimate how it will behave while operating. These have the ability to scan the entire code in a single pass.
  • Dynamic analysis - Dynamic analysis is the process of inspecting an application's code while it is executing. Because it gives a glimpse of an application's performance in real time, this scanning technique is more useful.

3. Obtaining Access

This stage of penetration testing utilizes cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and backdoors form of web application attacks/assaults to understand weak points of a target. Testers attempt to exploit these flaws by elevating their privileges, stealing data, intercepting communication, and other methods in order to comprehend the potential harm that they could cause.

4. Keeping access

This stage's goal is to determine whether the vulnerability can be leveraged to be present in the compromised system for an extended period of time so that a hostile actor can gain extensive access. The intention is to imitate advanced persistent threats, which can infiltrate a system for months and steal the most confidential information from an organization.

5. Analysis

The penetration testing results are then collected into a report that includes the following information:

  • Particular flaws that were exploited
  • Obtained sensitive data
  • The time amount in which the pen tester (penetration testing) remained unnoticed in the system.

Security experts use this data to assist tune an enterprise's WAF settings and other application security solutions in order to patch holes and guard against future attacks.

Penetration testing methods

External testing

A corporation's internet-visible assets, such as the company website, the web application itself, email, and domain name servers (DNS),are the focus of external penetration testing. The purpose is to obtain and extract valuable data.

Internal testing

A tester with access to an application behind the company's firewall can simulate a malicious insider attack during an internal test. An employee whose credentials were obtained through phishing is a often a place to start.

Blind testing

A tester in a blind test is only given the name of the targeted organization. This gives security personnel a real-time glimpse of how an actual application assault could take place.

Double-blind testing

Security workers in a double-blind test are unaware of the simulated attack beforehand. They won't have time to shore up their defenses before an attempted breach, much like in the real world.

Targeted testing

The tester and security personnel work together in a training exercise that provides real-time feedback from the perspective of a hacker to a security team.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Penetration testing

With the number and severity of security breaches increasing year after year, there has never been a bigger need for organizations to have visibility into how they can survive attacks. Regulations such as PCI DSS and HIPAA need frequent penetration testing to ensure compliance. The following list of benefits and drawbacks of this kind of penetration testing flaw detection technique is made with these limitations in mind.

Penetration testing - 3 Advantages

  • Identifies weaknesses in upstream security assurance procedures, including architecture analysis, automated tools, configuration & coding standards, and other simpler vulnerability assessment activities.
  • Discovers both well-known and obscure software flaws and security holes, including little problems that might not seem to be a big deal on their own but could have a big impact as part of a bigger attack pattern.
  • It can attack any system by emulating how most hostile hackers would behave, simulating a real-world enemy as closely as possible.

Penetration testing - 2 Disadvantages

  • Is labor-intensive and expensive
  • Does not completely prevent bugs and defects from entering into production
Conclusion - penetration testing

With attacks becoming more sophisticated and widespread, it is more crucial than ever for organizations to do regular penetration testing to detect their vulnerabilities, close gaps, and ensure that cyber controls are functioning properly. These tests assist the organization in taking a proactive attitude by identifying flaws in its infrastructure (hardware),applications (software),and people in order to establish continuous and capable controls that can keep up with the constantly evolving cyber threat scenario.

Xcitium is a leading provider of security technology that allows software programs to self-protect against cyberattacks, ushering in a new era of self-protecting software. Visit for more.

FAQ section

A: Penetration testing is a term used by Red Team that aims in helping the organization to find out various vulnerabilities from where a cyberattack could come from. That weakness needs to be effectively protected by your Blue Team after it's found out.

A: To perform Penetration testing, testers need to be an expert in application and network security along with scripting languages.

A: The pen test should be conducted every year as its effective to keep your security boost up and consistent based on the latest threats and exploits faced by threat actors.

A: A pen test is a proven method for examining and fixing a security vulnerability. This helps an organization to secure its network infrastructure from cyberattacks and hackers effectively.

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