Network security is more important than ever, as digital crime is quickly becoming the norm. One problem that often exists with cybersecurity is a lack of testing. You might think that your system is secure, but you never really know for sure until someone tries to sneak past your defenses. So, how can you guard against something that has not yet happened? The answer is simple: You arrange some controlled exercises in which IT professionals try to hack your system…just to see if it is possible.
Why Penetration Testing Works
Hackers, in general, are people who are very familiar with information technology. This close familiarity allows them to find the flaws and security holes that other people miss, using them as avenues of attack. However, they are not the only ones with a deep and extensive knowledge of IT. There are many legitimate professionals who also know how to do “workarounds” against the usual security restrictions.
Those who use this knowledge for harmful or criminal purposes are generally called “black hats” while those who use this knowledge for positive purposes are called “white hats” or “ethical hackers.” These people use their knowledge to help protect the public from black hat hackers. Despite the name difference, these two groups use most of the same tricks and methods. That is why penetration testing works: Because IT professionals of sufficient expertise can duplicate most of the things a hacker would be likely to do.
The Various Kinds Of Penetration Testing
There are many ways to do this sort of thing, as there are many potential ways in which a system might be attacked. Each type of penetration testing is aimed at emulating one or more of these attack methods.
This one doesn’t even require a hacker, but it does require someone with specialized knowledge. OSINT stands for “Open-Source Intelligence.” Basically, this is the process of gathering information through publicly available sources and using it for tactical purposes (whether offensive or defensive). To some degree, we all do this when performing internet research on a given topic. An OSINT penetration test involves trawling the web for all the available information on you and your system.
You might be surprised at how many tools can be utilized for OSINT purposes. This framework gives you some idea of the problem and its scope. Remember that when we say “publicly available information,” we aren’t just talking about things posted on websites by specific users. We are also talking about network information that can be obtained through simple, free scanning tools. “Publicly available” does not always mean “publicly posted.”
Social Engineering Tests
Unfortunately, old-fashioned social engineering scams are still everywhere. This is how most cyber-attacks begin, in fact. For those who don’t understand the concept, it works through simple impersonation. The hacker impersonates a legitimate authority and requests sensitive information from the target. Naturally, they will impersonate someone who has the authority to ask for that information. When it is given, it is then captured through the use of keyloggers, screen capture programs, etc. This is the number one way in which passwords are stolen since brute force techniques are not always reliable.
These kinds of penetration tests involve the creation of phishing emails and other spoofed communications. The idea is to find your weak link and work to address that weakness. A simple example would be sending phishing emails to everyone in the company and seeing who falls for them. Thus, those people can be taken aside later and instructed to be more cautious.
Network Penetration Testing
This is a more generalized approach that looks at the entire network at one time. The tester will scan and scout the various parts of the network architecture, looking for vulnerabilities. Gaining illicit access to a network is one of the most important initial steps for a cyber-attack, so this is pretty important. Needless to say, there are different methods for wired and wireless networks.
This kind of testing will involve a lot more than scanning. The testers will attempt to bypass your normal security measures (such as firewalls, encryption, etc.). This includes any combined software solutions you might be using, such as IDS or IPS software. They will look for open ports that could also be used by attackers, attempt to take over applications that use the internet, and attempt to crack network passwords.
Physical Penetration Testing
If your pen-testers are truly thorough, they will also test your ability to resist physical theft. They may do this by attempting to pick locks, hack entry/access systems, impersonate legitimate users, gain covert entry through the use of an appropriate disguise, or attempt to circumvent digital security measures like cameras and motion sensors.
Cloud Penetration Testing
Cloud networks present a somewhat unique environment, and that is why specific methods are used to hack them. Naturally, your cloud provider should be notified before you do something like this…otherwise, they may think it’s a real attack.
Cloud networks have to be configured properly in order to obtain a good degree of security. Thus, configuration tests will always be involved in this type of pen-testing. A badly configured firewall, for instance, can provide an easy entrance for a potential attacker. However, it is equally easy for a pentester to find such a problem.
Black Box, White Box, And Grey Box Testing
When you hire a penetration tester, you have to decide how much information to give them beforehand. If you want the most thorough testing, go with a black box test. In a black box test, the penetration testers are given little to no information and must find everything manually.
White box testing is, of course, the opposite. In this kind of test, you give the simulated attacker extensive knowledge of your system and its setup. This can be a good option for those times when you want to make sure that every part of the network is evaluated. Grey box testing is the middle-ground option: The pen-testers are given some information at the start, but not much.
Penetration testing remains the single best way to test a network and see how secure it may be. Of course, it does require finding a cybersecurity company with a good track record and a trustworthy reputation. Without that, you might even end up hiring actual hackers who pose as penetration testers. Thus, we leave you with the most important advice regarding penetration testing: Always do your homework on the people who will be doing the job! If you would like to know more, feel free to call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.