The Internet has transformed the business ecosystem and the way we interact with customers, suppliers and partners. We have been able to improve our customer experience and deliver new products with speed and efficiency. But, as with all great advances, there are downsides. We’re seeing growing security challenges like DDos attacks and Man-in-the-Middle Attacks (MITM).
As these attacks become more common, companies are looking for ways to protect themselves from them—and that’s where penetration testing comes in. Penetration testing is one of the most important steps in securing your network. It helps you identify vulnerabilities in systems that can be exploited by hackers. These tests are conducted by professionals who use special tools to find out how an attacker could breach your system.
But there are five different phases of penetration testing—each with its own purpose and goals—and this guide will walk you through each phase so that you’re ready when it comes time for a penetration test!
Understanding What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is a cybersecurity activity that involves simulating an attack on a system or network. It’s usually performed by a third party that is independent of both the organization that owns the system and the organization performing the test. Penetration testing can be done by professional security consultants, but it can also be performed by internal employees who have been trained to identify vulnerabilities in their company’s systems and networks.
The goal of penetration testing is to identify vulnerabilities before they’re exploited by hackers, so penetration testing may involve gaining unauthorized access to systems and networks or attempting to circumvent security measures. In other words: You’re trying to get into a system or network without permission or authorization, then you report what happened so that people can fix things before real bad guys do the same thing!
Penetration testing comes in two forms: black box testing and white box testing. Black box testing means you don’t know anything about how something works (like a website), while white box testing means you know everything about how something works (like an operating system).
The 5 Steps and Phases of Penetration Testing
So now you know what penetration testing is and how it’s used. But how do you actually perform a penetration test? There are five steps that form an overall process, with each step having its own set of sub-steps. Let’s take a look at these seven steps and phases of penetration testing:
1) Information Gathering
Reconnaissance is the first phase of a penetration test and arguably the most important. It is also the phase that requires the most time. During this phase, you are gathering as much information about your target as possible. This information can be used in future phases or even during the actual attack itself. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to complete your tasks and accomplish your goals.
The goal of reconnaissance is to gather as much information about your target as possible without being detected or discovered. This means that you should not use automated tools or scripts (unless specifically instructed by your client). Instead, use manual processes such as Google searches, Whois lookups and DNS enumeration, whois lookups on IP addresses and domain names, port scanning, and social media searches.
While these methods may seem tedious and time-consuming at first glance, they can save you hours of work later on down the line when it comes time to execute an attack vector against your target’s network security vulnerabilities.
Scanning is the process of searching for vulnerabilities in a target. It is used as a pre-attack reconnaissance method to gather information about a target and its security. The goal is to identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited by an attacker.
Scanning can be performed using manual or automated tools, and it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Manual scanning is highly time-consuming, and it’s unlikely that every possible vulnerability will be discovered this way. Automated tools are designed to speed up the process, but they’re limited by their ability to detect certain types of vulnerabilities (e.g., those with no known signatures).
In most cases, both manual and automated scanning are necessary to ensure that all relevant vulnerabilities are identified before an attack takes place.
3) Gaining System Access
The third step in the penetration testing process is gaining system access. The goal of this phase is to get an attacker into the system and begin collecting information. This can be done by exploiting known vulnerabilities or finding new ones. Once the attacker has gained access to the system, they will typically begin looking for ways to escalate their privileges and gain full control over it.
There are many ways that attackers can gain access to a system. If a user has been careless with their password or if there is a vulnerability in software used by the organization, then it may be possible for an attacker to gain access without actually having any knowledge of how they did so. However, most attackers will use some form of social engineering in order to steal credentials and gain access to systems using brute force methods or other techniques such as phishing attacks or keylogging malware programs installed on computers belonging to employees within an organization’s network infrastructure (if possible).
4) Persistent Access
You’ve broken into the system, and now you want to stay there. Here’s how to do it.
1. OSINT (open-source intelligence)
Do some online investigations of the remote network you’ve been given access to—what sorts of things are they into, what kinds of files are they storing? How many people are on their team? What kind of devices do they use? Are there any interesting details or vulnerabilities that could be useful in later stages of the attack? You’ll want to be able to answer all these questions as accurately as possible before moving on to stage 2.
2. DNS enumeration
You’ve done your research, and now it’s time to use those answers against your target. Run a program like DNSRecon or Fierce that will tell you which IP addresses point back at the domain for a given domain name (and vice versa). This will give you an idea of where people at the company are located geographically and how many devices are connected directly to the company’s network. It will also help you determine if there are any vulnerable hosts on their network other than those directly connected to their domain name; this could lead to additional targets for later stages in your attack plan!
5) Analysis and Reporting
The final phase of a penetration test is the analysis and reporting phase. This phase is where all of the information from the previous phases gets organized, reviewed, and presented to your clients.
It’s important that you make sure your report is thorough and easy to read. Don’t just throw everything into a spreadsheet and call it a day! Instead, consider adding some commentary about what you found in each phase, as well as a summary of your recommendations for fixing any problems that were identified. You may also want to include some graphs or visuals that show how many vulnerabilities were found in each system or network segment. This will help your client better understand how serious their security issues are in comparison with others’.