Penetration Testing: A Simplified Rundown of the 5 Phases
The marketing world has witnessed a robust transformation, especially in recent years, all thanks to technological advancement, particularly the internet. The internet has helped smoothen communication links between dealers and customers. This has helped business owners improve efficiency and customer service.
However, despite unmatched benefits, there are downsides as well. Unfortunately, we have to deal with security challenges such as DDos Attacks and Man-In-The-Middle Attacks (MITM) while we enjoy the numerous benefits of technological advancement.
These attacks can have severe consequences if left unattended, but luckily, they are all avoidable through a simple process known as penetration testing. Penetration testing allows you to protect your network and identify potential weak spots that hackers can penetrate to gain access to your system.
Penetration testing is conducted by trained personnel with the necessary skills and tools to secure your network tightly.
Penetration testing is a simple procedure. However, it is broken into several phases. Each of these phases is unique and helps achieve different tasks. Therefore, this article will serve as an extensive guide covering all Penetration testing phases.
What Is Penetration Testing?
The process of simulating an attack on a system or network is known as penetration testing. It is often carried out by a third party separate from the company that owns the system and the company doing the test.
Professional security consultants may carry out penetration testing. However, internal staff members who have received training to find security flaws in their organization’s systems and networks may also carry out this task.
Penetration testing may entail getting unauthorized access to systems and networks or getting around security precautions to find flaws before hackers can exploit them.
Let’s put it another way: You’re attempting to enter a system or network without authority or permission, and then you report what happened so that others can repair the problem before bad guys do the same thing!
Black box testing and white box testing are the two varieties of penetration testing. White box testing indicates you are fully aware of how something operates. In contrast, black box testing implies you are completely unaware of how something operates (such as a website) (like an operating system).
The Penetration Testing Process in 5 Phases and Steps
We’ve explained why you need a penetration test. Now, we’ll walk you through the 5 phases involved. The entire process consists of five parts, each with a specific set of additional procedures. The five phases and steps of penetration testing are as follows:
1. Information Gathering
The first and most significant part of a penetration test is reconnaissance. It is the stage that takes the longest. You are learning as much as possible about your target at this period. This knowledge may be used for upcoming stages or even the actual attack. As a result, you can fulfill your work and reach your objectives with more knowledge.
The primary aim of this phase is to accumulate as much substantial information as possible without being detected by security features. Automated tools are not recommended, so unless your clients opt for them, you should refrain from utilizing them during this phase.
Google searches, social media searches, port scanning DNS enumerations, and Whois lookups are better alternatives.
The reconnaissance phase is tasking and requires patience and proficiency, but all of this effort will pay off in the long run. Your effort will come in handy when you eventually launch a vector attack on the vulnerability of your target network.
As the name implies, the scanning process entails looking for possible weak spots within the system. During this phase, your priority would be detecting loopholes that an external malicious user can use to disrupt the system’s working.
You are allowed to use automated tools during this phase. However, you can opt to scan the system manually. Manual scanning allows you access to wider coverage. However, the downside of this is the time and effort it entails.
Also, this method cannot detect all present vulnerabilities. On the other hand, automated tools are less tasking to utilize and help save time. However, they can’t also detect all the possible weak spots within a system.
We recommend you utilize both manual and automated scanning during this phase. This will allow you to gain unlimited coverage and a higher chance of identifying more vulnerabilities using both methods.
3. Gaining System Access
Gaining access to the system is the next phase of the penetration testing menu. A potential attacker is drawn into the testing, and all their vulnerabilities will be immediately exploited to collect data.
After that, an attacker will likely begin traversing the system in search of the control panel. But since this is already expected, measures are set up to deny them access and limit their movement.
Hackers mainly gain access to a system through the user’s carelessness. When users do not fully protect their system password, attackers will likely take advantage of their nonchalance and raid the system without their knowledge and consent. An undetected vulnerability within the system is another channel through which the hackers gain entry.
Some attackers utilize social engineering tactics to steal credentials or passwords that grant them entry into the system. They can either conduct phishing attacks or install malicious keylogging programs into the systems of other organization members.
4. Persistent Access
Here’s how to retain access to a system that you have schemed your way into:
- OSINT (open-source intelligence)
A little underground investigation online will get you tons of information on the network you have gained entry to. You’d find out what files they retain, the number of employees within the organization, and the type of devices they use for operations.
You would also find details that could come in handy in the long run. It would be best if you had all of this information before proceeding to the next phase stage.
- DNS enumeration
This is the part where you utilize the information you gathered during the OSINT. Feel free to utilize automated tools to ease your work here. For example, fierce and DNSRecon are recommended tools for locating IP addresses in the system. with these tools.
In addition, you get an insight into the various locations of the organizations’ employees and the number of devices running within the network.
Additional targets for subsequent phases of your attack strategy may be found if you find any weak hosts on their network outside those immediately linked to their domain name.
5. Analysis and Reporting
The analysis and reporting phase is the final phase of a penetration test. Here, all the information you curated from or during the previous phases is organized, assessed, and interpreted to the client.
Make your report as clear as possible, so your client understands it. Avoid complex terms and spreadsheets. Your clients would want simplified information. If you want to look like a pro, add commentary at each phase’s end.
These commentaries should entail all you analyzed and noted during each phase and recommend solutions to possible threats or problems.
Graphs and visuals are necessary to help clients get a more realistic view of the intensity of the security threats within the system, so do well to include them in your report.