What Is Pentesting: How Do the Steps Work?

A system’s security is to be breached during penetration testing, sometimes referred to as pen testing or ethical hacking, in order to find flaws.

In most cases, networks are explored, probed, and attacked using a variety of techniques and channels by both human and automated systems. Once inside a network, penetration testers will explore how far they can get away with getting “root,” or full administrative access.

While it may sound alarming, some of the biggest organizations in the world are increasingly using this technique to stay one step ahead of criminals. You can find weaknesses in your company’s defenses before a possible breach by deliberately assaulting your own network.

What Is Pentesting, Exactly?

In HIPAA penetration testing, ethical hackers behave as malicious actors to simulate their actions. Network administrators provide a precise pentesting scope that details which systems are subject to testing and how long the testing will last.

By defining scope, guidelines, a tone, and limitations are set for what testers may and cannot do. The ethical hackers launch a network vulnerability scan after deciding on a scope and timeline.

Testing frequently starts with a vulnerability analysis to find potential network access points. These weaknesses could include everything from firewalls that are improperly configured to programs that improperly process false messages.

The tester can attempt to get access to privileged accounts once a system has been breached in order to delve further into the network and access other vital systems. Pentesters examine a network and ascertain the worst-case scenario using escalation techniques.

The methods used by tests to gain access to networks can vary depending on the scope of the pentest. One of these techniques involves bringing infected USB devices to a business. The simulated attack might be hastened if an unskilled employee finds the drive and connects it to the corporate network.

Another aspect of cybersecurity that is commonly overlooked is the physical layer. Even the strictest network security might be compromised by someone impersonating as an IT employee and unlocked doors, which could sometimes result in the removal of physical equipment.

After a test is finished, a thorough findings report describes the tested processes or systems, compromises found, and suggested corrective measures. Once a year, penetration tests are typically conducted, and they might be repeated when a set of suggested security improvements are put into place.

Varieties of Pentesting Methods

Depending on the project’s scope and the test’s targeted results, not all penetration tests are conducted in the same way. Let’s examine a few of the numerous penetration testing techniques.

Black Box

The ethical hacker receives little to no prior knowledge of the company’s IT architecture or security during black box testing, also known as external penetration testing. Cyberattacks in the actual world are routinely simulated using black box experiments.

Testing starts outside the network, where the tester is unfamiliar with the local network architecture or existing security measures. Because the simulated attack is blind, these tests may take the longest.

White Box

When conducting white box testing, the tester is fully aware of the network architecture and security measures in place. These tests are among the most comprehensive sorts of tests accessible, despite not simulating an actual outside attack.

White box tests can replicate an inside assault since the tester enters the network with insider knowledge of how the network is constructed. Because to its transparency, white box testing can be completed quickly, but companies who have a lot of apps to test may have to wait several months for thorough results.

Gray Box

A mixture of the preceding two techniques, gray box gives the tester restricted access to or understanding of the enterprise network. A gray box is typically used when testing a specific public-facing application with a private server backend. With this knowledge, the tester can try to use particular services in an unlawful manner to get access to other areas of the network.

Due to the testers’ lack of network expertise, gray box tests frequently take longer than black box tests but less time than white box tests.

With a pentest, just what is tested?

It’s not necessary for penetration tests to focus on a single application, service, or approach, or to cover the entire network. Instead of testing the entire company, larger-scale tests can focus on a particular section of the network. This strategy helps businesses plan for updates and set aside time to carry out necessary corrections after a string of small pentests without getting overwhelmed.

The sections of a firm that can be subject to penetration testing are as follows:

  • Web-based programs
  • the wireless networks
  • Infrastructure (physical) (physical)
  • Social engineering
  • Web applications

Organizations utilize web application penetration testing to stop malicious actors from taking advantage of flaws in client-facing programs. The difficulty of these tests can vary due to the many browsers, plugins, and extensions that are all used when doing a pen test on an online application.

Web app flaws can make it possible for private data to leak, which can help attackers during the information gathering phase of an attack or provide them access to the backend of a particular application.

These dangers can be avoided by using agile coding along with routine testing in sandbox settings on a web development branch. Penetration testers can find new exploits that can aid firms in preventing a real-world assault even after testing and deployment.

Bug bounty programs are a great way to motivate ethical hackers to evaluate the most recent attacks against different web applications.

The wireless networks

The openness of Wi-inherent Fi makes it a desirable target for both devoted attackers and inquisitive onlookers. To evaluate the dependability and security of various wireless technologies, penetration testers might use a range of specialized tools.

Packet sniffers, fake access points, and deauthentication attacks can all be used to hijack wireless connections in order to gain access to a private network. The security settings of a guest Wi-Fi network can also be evaluated by wireless pen testers.

An attacker might be able to enter the private network via the guest wifi, for instance, if access rules are not effectively established and the guest network is not on its own VLAN.

Logical infrastructure

The act of physically picking up a medical device cybersecurityserver and taking it out the door cannot be stopped by security software. Although it might seem impossible, cunning criminals utilize social engineering to pose as technicians, janitors, or visitors to get physical access to important locations.

Doors, locks, and other physical barriers are tested in physical penetration testing to see how easily malicious actors can get around them. These could be prevented. Cheap wireless motion detectors can be manipulated or misled with a little skill, and inexpensive locks are typically simple to pick or circumvent.

A tester will frequently use a number of non-destructive tools to try to get around any locks or sensors that are in place if there are physical restrictions.


Attackers use social engineering to trick employees into giving a corporation access or sensitive information. This access could be obtained by a phone call, phishing email, or a person impersonating a different person in person.

Competent and well trained staff are the first line of defense against social engineering. It has been shown that training in email phishing reduces the volume of risky emails opened. Having procedures and restrictions in place for visitors can also aid in preventing unauthorized physical access.

Exams for social engineering are typically conducted over the phone or by email. Phishing emails can be routinely distributed using software platforms.

Those who click on links or comment may immediately receive remediation training. Over time, this type of training helps to improve both the IT infrastructure and the knowledge of all staff members.

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