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What is Penetration Testing | Pen Testing Detailed Explanation

Penetration testing, also known as a pen testing is the practice of testing the computer network, system, or web apps to find security vulnerabilities that an attacker(hacker) could exploit. Penetration testing can be performed automatically or performed manually.

In any way, the process includes gathering information about the target before the test, identifying possible entry points, trying to break in, either virtually or for real, and reporting back the findings.

Before penetration testing, let’s see what vulnerability is.

What is Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a risk that an attacker can disrupt or gain an authorized access to an unauthorized system or any data contained within it. Hacker is a well-known term that is a user try to access unauthorized information.

An accident usually introduces vulnerabilities during the software development and implementation phase.

Common vulnerabilities include design code errors, configuration errors, software bugs, etc.

Penetration Analysis depends upon two mechanisms.

  1. Vulnerability Assessment
  2. Penetration Testing(VAPT).

What is Penetration Testing

A penetration test is a simulated cyberattack against your computer system to check for the exploitable vulnerabilities. In the context of web application security, the penetration testing is commonly used to augment a web application firewall (WAF).

For example, the wordpress community has one plugin called wordfence, which helps the wordpress website from simulated cyber attacks.

Penetration testing is the type of Security Testing that uncovers vulnerabilities, threats, risks in a software application, network, or web application that an attacker could exploit.

The purpose of a pen test is to find all the security vulnerabilities that are present in the system being tested.

What pen-testing involves

Pen testing can include the following things.

  1. Attempted breaching of any number of application systems, (for example, application protocol interfaces (APIs),
  2. Frontend/backend servers to uncover the vulnerabilities, such as unsanitized inputs that are susceptible to code injection attacks.

Why Penetration Testing needed

The primary goal of the pen test is to identify weak doors in an organization’s security posture, as well as to measure the compliance of its security policy, test the staff’s awareness of security issues and determine whether and how the organization would be subject to security disasters.

A penetration test can also highlight the weaknesses in the company’s security policies. For instance, security policy focuses on the preventing and detecting the attack on an enterprise’s systems, that policy may not include the process to expel the hacker.

Penetration is essential in the data driven company because –

  1. Financial sectors like Banks, Stock Exchanges, Defence agencies want their data to be secured, and penetration testing is necessary to ensure security
  2. In the case if the software system is already hacked and the company seeks to discover whether any threats are still present in a system to avoid the future hacks.
  3. Proactive Penetration Testing is a best safeguard against hackers.
  4. Big data companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft need their customer’s data secure, and to prevent any hacks and protect their user’s data, penetration testing is required.

How often you should perform testing

Companies should perform pen-testing regularly ideally, once a year to ensure more consistent network security and IT management. In addition to conducting the regulatory-mandated analysis and assessments, penetration tests may also be run whenever an organization face the following scenarios.

  1. It adds new network infrastructure or applications.
  2. It makes significant upgrades or modifications to its applications or infrastructure.
  3. It establishes offices in new locations.
  4. It applies security patches.
  5. It modifies the end-user policies.

However, because penetration testing is not one-size-fits-all, when the company should engage in the pen testing also depends on the several other factors, including:

  1. The size of the company. Companies with a more significant presence online have more attack vectors and, therefore, are more-attractive targets for hackers.
  2. Penetration tests can be costly, so the company with a smaller budget might not be able to conduct them annually. An organization with a more modest budget might only be able to perform a penetration test once every two years. In contrast, a company with a larger budget can do penetration testing once a year.
  3. Regulations and compliance. Organizations in specific industries are required by law to perform certain security tasks, including pen-testing.
  4. A company whose infrastructure is in the cloud might not be allowed to test the cloud provider’s infrastructure. For example, if you have hosted your app on AWS. However, the provider may be conducting the pen tests on its infrastructure.

Types of Penetration Testing:

The selection of Penetration tests usually relies on the scope and whether the company wants to simulate the attack by an employee, Network Admin (Internal Sources), or by External Sources.

There are three types of Penetration testing which are the following.

  1. Black Box Testing
  2. White Box Testing
  3. Grey Box Testing

Black box testing

In black-box penetration testing, a tester does not know the systems to be tested.  He is responsible for collecting information about the target network or system.

White-box testing

In the white-box penetration testing, the tester is usually provided with a to z information about the network or systems to be tested, including the IP address schema, source code, Operating System details, etc.  This can be considered as the simulation of the attack by any Internal sources (Employees of the Organization).

Grey Box testing

In the grey box penetration testing, a tester is provided with partial knowledge of the system. It can be considered as an attack by an external hacker who had gained unauthorized access to an organization’s network infrastructure documents.

Penetration test strategies

You must define the scope within which the pen testers must operate. Usually, the scope identifies what systems, locations, techniques, and tools can be used in a penetration test.

Limiting a scope of the penetration test helps focus the team members and defenders on the systems over which the company has control.

See the following strategies.

Targeted testing

It is performed by the company’s IT team and the penetration testing team working together. It’s sometimes referred to as the “lights turned on” approach because everyone can see the test being carried out.

External testing

It targets the organization’s externally visible servers or devices, including the domain name servers, email servers, web servers, or firewalls. The objective is to find out if the outside attacker can get in and how far they can get in once they’ve gained the complete access.

Internal testing

It mimics an inside attack behind the firewall by the authorized user with standard access privileges. Internal testing is useful for estimating how much damage a disgruntled employee could cause.

Blind testing

It simulates the actions and procedures of a real attacker by severely limiting the information given to the person or team performing the test beforehand. The pen testers may only be given the name of the company. Because this type of test can require a considerable amount of time for reconnaissance, it can be expensive.

Double-blind testing

It takes the blind test and carries it a step further. In this type of pen test, only one or two people within the organization might be aware a test is being conducted. Double-blind tests can be useful for testing an organization’s security monitoring and incident identification, as well as its response procedures.

How to do Penetration Testing

Step 1) Planning phase

  • The scope and strategy of the assignment is defined.
  • Existing security policies, standards are used for defining the scope.

Step 2) Discovery phase

  • Collect as much data as possible about the system, including data in the system, usernames, and even passwords. This is also called as FINGERPRINTING.
  • Scan and Probe into the ports.
  • Check for vulnerabilities of the system.

Step 3) Attack Phase

  • Find exploits for various vulnerabilities. You need the necessary security Privileges to exploit the system.

Step 4) Reporting Phase

  • The report must contain detailed findings.
  • It contains risks of vulnerabilities found and their Impact on business.
  • The report contains recommendations and solutions, if any.

The prime task in penetration testing is to gather the system information. There are two ways to collect information.

  • ‘One to one’ or ‘one to many’ model concerning host: The tester performs techniques in a linear way against either one target host or a logical grouping of target hosts (e.g., a subnet).
  • ‘Many to one’ or ‘many to many’ model: The tester utilizes multiple hosts to execute information gathering techniques in a random, rate-limited, and non-linear.

Manual Penetration vs. Automated Penetration Testing

Manual Penetration TestingAutomated Penetration Testing
Manual Testing requires the expert professionals to run those tests.Automated test tools provide the clear reports with less experienced professionals.
Manual Testing requires MS Excel and other tools to track it.Automation Testing has the centralized and standard tools.
The result of Manual Testing vary from test to test.The result of Automated Tests do not vary from test to test. It stays the same.
Users should remember memory Cleaning up.Automated Testing will have comprehensive cleanups.


In penetration testing, testers should act like the real hacker and test the application or system and needs to check whether the code is securely written. A penetration test will be useful if there is a well-implemented security policy.

Penetration testing policy and methodology should be a place to make penetration testing more effective and efficient.

Finally, the Introduction about Penetration Testing article is over.

1 Comment
  1. Amit Pramar says


    Thanks for the guide.

    Can you suggest me the ways to defend my pc if I found any malicious activities while scanning?

    If you have any reference guide then can you explain the reply?

    Amit Parmar

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