Penetration Testing Definition

KZero Staff
Oct 17, 2023

We commonly define a penetration test as a specific kind of cyberattack performed with the specific goal of testing the security of a network in a secure and authorized environment. This is usually done to identify weaknesses in the system and any factors that a hacker or a malicious third party could potentially exploit. Penetration testing is also commonly referred to as ethical hacking or pen testing.

How Penetration Testing Works

Penetration testing is usually recommended for organizations to proactively identify and address their weaknesses rather than taking the risk that someone external finds them and exploits them. The main steps of a penetration test are the following:

  1. Planning: here, the organization and network administrators decide how the test will be conducted and take the necessary steps to avoid affecting normal operations;
  2. Reconnaissance: this is where the most information is gathered about the system to be tested, such as the operating systems that are running, the applications installed, and the users who have access to the system;
  3. Scanning: during this phase, various tools are used to identify the open ports and monitor network traffic. In other words, this is where the actual vulnerabilities are identified and targeted before proceeding to the actual exploitation.
  4. Exploitation: this is the core of penetration testing. During the exploitation phase, the security restrictions are (successfully) bypassed, ultimately giving access to the system. A tool that is commonly used for this purpose is Metasploit, but you will often also find Nmap, Wireshark, and Burp Suite being used for penetration testing.
  5. Reporting: All phases above ultimately lead to a final report that will serve as a learning opportunity for the network administrator.

Advantages of Penetration Testing

The main benefits of penetration testing include a greater level of compliance, a much better level of security aimed at preventing cyberattacks, a lower risk of having to incur all those costs associated with security incidents (e.g., legal costs in case of a data breach, reputational damage, etc), and a much better level of preparedness for all the cybersecurity personnel involved at the network administration and in other parts of the company.

KZero Staff

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