Learning the 5 Stages of Penetration Testing

Today, with everything added to the cloud, companies are more vulnerable than ever. With that being said, it is best to employ preventive measures that will help stay one step ahead of hackers with malicious intent. The penetration testing, also called pen testing, is a process that refines an application’s security policies. 

In the case of a web application, pen testing is utilised for augmenting a firewall to allow an ethical hacker to test how vulnerable a system, application, or website is. Pen testing can be done either manually or using automatic tools. Penetration testing involves a simulation of breaching application systems that would help strengthen the structure.

Stages of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing has five stages. Throughout these stages, the ethical hacker should be able to plan targeted simulation points and effectively identify weak points, which hackers could use as entry points, and later on, fix these weak points.

  • Planning

As in any process, the first step in penetration testing is planning. Here, you work on defining the client’s goals and your scope as an ethical hacker. You also need to identify the systems to be addressed and their respective potential weak points. After that, the method to be used is then selected.

Defining the scope is an essential part of the process. By clarifying this part, you and your client would be able to understand where to focus. In a situation where your client’s employees would allow anyone, a hacker or not, to see the password to an application, you become limited in being able to produce proper insights regarding their system since you already know that the application is already compromised. Therefore, you also have to make sure that the client and the users of its systems observe good security practices.

  • Scanning

Next, you need to understand how the application might respond. This step is done through either static analysis, where you look at the internal structure of the application, or dynamic analysis, where you look at its functional side. 

During dynamic analysis, you would have to inspect the application’s code while it is running. Dynamic analysis is a more practical method of scanning as you will be able to gather real-time information regarding the application’s performance.

  • Gaining Access

This stage involves web application attacks that will allow you to uncover the application’s vulnerabilities. As an ethical hacker, you would have to exploit these identified weaknesses and try to steal information or interfere with activities as an actual hacker would. The point of this is to understand what kind of damage those vulnerabilities would potentially cause.

  • Maintaining Access

After gaining access to an application’s vulnerabilities, you will need to maintain access. While the third step aims to inform you of what kind of damage could be done, this fourth step will allow you to gauge the intensity of the damage.

The goal here is to understand how persistent months-long unauthorised access could risk the system’s stored information. It is important to note that advanced persistent threats take months before sensitive data is stolen from an organisation.

  • Analysis of Results and Action Plan

In the final step of penetration testing, all the information and results that you have gathered are reported. This includes an enumeration and description of the weak points of the system, the type and amount of data that you were able to access, the amount of time spent to gain access, and the amount of time you remained in the system undetected.

A security team would then analyse these results and work on a plan to address the vulnerabilities to prevent attacks and other risky events from happening in the future.

Being called a hacker may have a negative ring to the ears, but your powers can definitely be used for the good. One way to do this is by following the above steps for pen testing diligently. This way, you could be instrumental in making the internet a safer space.