Hacks, security breach, data theft; networks, systems and servers have always been vulnerable to cyber threats. Most public, private and government offices, organisations and companies, corporations etc., are internally connected through both the intranet and the internet. These networks enable the passage of huge amounts of critical data and are thus vulnerable to cyber-attacks and threats.
Web attackers work by looking for vulnerabilities and security loopholes in the system and network. The presence of even the smallest weaknesses can result in huge losses potentially. Hence there is a need to keep checking the system and network for the same and plug all loopholes and weaknesses immediately. This is done by implementing Penetration Testing Services.
What are Penetration Testing Services?
This is a systematic process that helps prevent online security breaches and reinforce security controls so that skilled attackers are unable to hack it. Penetration testing can only detect system and network vulnerabilities after an app is fully developed. It helps to analyse the vulnerability so that developers can:
- Review the concerning code
- Identify the fix location and also
- Verify the quality of remediation service.
Today the systems used are very complex and hence the vulnerabilities have also become complex and difficult to detect. Thus the human eye can’t see them. The use of penetration testing services helps identify them. It is most effective when the procedure is carried out without the knowledge of the staff and employees of the concerned office. The people conducting this test try to enter the system from outside using all possible means, some simple and others complex. By emulating hackers, they help in loophole detection so that they can be plugged.
Need for Penetration Testing Services
Several relevant reasons justify the use of penetration testing. This type of testing has become mandatory since:
- It helps validate the implemented security controls placed internally and externally
- It simulates existing threats using the manual penetration testing approach to understand the vulnerabilities
- Pre-conceived responses to identified threats are tested
- Testing newly added infrastructure or any system updations and upgradations that are carried out
- New office location networks also need to be tested
- It tests to check if the system or network is compliant with the applicable privacy rules, regulations and laws
- It also checks to see if conformance to certain necessary standards like the PCI DSS has been maintained
- Assures stakeholders, customers, vendors and other third parties having commercial relations with the organisation whose system is being tested that their data is safe etc.
Techniques used in Penetration Testing Services
Given the enormity of the task, the techniques adopted need to be apt and highly precise. Accuracy of results depends on the techniques used. There is no room for error. The veracity and integrity of the organisation or company are at stake here. Some of the reasons which generally give rise to these vulnerabilities are:
- Designing errors
- Mismatch between the configuration and settings
- Network connectivity
- Hardware and software flaws, known and unknown
- Communication errors
- Operational weaknesses
- Human-induced errors
- System and network complexities
The approach taken for the application and implementation of penetration testing services varies from system to system and network to network; some common techniques that are usually used are:
- Manual testing: This is the standard approach usually taken. Herein different activities are performed in a set sequence like:
- Planning for penetration testing
- Analysis of the perceived vulnerability
- Exploitation of internal and external attacks
- Post exploitation scenario and
- Reporting of the whole procedure undertaken
- Automated testing: Many different performance testing tools are used to perform this methodology of penetration testing. Some tools that are very commonly used are:
- NMap, a free, open-source network scanner
- Veracode, a cloud-based automated service used primarily to secure mobiles, internet and third-party apps
- Wireshark, an open-source and free packet analyser extensively used for analysis, network troubleshooting, development of communications protocol etc.
- Metasploit, dealing with providing security vulnerability info, development of IDS signature etc.
- Nessus, a vulnerability scanner that is proprietary in nature etc.
- Combination of manual and automated testing: These make for the perfect penetration testing services technique. The advantages of both the different methodologies are combined to come up with a testing strategy. Thus these techniques are extremely effective, precise and well monitored.
Based on the above approach being taken either of the following techniques can be used:
- White box testing which is generally used for extensive penetration testing since herein the tester has in-depth knowledge of and complete access to the system being tested.
- Black box testing wherein the tester is made aware of all high-end information but he is unaware of the system or network that is being tested.
- Gray box testing wherein the tester attacks the system with very limited information.
- However, using Black box penetration testing services might cause the tester to miss out on some testing areas. Thus it is not a complete fail-proof method to use.
- Penetration testing process involves 3 steps that help to test the system or network in its entirety. These steps include:
- Pre-planning or the pre-attack stage: This involves:
- Defining the intruder model including the rights and privileges enabled, both internally and externally
- Having specific goals, testing targets, data scope and source data in place
- Determining the target environment scope
- Selecting and determining the methodology of penetration testing services
- Defining procedures related to communication and interaction
- Attack or testing phase: Processes involved in this step are:
- Identification of the field or service
- Development of the required intrusion tools
- Detection, scanning and eradication of false positives
- Exploitation of vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access within the system
- Compromised system utilisation for further intrusions into the system
- Reporting or post-attack phase: This final stage includes several critical steps like:
- Reporting and result analysis with stress on risk reduction recommendations
- Visually demonstrating the scope of damage that an intruder can inflict on the system if the risks are not reduced
Benefits of using Penetration Testing Services
There are several benefits of using penetration testing services. Some of the important ones include:
- Complete vulnerability detection: It enables complete identification of real security threats, both critical and those of lesser significance, to enable prioritisation of remediation, application of security patches and proper allocation of security resources.
- Regulatory compliance: Detailed reports generated on completion of penetration testing helps avoid non-compliance penalties and also shows due diligence in maintaining the required security measures to auditors.
- Predicting security pitfalls in advance: Carrying our regular penetration testing enables organisations to understand the pitfalls and vulnerabilities of their system in advance. This once remedied, helps in the prevention of cyber-attacks, thereby saving the company a lot of hassles, financially and otherwise.
Today an increase in security breaches has prompted organisations and companies to implement comprehensive penetration testing services. The need to address dynamic and static threat perceptions using a personalised methodology and regular vulnerability tracking has become a norm.
At QA Infotech, we ensure that the best techniques of penetration testing are extensively used for website testing, application security etc. so that software products can be validated and made error-free.