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Types of Penetration Testing conducted by CyberSecurity professionals

Penetration testing is an extremely important part of cybersecurity. In the current information age, data has grown to become the most valuable commodity, with many experts even suggesting it to be more valuable than oil. So, it should come as no surprise that cybersecurity has become paramount, and with it, so has penetration testing.

Penetration testing (pen testing) is a deliberately planned attack on computer systems to assess the existing cybersecurity measures and discover vulnerabilities. Cybercrime is a continuously evolving threat and innovations in security measures always seem to be a step behind those for hacking. Thus, a prudent way of ensuring adequate levels of cybersecurity is to commission regular penetration testing and continuously find ways to improve.

Companies have numerous devices interconnected in a network and it is extremely important to know which type of penetration test is applicable to the given scenario.

The following are the types of penetration testing used by cybersecurity professionals

  1. Network Service Penetration Testing
  2. Web Application Penetration Tests
  3. Client-Side Penetration Tests
  4. Wireless Network Penetration Testing
  5. Social Engineering Tests
  6. Red Team & Blue Team
  7. Mobile Penetration Test

Network Service Penetration Testing

Large companies as well as startups carry out their day-to-day operations on a dedicated internal network, making network service tests as one of the most important aspects of penetration testing. The goal of this test is to find any vulnerabilities in the network infrastructure and take necessary action.

The loophole in security could be an inadequately protected computer within the company network or a deficient firewall. Hence, it is extremely important that such penetration tests be carried out from inside the company and externally.

The internal device connected to the company’s servers and using sensitive corporate data may have a weak password or its user may have received malicious code through email which the user may have opened unknowingly. This scenario compromises the particular device and renders the company’s servers vulnerable.

Inadequacies in the external firewall may enable hackers to infiltrate into the network and gauge the infrastructure to exploit vulnerabilities to steal data. The only reliable way to know about loopholes in cybersecurity measures is to conduct routine penetration tests of the network.

Some of the common types of network service tests include –

  1. Firewall configuration testing
  2. Firewall bypass testing
  3. DNS attacks
  4. IPS deception

Web Application Penetration Tests

This is a thorough, comprehensive and often time-consuming type of penetration test. It involves testing of all web applications like browsers, plugins in addition to downloads, and so on. As an organization grows, it becomes increasingly expensive and ever more tedious to conduct a web application test.

Users might have downloaded malicious software without knowing about it or may have enabled cookies from a suspicious website. Activities like this provide opportunities for hackers to infiltrate an organization’s servers and download confidential information or mission-critical data.

In addition to exposing vulnerabilities, a web application penetration test also creates awareness about bad browsing habits and helps to establish protocols against jeopardizing practices.

Client-Side Penetration Tests

The object of this type of penetration test is to find out if there are any vulnerabilities in a particular employee’s computer or that of a client. In an organization, insufficient cybersecurity measures can allow hackers to breach into the company network and steal confidential information. Moreover, cybercriminals may also use an unprotected device to upload malicious software such as malware, ransomware, trojans, spyware, etc.

Numerous applications like web browsers, messaging platforms and even email servers may have an unnoticed flaw that could act as a doorway for hackers. Hence, client-side penetration tests are absolutely essential for wider cybersecurity measures.

Wireless Network Penetration Testing

Companies are increasingly encouraging employees to bring their own electronic devices to the workplace. This is especially true for budding startups that have limited resources. This practice, although cost-effective, introduces vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. Wireless network tests are penetration testing methods that analyze devices used at the client’s location.

Wireless network penetration testing extends to laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. It highlights which devices pose security risks and enable hackers to gain entry into company servers.

An important aspect of wireless network tests is to assess the protocols used to configure the wireless network at a client’s location. Some of the existing protocols may be prone to attacks from cybercriminals and prior knowledge about the same enables corrective steps to be taken.

A major advantage of wireless network penetration testing is to find out if any employee has violated access rights and know if there have been any sort of unauthorized access to confidential information. This test is carried out from the customer’s location since the required hardware and tools needed to perform the penetration test have to be connected to it.

Social Engineering Tests

A major aspect of cybersecurity is the human aspect. While various penetration tests can fortify the digital infrastructure, dedicated hackers can obtain vital information such as login credentials from unsuspecting employees through other illegal means.

Hackers may befriend an employee of an organization and initiate friendships or even close relationships in order to discern information that can provide clues about login credentials. Once the hacker gets the desired information, he/she can access mission-critical information for personal benefit.

It is extremely important for employees to be trained against possible social engineering attempts and establish protocols for the creation of tough passwords.

Red Team and Blue Team

As an organization grows, a single penetration tester cannot assess its cybersecurity measures. The most efficient way to test the effectiveness of existing security is to organize two teams consisting of testers and employees and simulate an actual cyberattack.

The Red Team emulates a group of hackers bent on breaching the systems and stealing sensitive data, while the Blue Team emulates a team of IT security professionals. The goal of the Red Team is to use any and every means necessary of exploiting vulnerabilities and that of the Blue Team is to defend against all sorts of attacks.

Such a type of penetration test is imperative if medium to large-sized corporations are to prevent cyberattacks and ensure effective security. It highlights all the methods used by hackers and creates awareness among security professionals about how to respond to real scenarios.

Mobile Penetration Test

Smartphones have undoubtedly become integral parts of our everyday lives. People use their phones to conduct financial transactions, book tickets, order food and groceries and even store confidential information. Hence, it should come as no surprise that smartphones have become attractive targets for cybercriminals.

This makes penetration testing of smartphones extremely important. Cybersecurity experts can use a wide array of tools to try and hack into a client’s smartphone. This not only exposes vulnerabilities, but also creates awareness for the user about pertinent issues in mobile security.

In light of the fact that smartphones are personalized, a compromised phone could have catastrophic effects for victims, potentially resulting in theft of identity, loss of banking information, loss of personal or confidential data, etc. As more and more services become available through mobile applications, increasingly larger amounts of user data is transacted through smartphones, in-turn painting phones are lucrative targets.

No matter how ingenious or innovative security experts get, hackers have always been a step ahead. Along with the latest tools for protection, it is paramount that organizations conduct routine penetration testing to find and fix any weaknesses in their systems.

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