Penetration testing, or pen testing as it is more commonly known, can be complicated. This article will break down some of the most common types of penetration testing to help you make an informed decision of if, and which, pen test might be right for your own organisation.
Remind me, what is penetration testing?
In general, penetration testing can be understood as the process of testing the security of your network and systems to see if they’re protected against a cyber attack.
A penetration tester takes on the role of a hacker, seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in your network in order to gain access to sensitive information or systems.
Who performs the penetration test?
Penetration testing is usually performed by security professionals like network engineers, security analysts, and system administrators. They use specialised tools and methodologies to find potential vulnerabilities in your network and systems so you know exactly where your weaknesses are and where to focus remedial efforts.
Once a scope is agreed, the pen testers will attempt to hack into your systems and then provide a report on the vulnerabilities found, including suggestions on how to correct them so they don’t get exploited in an actual attack.
What types of penetration test are there?
When it comes to penetration testing, it’s not just a simple ‘one size fits all’. In fact, there are several different types of penetration testing, each with a different goal and approach.
Let’s take a look at some of these.
Network Penetration Testing
One of the most common types of penetration testing, network pen tests are designed to focus on exploiting a company network, but this can be performed externally or internally.
External network tests involve your penetration testers attempting to breach the perimeters of your internet-facing infrastructure and establishing if there are any security weaknesses there that could be putting your business at risk.
Internal tests, however, assume the attacker already has initial access to the company network. In reality, this could be a hacker with unauthorised access or someone who has authorised access like an employee. With the frequency of inside attacks up by 44% in 2022, internal network penetration tests are a good way for businesses to check if they have any vulnerable areas that need seeing to, before any employee mishaps.
Web Application Penetration Testing
Reports have found that web applications are the initial targets in 86% of data breaches so it’s clear that they are a popular attack vector for hackers, however often vulnerabilities can surface during the development of a piece of software or website which can be dangerous for the company using it.
With businesses relying more and more on web-based applications for business operations, web application pen testing is a useful tool to help identify any security issues that could put sensitive data at risk. This can be particularly pertinent for companies handling online payments.
The exploitation of software vulnerabilities is a common threat for companies especially as new ones may surface daily. This is why applying security updates as soon as they’re released is massively important.
Mobile Application Penetration Testing
Just like web applications, mobile apps are on the rise and are a significant threat to businesses if they are not kept secure. As a result, any organisation that operates a mobile app or uses mobile apps for various business operations might consider mobile application penetration testing to ensure these applications are handling and storing data securely.
Mobile application penetration testing will involve security consultants assessing the architecture of the application and trying to exploit common mobile security risks such as insecure data storage, untrusted inputs and broken cryptography.
The testing often consists of a static analysis, where elements like source code are extracted and examined without being run, or a dynamic analysis which will involve the application being observed for any errors or vulnerabilities while it is actually running.
Wireless Penetration Testing
A wireless penetration test focuses on making sure your wifi and wireless devices are fully secure by attempting to exploit the wireless network. This includes wireless protocols like Bluetooth.
These tests are normally performed on-site to be in reach of the wireless signal. Pen testers will then begin reconnaissance and vulnerability scanning to ensure that company and guest wireless networks are configured correctly and not posing any threats.
Wireless networks are often easier for hackers to breach so it’s important to check that these entry points are not vulnerable.
With social engineering methods used by hackers in 98% of cyber attacks, social engineering penetration testing is a useful way for companies to test their defences and expose their weak points.
This works by penetration testers simulating common social engineering attacks like phishing and attempting to fool your employees into clicking a malicious link and allowing access to your company network, just like a real cyber attack. The test will reveal how susceptible your employees are to these kinds of attacks and whether some work needs to be done on improving cyber awareness among your workforce.
Which pen test is right for me?
The penetration testing you choose will depend on your company’s requirements and current infrastructure. Bear in mind, that some of the types of penetration testing listed above may overlap; for example, social engineering testing could feature in a number of other types of penetration testing.
If you’re unsure where to start, many pen test providers will be able to advise you to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. However, if you want more guidance as to where your pen test should focus, we’d recommend exploring vulnerability testing first.
This is a much cheaper way of identifying weaknesses in your security, without exploiting your network as a penetration test would. Many companies find a vulnerability assessment is actually all they need, but if you still decide a penetration test would be beneficial down the line, a vulnerability scan would at least narrow your focus so you can be sure the investment is well spent.
Find out more about the difference between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing here.
There are plenty of penetration testing providers when it comes to choosing someone for your pen test, including Cyber Tec Security. You’ll want to make sure that whoever you choose has the suitable accreditations and expertise as well as a process and methodology that works with your business. Check out our list of the top 10 UK pen testing companies here.
Whatever security auditing method you choose, Cyber Tec Security can help find the right solution for your business. Get in touch with the team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.