Network Penetration Testing – All You Need to Know!

Network penetration testing which is also called ‘pen testing’ is an important process related to finding weaknesses in networks and protecting them from hackers.
It is basically a kind of practice of testing a computer system, network or web application in order to find weaknesses as well as security vulnerabilities.
Overview of Network Penetration testing
When it comes to a network system, Many hardware and software system has to work harmoniously to make sure that data transfer is happening with no trouble. Owing to the same, there is a huge chance of vulnerabilities being exploited by hackers. To make sure that there is no loose end in a network system, penetration testing can be performed.

  • Performance testing  can reveal a security flaw in any particular network environment
  • Helps in understanding the risk
  • Can be used to fix network flaws

Methods of Network Penetration Testing:
In order to execute network penetration testing, two distinctly different methods are generally applied.
They are,

  • Internal network penetration testing
  • External network penetration testing

It is very important to know the differences between these two different kinds of network penetration testing for executing these effectively.
Why Should I Conduct A Network Penetration Testing?

  • All the vulnerabilities that can be used by hackers against you can be found out.
  • Recovery costs after hacking is

Internal Network Penetration Testing
Internal network penetration testing is a kind of test that is used to find out issues from the inside.
Here, a consultant is placed within the corporate environment and connected to the internal network.
Internal network penetration testing is more important than the external.
It is because the attack from the inside can do greater damage compared to an external attack.
In the case of an internal attack, some of the protection systems have already been bypassed and the person on the inside understands where the network is located and the person knows very well what to do right from the beginning.
The threat is more intensive in the case of an internal attack and that makes it different from the external network penetration testing.
External Network Penetration Testing
An external penetration test is completely different from the internal network penetration test as here the consultant is not connected to the internal network.
In this case, a consultant is placed in order to look for the security issues from the outside of the network over the public internet.
External penetration testing has been being used for a long time and therefore it is also called the traditional form of penetration testing.
In order to make out the ability of an intruder to the internal network of a computer system, this kind of penetration testing is designed.
There are many different methods which are used in this form of testing. One of the important methods is to use a web app or application.
It may be vulnerable or it might trick a user of the system into providing their important information like their password.
It may also provide access to the VPN (Virtual Private Network) and consequently, someone from the outside can get the full access and the black hat hackers can do anything with the network staying outside.

Internal and External Penetration Testing Tools:

Generally, automated tools are used in internal as well as external penetration testing in order to identify malicious codes.
Basically, these penetration testing tools can identify hard-coded values like usernames and passwords and thus verify vulnerabilities in the system.
There are some characteristics of these tools which are mentioned below:

  • Tools should be easy to use and configure
  • It should scan a system without any issue
  • Tools should categorize the vulnerabilities depending upon its intensity
  • It should re-verify the previous vulnerabilities or exploits
  • It should generate detailed vulnerability reports and logs

There are many free penetration testing tools available on the internet and it enables the pen testers to adapt or modify the codes depending upon their own needs.
Some most widely used free pen-testing tools are mentioned below:

  • The Metasploit Project (an open-source project owned by Rapid7, a security company)
  • Nmap or Network Mapper
  • Wireshark

The interesting thing is that both white hats and black hats can use these tools as these are free.
But, these tools also help the pen testers to understand the functionality of these tools in a better way and they also make out how these tools can be driven against their organizations.
Internal and External Penetration testing strategies:
There are some strategies used by the pen testers mentioned below:

  •    External testing

External testing is executed to find out how far an outside attacker can get in after gaining full access.
Generally, a company’s external servers like domain name servers, email servers are tested through this testing.

  •   Internal testing

Internal testing simulates an inside attack that is performed by an authorized user and this kind of test is executed to find out how far an intruder can damage a system if he or she is connected to the internal network.
However, there are many other strategies like blind testing, black-box testing, white-box testing but, among those the strategies mentioned above are commonly used.
In conclusion, it may be remarked the results of internal and external penetration testing can give a perfect picture of the security of a system.
These tests are very useful in order to get rid of the weaknesses as the reports related to these tests provide accurate suggestions. Though it is difficult to make a system invulnerable, these tests are still useful to cut down the threats.

Thoughts on Penetration Testing Must Die or Evolve

Penetration Testing, commonly called as Pen Test, is a testing strategy to evaluate the security of a system. The test is conducted to zero-in on the weaknesses (also called as vulnerabilities) and strengths of the security system that are already in place. It is a simulating test that is performed on the system to check the risk factors that will expose the system to an unauthorized breach of security.
app testing
There will be instances when unwarranted parties gain access to your system, trespassing your security levels. Penetration Testing, true to its name thus allows a complete assessment of risk factors that can cause malicious entities to infiltrate into your standard security borders.
The Significance of 2009
Security experts across the globe identify Pen Test as an essential tool offering an in-depth defense mechanism to systems and networks. However, in 2009, there was a notion amongst the technology spheres that Pen Test is heading to its natural death.
You will agree with the fact that every software version that is high-tech will soon be replaced by its successor version, paving the way for better and updated versions. So is the case with Pen Test that will prompt the release of updated versions; may be in principle than in practice.
But there’s good news, just around the corner.
And that is:
Pen Test will soon die but will come back as something better. So what is the fate of Pen Testers, you may ask. This phenomenon does not lead to the global unemployment of pen testers but will only make these testers less favorable to companies and businesses.
The Premise behind the Death of Pen Test
Investing in prevention is always better than spending on diagnosis. This principle can be applied to the concept of Pen Test. When businesses begin to invest more in trying to prevent the occurrence of security breaches, they will save monies spent on diagnosing problems.  Hence, businesses are on the lookout for tools that can prevent security breaches than to invest in tools that are exclusively ordained to identify weaknesses that are already existing in the system.
Voicing the Thoughts of Experts Concerning the Evolution or the Obliteration of Penetration Testing
Brian Chess, the SVP of Infrastructure and Security Engineering attached to cloud operations at NetSuite came up with three thoughts that throw light on the controversial topic whether Pen Test is on the brink of evolution or is all set to face extinction.
Enlisting three opinions in verbatim that were expressed by him, every thought comes with an interpretation that explains the thought in a manner that is significant to you and your business.
Thought 1:
“People are now spending more money on getting code right in the first place than they are on proving it is wrong. However, this does not signal the end of the road for penetration testing, nor should it, but it does change things. Rather than being a standalone product, it is going to be more like a product feature. Penetration testing is going to cease being an end unto itself and re-emerge as part of a more comprehensive security solution.”
An Interpretation of the Thought
A noticeable tendency amongst businesses and technology decision makers is that investments are being made in the direction of acquiring error-free code rather than to unveil its weaknesses and errors. While this change does not sound the death knell for penetration testing, an imminent change is just around the corner. These variations can be witnessed in the form of a re-emerging technology that will lead to the implementation of an “all-inclusive” security solution.
Thought 2:
“2009 will be the year this strategy comes together, and when we look back, it will be the year when most of the world began thinking about penetration testing as part of a larger offering.”
An Interpretation of the Thought
The year 2009 will become an observer to this transformation and when businesses look back, this will be the time when penetration testing will become a significant part of a bigger picture. This concept of testing will emerge as a novel means to secure your business operations; as the days pass.
Thought 3:
“More than ever before, people understand the software security challenge, and penetration testing deserves credit for helping spread the word. But knowing a security problem exists is not the same as knowing how to fix it. In other words, penetration testing is good for finding the problem but does not help in finding the solution – and that is why it must take a long hard look at itself and then make a change. Just like the venerable spell-checker, it is going to die and come back in a less distinct but more pervasive form and I, for one, cannot wait.”
An Interpretation of the Thought
Earlier, people and businesses were of the opinion that challenges in software security and penetration testing were the two parameters that have made the most noise for the world to acknowledge and react to. However, getting to know the existence of a security problem cannot be seen in the same light as knowing how to resolve it.
That means, Pen Test is a good tool to identify the problem but fails to resolve it. This basic premise of Pen Test is what makes it vulnerable to change. And the change here does not mean its complete extinction but a chance to bounce back as a better and pervasive version that everyone concerned is looking forward to.
What’s In Store for Penetration Testers?
With so many changes prompting the evolution of Pen Test, it pays to spare a thought about the future of Penetration Testers; the human resources that are ordained to secure your systems.
Penetration Testers are professionals who should handhold companies by suggesting ways to address security issues. They will have to work in tandem with the recommendations of customers and offer ways to fix security lapses or issues that may jeopardize the safety of your systems and networks.
This having said, Penetration Testers will scrutinize the code and may demand a “recoding”, asking the developers to come up with a code that will not only identify an issue but also address it. This evolution with regard to Penetration Testing will call for a paradigm shift in how businesses will operate.
A multi-faceted approach will come to light when organizations will be prompted to consider various parameters to finally tread the path of least resistance. This practice will be in contrast to relying on pen testing to test one part of the network, another part of the web application and some other segment of the physical security.
There will come a time when businesses will pay attention to all those factors that influence their revenues. In that context, they will look out for ways and means to test all those parameters simultaneously, creating a situation of “full scope Pen Testing”. This should be the most objective way of looking at things as far as Penetration Testing is concerned.
As Things Stand Now, What Is In store for Pen Testing?
Keeping in mind the constantly changing methods of penetration testing, it is important to be notified of its latest trends. Hackers who exploit the loop holes in testing practices will find novel ways of hacking your data. It is hence the need of the hour for organizations to perform penetration tests, through pen testers who will be directed to actually think the way the hackers think; especially when you are updating your software.
When this practice is followed, you will be able to detect any vulnerability that might cause a security breach.
The three pointers that determine penetration testing are concerned about:

  1. Protection
  2. Detection
  3. Response

For your system to demonstrate a high level of data security, it is essential that you have all the above mentioned pointers in place.
Currently, most of the organizations are incorporating pen testing as a significant part of their business maintenance plan with the IT heads banking on the suggestions offered by Information Security Experts. This has led to performing regular pen tests as part of compliance audits with pen testers making the most of automated and manual techniques teamed with testing tools that will be able to detect weak links in IT infrastructure.
And when all the loopholes are plugged with pen testing practices, you will be able to secure your data effectively, thus nipping the chances of a security breach in its bud itself. Without getting bogged down by the thought that the concept of Pen Test is nearing extinction, it pays to look at this change as a positive transformation that will fuel the advancement of novel ways to secure your networks and systems.

Penetration Testing Tutorial: Stages, Types, Methods & Tools

Penetration testing or also known as pen testing is the process of simulating real attacks on systems or networks to access the risks associated with potential security breaches. During pen test, testers not only discover vulnerabilities but also exploit them.
app testing
Pen testing is mainly attempting to breach any application systems, protocol interface etc. to uncover vulnerabilities, such as codes that are susceptible to attacks. Penetration testing which is generally ethical hacking is a necessary in-demand skill for testing an organization’s defense systems.
Why do we need to perform Pen Testing:

  • To uncover the critical vulnerabilities within your network systems
  • It can provide an overview of an organization’s exploitable vulnerabilities and include recommendations on how you can optimize the protection levels
  • Reveal problems that were not known
  • Prevent business interruptions, loss and protect brand image
  • Find both known and unknown hardware/software flaws which can be identified and fixed using automated tools
  • Assess and validate the efficacy of an organization’s defensive mechanisms

Stages of Penetration Testing:
As penetration testing is very much technical and complicated, it needs to be split into different stages. Lets take a brief look:
1)  Planning & Setting your Goal: In this phase, you define the scope and goal of the test to be carried out including, addressing the system on which the test is performed and finalising the steps for the test. You need to also understand and gain knowledge about the network, domains and the server to identify how the target works on potential vulnerabilities.
mobile app
2) Scanning Phase: During this phase, it becomes clear to the tester that how the target app will respond to the intrusion attempts. This is basically done in 2 ways:

  1. Static Analysis: Inspect an app’s code to see how it performs in a running state
  2. Dynamic Analysis: Provides a real-time view of how an app performs

3) Selection of Proper Pen-testing tools: Choosing the right tool, requires mere intelligence, a little bit of luck and lot of patience. Rather than just going for quality and checking whether it fits to your job, its essential to note that it doesn’t contain any sort of malware or codes that could in-turn hack the tester.
There are plenty of tools available online for free but note to double check as most of them may contain malware and mostly undocumented back doors. But the best pen testers always go for their own written codes and tools as they don’t trust on free sources.
Eg: Nmap, Aircrack-ng, Wifiphisher, Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP etc.
4) Gaining Access: This stage is basically about using web apps like SQL injections, cross-site scripting, back doors etc. to uncover the target vulnerabilities. Once the vulnerabilities are found, testers try to solve them by intercepting traffic, escalating privileges or by stealing data.
5) Maintaining the Access: In this stage, the pen tester tests whether the vulnerability can be used to achieve a persistent presence in the exploited system. This is done to imitate the advanced persistent threats that remain for months or even years in a system to steal the most sensitive data from an organization.
6) Analysing the System: The results like the number of vulnerabilities exploited, the intensity of the sensitive data that could have been accessed and the total time the pen tester could spend within a network system without being detected is checked and documented.
Types of Penetration Testing
The type of penetration testing generally depends upon the scope of the goal to be attained or the testing is simulated against the employee, internal resources or external sources. On the basis of this, penetration testing is mainly of 3 types:

  • Black Box Testing: In this case, the tester needs to collect all information regarding the system before he/she starts working
  • White Box Testing: Here, the pen tester is provided with almost all details regarding the system such as IP addresses, source codes, OS details etc.
  • Grey Box Testing: In this, the tester is provided with partial knowledge about the system

Penetration Testing Methods
By analysing different methods of attacks that might affect an organization, there might be different methods of penetration testing:
1) External Testing: This targets the assets of an organization that is visible on the internet. So the main aim is to gain access and also extra valuable data.
2) Internal Testing: Here, the tester with the access to an app behind its firewall is simulated by an attack by the malicious insider.
3) Blind Testing: In this case, the pen tester is only given the name of the organization, so that the system security personal gets a real-time look at how actual app assault happens.
4) Double Blind Testing: In this type of attack, the security personal within the organization would have no idea regarding the assault same as like it happens in real attempted breaches.
5) Targeted Testing: In this testing, the pen tester and the security personal both work together regarding the vulnerabilities. This is quite a valuable method as it offers instant suggestions from the hackers point of view.
Penetration Testing Tools
Penetration testing is the process which is undertaken by testers to find vulnerabilities in your systems before the attackers intrude in. The different pen test tools can be broken down into major categories like:
1) Port Scanners: Tools in this category typically gather information and personal data about a specific target from a remote environment.
2) Vulnerability Scanner: These tools are used to find if there is any known vulnerabilities in the targeted system.  This is again subdivided to:

  • Host-based
  • Network based

3)  Application Scanner: These type of tools checks in for any type of weakness within the web-application (eg: Ecommerce apps)
Below we have listed a few tools that can be used for simple assessments or even complex tasks in which some are got for free and some require licence payments.
1) Aircrack-ng: This is a full suite of wireless assessment tool that covers attacking(cracking WAP & WEP) and packet capture.
2) SQLmap: This is an automated SQL injection and database tool common and widely used in platforms -MSSQL, MySQL, Access, PostgreSQL, SQLite etc.
3) THC-Hydra: It is generally known to be a network login cracker that supports several services and it isn’t very complex to handle.
4) Metaspoilt: One of the most popular and advanced framework that is based on the concept of ‘exploit’ that is you pass on a code that cause breaches and enter the system.
 5) Nessus vulnerability scanner: This is one of the most commonly used pen tool worldwide to identify vulnerabilities, malware that attackers use against your system and even policy violating configurations.
 6) WireShark: Also known as Ethereal, this is a network analysis tool that captures packet in real time and displays the results in human readable format codes.
automation testing
As high-profile data breaches continue to dominate the headlines, the attitude of enterprises towards cyber security have also started shifting. As a result, there is an increased focus on detection and remediation strategies today. But, sophisticated security strategies only work out if the process, technology and people put in their inputs together to test and identify whether there is any weaknesses left open.

How Important is Penetration Testing to Network Security

Penetration testing can create wonders for upcoming enterprises if they come up with the right solution according to the demands and blend them with the automated testing method for security expert analysis.
app testing
Penetration testing services is not just about jumping into the network security by running different steps at random, but it is about creating an organized, step by step plan that details on what, when, and how exactly are you going to do things.
How Important is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is an essential process that needs to be performed on a regular basis in every organization to secure the network system. Penetration testing is of different types, which include:

  • Network Penetration Testing
  • Application Penetration Testing
  • Wireless Penetration Testing
  • Infrastructure Penetration Testing

But the main problem is that many of us will have a misconception that once penetration testing is done, their systems are safe forever. Such people will never get the real benefits of this process until they follow the method regularly and will practically have to face disappointing outcomes in the future.
The need for conducting a penetration test varies according to businesses as they all work in a different way. However, the question is, what are the main benefits that a company gets from penetration testing and here we have listed a few:

  1. Manage the Risk Factors

One of the most important benefits of pen testing or penetration testing is that it will provide you the baseline to work with the risk factors in a structured and optimal way. In this testing, the number of vulnerabilities is listed out, which is found in the target environment and also the risk factors associated with it. At first, the sequence with the highest risk is tackled and then followed to the lower ones.

  1. Increase the Business Continuity

Business continuity is the main aim for every organization and any hurdles to this can cause a huge loss to the entire company. A breakdown in business continuity can be due to many reasons and lack of security loopholes can be one of them.
If your systems are insecure, then it might suffer more breaches. It is always important to set a stronger encryption to avoid MITM (Man In The Middle) attacks. This is because, even hackers are hired today by the rivals to stop business continuity by exploiting the vulnerabilities of the competitors to gain access to their network and also create a denial of service condition, which causes a crash in the working of the company.
3. Evaluate Security Investment
Penetration testing provides an opportunity to know about the current situation of a company and analyse the existing potential breach points. It gives us a clear idea about the entire security system and helps us to ensure whether the configuration system management has been followed properly within the company.
Such type of testing methods helps to evaluate the security investments, that is the total investment required to secure the entire network systems, what is needed, what works properly, and what does not work properly.
4. Protect your Clients, Projects or Third Parties
A vulnerability that attacks a company not only causes problems to themselves, but also to their clients, third parties and even the projects a company is handling with. However, if a company performs penetration testing regularly and takes necessary actions for security, then it will help others to have trust and confidence in that organization.
automation testing
5. Guard Reputation of the Company and Maintain Public Relationships
A good public relationship and reputation are built by a company through years of struggle, regular hard work, and a large amount of investment. Even a small security issue or vulnerability attack can cause major damage to their reputation in public.
6. Help any sort of Financial Damage and avoid Fines
Simple unnoticed breaches can cause a great loss to the financial support of the company and systematic penetration testing can help you protect your organizations. Such testing keeps the major activities updated within the auditing system, which can avoid fines in the future.
7. Helps to keep a Check on Cyber Defence Capability
During the process of penetration testing, the target company should be able to identify multiple attacks and should be able to respond accordingly. The effectiveness of the protected devices like IDS, WAF or IPS can also be checked during penetration testing.
8. Performed after Deployment of New Infrastructure & Application
Pen testing should be certainly performed in companies after the deployment of a new infrastructure and application, like updating of the firmware, changes in the firewall rule, patches and upgrades to software. Because once changes happens in software performance testing, it’s easy for breaches to occur, so it is always better to keep the network secured.
9. Gap Analysis Maintenance
Pen testing/penetration testing is not a one time event, instead it should be a continual process that measures how well the entire security system performs. It also helps companies to gain awareness on gaps if any, in the system at a given point of time.
Penetration testing is necessary for any businesses that wants their network to be secure and operations to continue without any service disruption. With high-profile data vulnerabilities continuing to dominate, methods for enterprise cyber security have started to change. If you fail to test the network security and environment prior to use, it might be impossible to ensure complete security. And this is why penetration testing makes sense for organisations of all sizes.