Penetration Testing Series (Part 1): Why companies should do Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing Series (Part 1): Why companies should do Penetration Testing?

April 1, 2024
Penetration Testing with Bramfitt Technology Labs

This week to start the series, we will be going through some of the reasons why companies should do Penetration Testing and the benefits of it on your business.

Some reasons to complete Penetration Tests include:

  • To verify the effectiveness of existing security measure controls and how they are implemented and placed.
  • To design defences against the infrastructure, programs, or process flaws that have been uncovered in software people, and hardware.
  • To investigate the consequences of numerous vulnerabilities and how they could be linked together.
  • To assess how well input validation rules in an application are working. Wherever user input is submitted, fuzz is undertaken to ensure that only sanitised input is allowed.
  • To make it faster for security to respond. An internal penetration test may be used to evaluate and enhance incident response processes and procedures by revealing how various groups manage intrusions.

Advantages of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing offers several unique advantages over more conventional security measures such as vulnerability scanning. This form of testing delves deeper by revealing vulnerabilities that might not be detectable by automated tools, effectively reducing the incidence of false positives through meticulous human assessment. More critically, penetration testing simulates real-world attack scenarios to demonstrate how and what data could be accessed by exploiting these vulnerabilities. This not only uncovers the genuine risks associated with the successful exploitation of each detected flaw but also tests an organisation’s cyber defences rigorously.

In the context of regulatory compliance, penetration testing is instrumental in ensuring adherence to standards such as PCI-DSS and ISO27001’s control objective A12.6. It can provide a practical evaluation of how well intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and web application firewalls (WAF) perform under simulated attack conditions. These systems should ideally trigger alerts and prompt response procedures from security operations personnel during such tests.

Phases of Penetration Testing

Pre-attack Phase:

This initial phase is dedicated to gathering as much information about the target as possible, employing both intrusive methods like scanning and non-intrusive methods such as reviewing public records. The data collected typically pertains to the network structure and the services operational on the network. This information allows the penetration tester to map the target’s network infrastructure and plan a coordinated attack strategy, encompassing both active and passive reconnaissance.

Attack Phase:

During this phase, the tester actively exploits identified vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to the system. This could involve exploiting weaknesses discovered during the pre-attack phase or leveraging security oversights such as inadequate policies. Attackers only need to find one point of entry, whereas companies must secure numerous potential entry points. Once access is gained, the attacker may escalate privileges and deploy tools to maintain long-term access to the system.

Post-attack Phase:

This crucial phase involves returning the system to its pre-test state, which is essential for maintaining the integrity of the test’s purpose—to identify security flaws without causing permanent changes or damage. Actions taken include the removal of all uploaded files, deletion of any vulnerabilities introduced during testing, reversal of any system modifications, and the elimination of all tools and exploits used during the test. Documentation of the process and findings is also a critical part of this phase, including network state mapping and logging.

Considerations Before Conducting Penetration Testing

Penetration testing can introduce certain risks that might lead to undesired outcomes such as denial-of-service conditions, which could lock out users from critical accounts or cause crucial systems to crash.

The possibility of testers accessing sensitive data or learning about specific vulnerabilities also poses a risk. To mitigate these risks, organisations should ensure that all penetration testing activities are covered by non-disclosure agreements and other legal frameworks that clearly define the boundaries of the testing procedures.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the potential for social engineering attacks, where testers might attempt to manipulate personnel into divulging sensitive information or credentials.

Preparing for these scenarios involves setting clear rules and expectations for both the testing team and the organisation’s staff.

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