Penetration Testing – Overview and Process

Penetration Testing vs. Ethical hacking: 

Penetration testing is firmly identified with ethical hacking, so these two terms are frequently utilized conversely. In any case, there is a slimline of distinction between these two terms. 

Penetration testing focuses primarily on finding the security weaknesses and shortcomings of the target environment to make sure it is secure.  Penetration testing deals with an association’s defense system comprising all frameworks and their foundation. 

On the other hand, ethical hacking is a broad term that covers all hacking methods and other related computer assault procedures. In addition, to discovering the security flaws and vulnerabilities of the target framework, ethical hacking focuses on leveraging all methodologies available to find security flaws. Ethical hacking is an umbrella term and penetration testing is one of the highlights of ethical hacking. 

Why do we need Penetration Testing? 

Penetration testing assesses a system’s capacity to secure its networks, applications, endpoints, and clients from external or internal threats. It additionally endeavors to ensure the security controls and guarantees just approved admittance.  

Penetration testing can help an organization uncover vulnerabilities in security policies such as instantized inputs that are prone to code injection threats. This type of testing allows organizations to: 

  • Distinguish a recreation environment to find out perhaps how an interloper may carry out a white-cap assault on the system. 
  • Find stable regions where interlopers can operate from. 
  • Avoid black-cap attacks by securing the information. 
  • Gauge the size of the assault on the organization. 
  • Expand interests in the security on an organization’s data. 

When to Perform Penetration Testing? 

Penetration testing is an essential component that should be performed consistently to ensure the functioning of a system. It is important to consider the following events for penetration testing: 

  •  Company acquires another organization.  
  • The security system discovers new threats by attackers. 
  • Organization updates its framework or installs new programs.  
  • Company sets up a new end-user program/strategy. 

What are the Benefits of Penetration? 

Penetration testing offers the following advantages:  

Improvement of the Management System − It gives nitty-gritty details about the security vulnerabilities Likewise; it also arranges the level of weaknesses and ranks them by level of importance. Thus, an organization can deal with their security framework by distributing the security assets  

Strategy to Avoid Fines  Penetration testing keeps the company’s significant exercises refreshed and complies with the auditing system. In this way, penetration testing shields the organization from giving fines.  

Insurance from Financial Damage − A straightforward breach of a security system is a financial liability for the company.  Penetration testing can protect the organization from such costs.  

Client Protection  A breach of even a solitary client’s information may cause considerable monetary harm as well as notoriety harm. Penetration testing helps protect important information.  

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Who needs Penetration Testing? 

  • Banks/Financial Institutions, Government Organizations, Online Vendors, or any association handling and storing private data  
  • Most accreditations require or suggest that pen tests be performed consistently to guarantee the security of the system.  
  • PCI Data Security Standard’s Section 11.3 expects associations to perform application and penetration tests at any rate once per year.  
  • HIPAA Security Rule’s segment 8 of the Administrative Safeguards requires security measure reviews, periodic vulnerability investigation, and penetration testing. 

Areas of Penetration Testing 

The following areas are targeted in penetration testing –  

1. Organization Penetration Testing  

 In this testing, a system’s physical structure is tested to distinguish the weakness and danger that threatens security in an organization. In a networking environment, a tester unhides security imperfection in the plan, usage, or activity of the individual organization/association’s network. The gadgets, which are tested by a tester, can be PCs, modems, or even remote machines, and so on. 

2. Application Penetration Testing  

In this testing, the coherent structure of the system is tested. Assault reproduction uncovers an application’s security controls’ effectiveness by recognizing weakness and danger. The firewall and other observing systems are utilized to ensure the security system. Still, sometimes, it needs to be focused on testing, particularly when traffic is permitted to go through the firewall.   

3. The response or work process of the system  

This is the third area that needs to be tested. Social engineering accumulates data on human association to get data about an association and its PCs. It is useful to test the capacity of a particular organization to prevent unapproved access. 

Penetration Testing – Process 

 Penetration testing is essentially a combination of multiple methods that tackle an organization’s security vulnerabilities, examines them in detail, and give solutions to those issues.   This type of testing depends on an organized strategy that allows testing to be carried out bit by bit. 

Steps of Penetration Testing Method –  

  • Arranging and Preparation  
  • Observation  
  • Discovery 
  • Analyzing data and risks  
  • Dynamic intrusion attempts  
  • Ultimate Analysis  
  • Report Preparation 

Arranging and Preparation  

Arranging and planning starts with characterizing the objectives and goals of penetration testing. The customer and the security testing team together define the objectives. This ensures that both the stakeholders have similar targets and understanding.  

The usual targets of penetration testing are to: 

  • Recognize the loopholes and improve the security of the technical systems.  
  • Have IT security affirmed by a third-party.  
  • Increment the security of the organizational/workforce’s infrastructure. 


Observation incorporates an investigation of the fundamental data. Generally, the security testing team does not have a lot of data other than the preliminary information, i.e., an IP address or IP address block. The tester begins by examining the accessible data and, whenever required, demands more data-for example, framework depictions, network plans, and so on, from the customer. 

The sole goal is to acquire complete and detailed information on the systems.  


In this progression, the testing team utilizes the computerized devices to scan target resources for finding vulnerabilities. These instruments typically have their own databases, giving the subtleties of the most recent vulnerabilities.  

Nonetheless, testers find  

  • Network Discovery − such as the disclosure of supplementary systems, servers, and different gadgets.  
  • Host Discovery − to discover open ports on these devices.  
  • Service Investigation − to investigate ports and find genuine services that are running on them. 

Analyzing Data and Risks 

In this phase, the tester inspects and evaluates the information assembled before the test steps for dynamically infiltrating the system. While examining, the testing team thinks about the following components: 

  • The defined objectives of the penetration test.  
  • The possible risks to the framework.  
  • The assessed time that is needed for assessing potential security imperfections for the resulting dynamic penetration testing.  
  • In any case, the analyzer may decide to test just those systems that contain potential weaknesses from the list of recognized systems. 

Dynamic Intrusion Attempts 

These attempts seek to understand the potential damage posed by the weaknesses identified in the disclosure step. This progression is performed when a check of potential liabilities is required.  However, it is better for systems with high integrity demands to consider the possible vulnerabilities before the basic cleanup is run.  

Ultimate Analysis 

 This step fundamentally considers all the steps examined above, i.e., assessing the present weaknesses as likely risks. In the ultimate analysis, the tester proposes how to eradicate the security liabilities. Additionally, the testing team guarantees the transparency of the tests and unveiled weaknesses. 

Report Preparation 

Report readiness must begin with overall testing techniques, trailed by an investigation of vulnerabilities and risks. The fundamental weaknesses must have priorities and afterward follow the lower order.  

The following points need to be considered while preparing the final report: 

  • A comprehensive outline of penetration testing.  
  • Subtleties of each step and the data accumulated during the pen-testing.  
  • Subtleties of all weaknesses and risks found.  
  • Subtleties of cleaning and fixing the systems.  
  • Recommendations for future security. 

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It is indeed difficult to know when a hacker may target the IT framework of an organization. Still, it is important to make informed estimates regarding the entrance routes that may leave a system vulnerable.  Therefore, penetration testing should be carried out regularly to ensure that critical data is safe.  

Stay tuned for this series’ upcoming blog, which will cover more on pen-testing types, levels, and tools. 

Happy testing!