With the cyberthreats constantly evolving, there’s no better way to test your current network security than by putting a “good guy hacker” to the task of simulating a cyberattack against your business. That’s where penetration testing can help expose vulnerabilities in your network, computer systems, or web applications.

Whether you take an automated or manual approach, the goal of this kind of test is to identify any entry points and report back the findings to give you the opportunity to address the issue before it can be exploited by real cybercriminals.

Penetration Testing Methods

Many penetration testing strategies incorporate a variety of methods, with the most basic being targeted testing. This lights-on approach involves your team working with an external cybersecurity team to test a specific system or suspected vulnerability. However, since everyone can see how the test is being carried out, it tends to be the least effective method.

Another method involves the cybersecurity team carrying out a simulated attack on your externally visible resources, such as web servers, DNS servers and firewalls. This approach effectively puts a white-hat hacker in the shoes of a cybercriminal trying to gain access to your computing resources from outside. Yet another method involves internal testing, which is useful for exposing threats within your organization.

Easily the most effective and, some would say, the riskiest approach to penetration testing is to use a blind strategy whereby you receive minimal information on your end until the test is complete. In some cases, there will be only one person on your team who is even aware that the test is being carried out. While blind-testing will cause disruption, there’s no better way to test your team’s response capabilities.

The Five Stages of Penetration Testing

Every penetration testing strategy can be broken down into five stages, starting with planning and reconnaissance. This preliminary stage is easily the lengthiest when it comes to blind testing, since it requires gathering extensive knowledge of your IT infrastructure while also defining the goals and scope of the test. The second stage involves scanning the system, based on this intelligence, for potential vulnerabilities.

After scanning the network or other system, the penetration testing team will attempt to gain access using a similar set of tools and methods that hackers themselves are likely to be using. This stage may, for example, include attempting to inject malicious scripts into web-based resources to gain access. If the team successfully manages to gain access, then the fourth stage involves maintaining it, the idea being to imitate ongoing attacks to determine the severity of the vulnerability.

The final stage involves building a detailed report of the procedures used to gain access to your systems and the vulnerabilities that were exploited during the process. The report should also show which data was accessed and for how long the testing team managed to retain access before being detected by your existing security systems.

Penetration testing might sound scary, but there’s no better way to be sure of the effectiveness of your current security protocols. That’s why Red Key Solutions employs a team of skilled experts to give you a complete line of sight into your existing security strategy. Call us today to arrange a test.

Red Key is a leading cybersecurity company serving New York City, Westchester County, Fairfield County Connecticut, California & beyond. Click here to learn more.