What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is used in Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs) for determining the presence and/or absence of security vulnerabilities in an application. Security vulnerabilities are found by conducting attacks that exploit known security flaws. An example of a security vulnerability is a weakness in the login process or a weakness of the application’s security infrastructure. The purpose of penetration testing is to reveal if the application has any vulnerabilities and the method of exploitation differs from one vulnerability to another.

A Penetration Test is performed on the system to find out if the application is vulnerable to attacks. Penetration testing, in its simplest form, is conducted on software or hardware components. There are different approaches to Penetration Testing. Some of these include;

– Detection Testing: This is a simple Penetration Test on the client’s system using no information from the client. The objective of Detection Testing is to show whether a program is able to detect intrusion attempts. Many companies that engage in Penetration Testing prefer to carry out detection testing in a client environment to find out if the software’s vulnerability profile matches the requirements of their customers; however, a complete Penetration Testing procedure can also involve assessing the target’s technical knowledge. Detection Testing helps determine whether the software’s design is correct and whether it can successfully resist attacks.

– Code Generation. In this type of Penetration Testing, tester develops exploit code that uses black-box exploits. Usually, when a tester gains access to a system, the software generates malicious codes (a “hole” in the system) that an attacker can use to gain access. Based on the software’s license, the tester may not disclose the actual exploit code. Once an attacker gains access, he can use the code to perform any number of actions such as corrupting files, deleting files, and/or running malicious programs.

– Analyzing the vulnerabilities of the software. A typical Penetration Testing procedure involves performing a series of fuzzing (code signing) and/or code execution tests. Fuzzing (signing) tests for buffer overflows, stack buffer overflow, and security measures deactivated are common tools utilized by Penetration testers. When a tester obtains data from the system, he then interprets this data into an executable form and performs a code execution test to determine if the software meets the requirements defined by the client. In order for these tests to comply with security measures set forth by the client, the tester must determine whether or not the software can be safely operated by the end-user.

– Exploitation Testing: In pen testing, the goal is to discover a method by which an attacker could exploit a security vulnerability. In some cases, the purpose of performing Penetration Testing is to determine whether or not a vulnerability can allow an attack to run on a system. In other cases, the purpose of Penetration Testing is to find out whether or not a security vulnerability allows for an attack to execute on a web application. Sometimes, a vulnerability may allow for a cyberattacker to execute their malware on a user’s computer.

There are many types of penetrations tests. Each specific type of pen test has its own purpose and effect. While fuzzing, and vulnerability Testing all have the same goal, which is to test a system for security weaknesses, the objectives of each type of Penetration Testing are different.

Both fuzzing and penetration testing can be performed simultaneously. Fuzzing is usually performed prior to a Penetration Test in order to make sure that the tester has discovered any security vulnerabilities. In some cases, however, a penetration test may determine that a security weakness exists but there is still potential for exploitation. As such, in some cases, the two testing processes may be performed at separate times. Regardless of which type of Penetration Testing is done, it is necessary to conduct ethical hacking in order to reduce the threat of malicious cyber attacks.

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