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Quzara LLCFeb 2, 20234 min read

What is Penetration Testing? | Quzara

Penetration testing is a crucial aspect of any organization's cybersecurity strategy. As a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) accredited company, Quzara leverages its expertise in penetration testing to help organizations strengthen their cyber defenses. In this article, we'll delve into the complexities of penetration testing, including its stages, various types, and the difference between it and vulnerability scans. 

What is a Penetration Test?

Penetration testing is the simulation of a cyber attack on a computer system, network, or web application to assess its vulnerabilities and the effectiveness of its security controls. It's a controlled and authorized attempt to evaluate the security of an IT infrastructure by simulating an attack from a malicious source.

What Are the Stages of Pen Testing?

A pen tester follows the same pattern as an actual malicious attacker. It's important that the team doing the testing are as skilled at exploiting systems as would-be adversaries are. Otherwise, they might miss an important weakness in the system.

The basic workflow looks as follows:

  1. Reconnaissance: The tester gathers information about the target system or network through publicly available sources or advanced methods such as network scanning and social engineering.
  2. Scanning: The tester uses the information gathered during reconnaissance to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the target system using tools such as vulnerability scanners, port scanners, and network mappers.
  3. Exploitation: The tester attempts to exploit vulnerabilities found in the previous stages to gain unauthorized access to the target system.
  4. Analysis and Reporting: The tester analyzes the data collected and creates a report detailing the vulnerabilities found, the methods used to exploit them, and recommendations for remediation, which is delivered to the organization.

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Image Credit: sdecoret / Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Pen Testing?

There are many ways to break down penetration testing. It may test the security of websites, mobile apps, WiFi connections, cloud infrastructure, internet of things (IoT) devices, and more. Regardless of the target, there are a few broad strategies for the test:

  1. External testing: Simulates an attack on an organization's external-facing systems, such as its website and internet-connected devices. It aims to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker from outside the organization's network.
  2. Internal testing: Begins with the assumption that someone has already gained access to the network. The tester then tries to exploit the system in ways they shouldn't be allowed to. This can test for proper user privilege levels, as well as ways of circumventing those protections.
  3. Red team / Blue team testing: The testers (red team) simulate an attack on an organization's systems without providing the organization with any information about the targets or the methods that will be used. This tests how well the people tasked with securing the system (blue team) respond to real-world threats.

What Is the Difference Between Vulnerability Scans and Penetration Tests?

Vulnerability scans and pen tests are both tools used to evaluate the security of some IT infrastructure, but they differ in what their goals are and which techniques are used.

A vulnerability scan uses automated software tools to identify known vulnerabilities in a system. These tools check for things like missing security patches, known vulnerabilities in software, and misconfigurations. The goal of the scan is to identify potential vulnerabilities in a system and provide a report listing them.

A penetration test is a simulated cyber attack on those systems to evaluate their security. The goal is to identify vulnerabilities and exploit them to gain unauthorized access for simulated nefarious purposes. Unlike vulnerability scanning, pen testing is a more comprehensive evaluation of a system's security and can include techniques such as social engineering and physical attacks.

Why is Penetration Testing Important?

Pen testing can help organizations identify and mitigate security risks, comply with regulatory requirements, and improve their overall security posture. It keeps network systems secure from new and evolving threats. This keeps sensitive information and the integrity of operations secure while avoiding costly data breaches or disruptions. Cyber attacks can have severe consequences for businesses, including financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal liability. By identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses through penetration testing, businesses can take proactive measures to mitigate these risks and safeguard their operations.

Protect Your Business with Quzara's Penetration Testing Services

There are many aspects of business where it's safe to take a do-it-yourself approach. With cybersecurity, the stakes are too high. Those who wish to do harm to your business dedicate their lives to finding ways into vulnerable systems. The people ensuring your systems are secure need to have the same level of experience. By choosing Quzara's penetration testing services, you'll give your business the best chance of finding and shutting down vulnerabilities. To learn more, contact us today.

Featured Image Credit: ra2 studio / Shutterstock