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Penetration Testing: How it Works

Every network exists within a digital battlefield. The constant flow of malware and anti-malware is all-encompassing, and no device is safe from the ever-present torrent of threats. Luckily, we have a significant amount of clever software to help keep our networks safe. Still, this software might not be completely effective, and there could be some vulnerabilities. That’s where penetration testing comes in, which is sometimes referred to as a “pentest.” A few moral hackers (also known as “pentesters”) attack your system to figure out what the weak points in the system are. It’s a little more complex than that, though. There are numerous steps involved that may not be so apparent.

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Finding a Friend

The first step of getting a pentest involves finding a pentester. Sometimes referred to as “white hats,” these hacking aficionados know how to circumvent network security systems. Luckily, they’ve decided to pursue a beneficial career instead of ruining people’s lives. In any event, several services can help connect you with a skilled pentester.

However, not all security systems work the same. Some of them need more extensive defenses or have unusual procedures. Pentesters often have specialties and certain skill-sets that are well suited for particular networks. Through a questionnaire and other ways to understand your system, these services can find the right pentester. The level of access given to the pentester can vary. Keep in mind that they may find some sensitive information hidden in whatever they’re hacking into. If it is particularly sensitive, make sure the pentester knows.

Note that pentesting is also useful for untested software that’s scheduled to be released. Releasing applications with horrible security flaws can result in equally horrible consequences. Some pentesters are specialized in these, and your process may differ a bit.

Knock, Knock, Knocking On The Network’s Door

It’s party time. Just like all parties, a pentester goes up in your network or application. Through a complex series of clever attacks, they find vulnerabilities that no program can find. They check for the most pervasive problems in the business, such as injection, broken authentication, vulnerable soft and hardware, and security misconfiguration. Then, the pentesters check for uncommon issues and so on. Some companies can look at social vulnerabilities, too. If someone’s trying to get into your network, a surprisingly effective way to do so is to make calls. They can trick employees into giving them passwords that allow physical access to hard drives.

The pentesters give you detailed reports on every vulnerability in the network. Each problem is fully discussed and analyzed. There may also be suggestions for possible solutions to make the next step easier.

Rebuilding the Network

Now equipped with the knowledge given by the pentester, the network can be patched. Ideally, all the holes in the security will be closed by whomever you put in charge of network security. Following this, the network will be tested again just to make sure all is well. If all is not well, then another cycle of fixing and testing will begin.

This should not be the end of the journey. Occasional re-pentesting is a valuable tool in keeping the network up to date. Since the threat is always changing, so too is the defense.