What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing

If your company deals with sensitive data, you may want to explore the benefits of penetration testing. In this blog we’ll provide you with an overview of what penetration testing is and how it can help safeguard your sensitive information.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, aka ethical hacking or pen testing, is a method of testing a computer system, network, or web application to identify security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. In this process, a trained professional simulates a real-world cyber-attack using a variety of methods to attempt to gain access. Automated network pen testing is a newer option that is also now available.  The goal of pen testing is to identify security flaws before malicious attackers do, allowing system administrators to take preventative measures.

History of Penetration Testing

The beginning of penetration testing can be traced back to 1967, when, following the Spring Joint Computer Conference, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) organized a task force to formally assess the security of time-sharing computer systems. Once the vulnerabilities of the system’s security were confirmed, the federal government and its contractors began organizing teams of penetrators, known as “tiger teams,” to use computer penetration to test system security.

In virtually all these early studies, tiger teams successfully broke into all targeted computer systems, as the country’s time-sharing systems had poor defenses. As the security systems were gradually strengthened, computer penetration as a tool for security assessment also became more sophisticated.

What Does the Process Look Like?

Pen testing involves several phases:

  • Reconnaissance
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Gaining access
  • Maintaining access
  • Covering tracks

The tester begins by collecting as much information as possible about the system, including its architecture, operating system, and applications. Next, the tester scans the system for weaknesses that could be exploited by an attacker. Once vulnerabilities are identified, the tester attempts to exploit them to gain and retain access to the system or data. Finally, the tester clears information about the type of data that was gathered in order to remain anonymous.

Types of Penetration Testing

There are several types of penetration testing. Network pen testing is used for firewalls, routers, and other network devices. Web application pen testing checks the security of web applications, such as online shopping carts or banking websites. Social engineering pen testing involves testing the security of an organization by attempting to trick employees into giving up sensitive information, such as passwords or access codes.

Penetration testing can be conducted either internally or externally. Internal pen testing is conducted from within the organization by a tester who has access to the system or network. External pen testing, on the other hand, is conducted from outside the organization, simulating a real-world attack by a hacker.

Core Benefits of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing helps identify vulnerabilities in a system before they can be exploited by hackers. It is important to note that pen testing should not be the only security measure in place. Many other security measures including advanced firewalls, next-generation antivirus software, employee training and multi-factor authentication, to name a few, should also be implemented to provide comprehensive protection against cyber-attacks.

At BSC Solutions Group, we provide a wide range of cybersecurity services and solutions for Ontario businesses, including Penetration Testing.  Reach out to us today for a consultation.