Penetration Testing: How to Find Vulnerabilities Before the Hackers Do

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, is the practice of testing a computer system, network or web application to find security vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit.

Penetration tests can be used to test both the external and internal security of a system. External tests focus on assessing how easy it would be for an attacker to gain access to the system from the internet or other external network, while internal tests focus on assessing how easy it would be for an attacker to gain access to sensitive data or systems once they have already gained access to the internal network.

Why is Penetration Testing Important?

Penetration testing is important because it can help organisations to find and fix security vulnerabilities before they are exploited by hackers. By conducting regular penetration tests, organisations can reduce the risk of being breached by known attack methods and also be better prepared to defend against new and novel attack methods.

How to Conduct a Penetration Test

There are many different ways to conduct a penetration test, but all tests should follow a similar process:

  1. Reconnaissance: The first step is to gather information about the target system. This can be done through public sources such as the internet, social media or company website, or through more covert means such as port scanning or footprinting.
  2. Scanning: Once the target system has been identified, it will need to be scanned for vulnerabilities. This can be done using automated tools or manual methods.
  3. Exploitation: Once vulnerabilities have been identified, they can be exploited to gain access to the system. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as SQL injection or buffer overflows.
  4. Post-Exploitation: Once access has been gained to the system, the attacker will try to maintain access and expand their privileges. This can be done by installing backdoors, escalating privileges or stealing sensitive data.
  5. Reporting: Finally, the findings of the penetration test should be reported to the relevant stakeholders. This report should detail the vulnerabilities found, how they were exploited and what could be done to fix them.

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