For any modern enterprise, the security of systems and web networks must be a top priority. In order to achieve that goal, businesses hire IT staff; they invest in hardware firewalls, spam filters, anti-malware programs and automated threat detection and vulnerabilities scanning.
However, even after significant internal effort, there may still be holes in your infrastructure that can be exploited. That is where penetration testing and the resulting reports it generates can fulfill a very real need.
What is Penetration Testing?
If you truly want to assess a situation, it often makes sense to enlist the help of someone with a fresh perspective. This is definitely true when it comes time to review your security landscape. When you employ penetration testing, you give permission to an objective, third-party expert to access your networks, systems or domains. You then provide them with a detailed idea of the scope of the test you want. The actual penetration test involves the vendor acting as if they are a hacker, doing everything they can to exploit vulnerabilities in your hardware, software, code or security protocols. The goal of the assessment is to identify vulnerabilities and report them to your IT management team via a penetration test report that also suggests ways to mitigate the flaws.
Types of Penetration Testing and Common Methodology
Penetration testing can be beneficial to help you detect problems throughout your security architecture. The most common types include the following:
- Mobile application testing
- Network testing
- Cloud testing
- Web application testing
- Social engineering testing.
While each of these penetration test types assesses its own unique part of your system, the general methodology remains consistent and includes the following steps:
- Reconnaissance. The tester gets to know your network by using easily available tools and public information.
- Threat modeling. The tester Identifies and describes the threats that have been detected and why they must be addressed.
- Analysis of vulnerabilities. This involves identifying holes or leaks and determining their severity.
- Intrusion. The tester exploits the weaknesses in order to gain entry.
- Post-exploitation reporting. During this important final process, the tester details the procedures used during the test and any vulnerabilities that were identified or exploited. Emphasis is placed on the potential impact these may have on the company and how they can be repaired.
Conducting a penetration test is one of the most effective ways to pinpoint vulnerabilities that could leave you open to serious breach if they are allowed to go uncorrected. However, a penetration test is only as good as the final report that is provided to your management team.
Important Parts of a Penetration Test Report
A report can contain numerous pieces of helpful data that can assist you in keeping your systems secure. These are the most crucial:
- Executive summary. Think of this as a 30,000-foot view of your security infrastructure. This concise description of your systems and any vulnerabilities contained therein should be written for a general audience, people who are not IT professionals. Using clear language and descriptive visuals, this synopsis will give an overview of the situation, list weaknesses and describe potential solutions.
- Detailed description of specific risks. This is the “nuts and bolts” component that was hinted at in the executive summary. It must be technically exact to provide necessary facts to IT and network security services staff. At the same time, the information must be clear and should specify exactly how the issues that have been detected will affect the organization.
- Potential impact. In this reporting stage, the odds of a specific vulnerability devolving into a breach are discussed. Attention also focuses on what effects the company could experience in the event of a serious attack.
- Vulnerability remediation suggestions. After problems have been chronicled in the report, the tester should go on to discuss ways to remediate them. Because some documents include only general, one-size-fits-all tips for plugging vulnerabilities, you should make sure ahead of time that the testing vendor you choose will consider the unique context of your business’s needs and develop suggestions accordingly. Ideally, several different remediation strategies should be furnished to your team.
In short, your penetration testing report can be a virtual gold mine of useful information. Once you have details about the vulnerabilities that have been detected as well as proposed ways to minimize or eliminate them, you can take the next steps. After all, constantly working to safeguard the security of your systems is a crucial undertaking.