What Is Penetration Testing

Penetration testing, also called pen testing, is the simulation of real-world cyber-attack on computer systems, in order to expose weaknesses and test an organization’s cybersecurity capabilities to prevent cyber-attacks. The simulation is usually done through mimicking tactics techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by cyber threat actors, to test organizations’ people process and technology (PPTs) preparedness against cyber-attacks. Though potentially time-consuming and costly, consistent pen tests can help organizations obtain expert, unbiased third-party feedback on their security processes, and potentially prevent extremely expensive and damaging breaches.

Types of penetration testing

Pen tests can be conducted either internally or externally and are broken down into;

White box testing: the pen-tester has access to and knowledge of the environment being tested.

Grey box testing: the pen-tester has little knowledge and partial access to the environment tested.

Black box testing: the pen-tester has no knowledge or access to the environment and has to work out everything by themselves.

Covert pen-test: similar to grey-box testing, however, in this case, IT and Security administrators are not aware of the test, since it is geared towards testing their responses to the attacks, and is usually authorized by top officials in organizations. This particular type of test needs a lot of caution in order to avoid damages that may occur if the exercise is not properly handled.

The above tests can be carried out at a network level, web & application level, cloud, and endpoint Information Technology (IT)/Operation Technology (OT) assets. They can be conducted either virtually through social engineering & leverage on network/system vulnerabilities or through physical intrusion on infrastructure facilities/premises.

Benefits of penetration testing

Penetration testing helps organizations;

  1. Identify weaknesses in their systems, networks, applications, and infrastructures for fixing.
  2. Evaluate their cybersecurity defenses and identify areas that require improvement.
  3. Budget for cybersecurity investments.
  4. Comply with both national and international cybersecurity regulations.
  5. Achieve business continuity and protect client information.