Virtual CISO

A penetration test, also known as a pen test, is a simulated cyberattack against your computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities. Penetration Testing Tools, or more commonly known as Hacking tools, utilize Vulnerability Exploitation on an organization’s environment for multiple objectives such as stealing access to data, disrupting services, harming the organization’s reputation, or obtaining access to proprietary information.

Penetration Testing utilizes Attack Simulation to test if Vulnerability Exploitation is possible while hackers achieve the same for malicious purposes but essentially, it is the same activity expect that Penetration Testing may stress safe or reversable attacks.

Penetration Testing Platform Features

Due to the growing requirements for Penetration Testing or Hacking, tools with multiple features are packaged into Penetration Testing Platforms that allow users a single source to complete their activities. Some of the most common features are:

  • An Exploit Framework is the basis of any Penetration Testing Platform which utilizes an Exploit Database, a database that publishes known exploits, that can perform attacks on various systems for the purposes briefly stated above.
  • Brute Force Tools a “last resort” tool, due that high probability of detection that performs continuous trial & error attempts to compromise credentials.
  • Phishing Simulation or Phishing Campaigns is also a very useful tool to compromise credentials or deliver malware to unsuspecting users.

Penetration Testing is usually a very time-consuming exercise that requires very specialized skills that can prove to be a high expense to organizations. For that reason, organizations usually outsource this exercise and only perform it on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. However, stretching out the testing over this period invariably exposes the organization to risks due to the long intervals between tests.
Automated Attack Simulation or platforms that can perform Exploit Automation are solutions that have been growing in popularity recently since an organization can maintain in-house testers that can perform ad-hoc testing and vulnerability validation whenever required at low cost.

Penetration testing stages

  1. Planning and investigation
    Define the scope and goals of a test, including the systems to be referred and the testing methods to be adopted.
    Collecting intelligence (e.g., network and domain names, mail server) to better understand how a target operates and its potential vulnerabilities.
  2. Scanning
    Understand how the target application will respond to various intrusion attempts using:
    Static analysis – Inspecting an application’s code to estimate the way it behaves while running. These tools can scan the entirety of the code in a single pass.
    Dynamic analysis – Inspecting an application’s code in a running state. This is a more practical way of scanning, as it provides a real-time view into an application’s performance.
  3. Gaining Access
    Use web application attacks, such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection and backdoors, to expose a target’s vulnerabilities. Testers can then try and exploit these vulnerabilities, usually by escalating privileges, stealing data, intercepting traffic, etc., to understand the damage they can cause.
  4. Maintaining access
    The vulnerabilities found then can be used to achieve a persistent presence in the exploited system— long enough for a bad actor to gain in-depth access. The idea is to mimic advanced persistent threats, which often linger in a system for months to steal an organization’s most sensitive information.
  5. Analysis
    The results of the penetration test are then compiled into a report detailing:
    • Specific vulnerabilities that were exploited
    • Sensitive data that was accessed
    • The amount of time the pen tester was able to remain in the system undetected

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