IT systems used in companies often store and process sensitive information, such as personal data and financial records. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to serious consequences such as identity theft, financial loss, and damage to your company’s reputation. Therefore, it should be necessary for each company to guarantee an appropriate level of security for the systems it uses.
Penetration testing is one of the best tools for quickly identifying critical vulnerabilities and remedying them. In this article, we will present their most important advantages, characterize their types, and help you assess which one will be best for your company.
What are penetration tests and what are the benefits of conducting them?
Penetration tests (pentests) are an attempt to break the security of the systems or elements of the IT infrastructure indicated by you.
Thanks to the tests carried out by an experienced, external team, you gain knowledge about the real level of protection of confidential data in your company.
What are the benefits of professionally conducted penetration testing?
Thanks to carefully planned penetration tests, an experienced software house is able to provide you with information not only about potential security errors resulting from incorrect configuration, defects in the source code, or technical vulnerability.
Professionally prepared and conducted tests also allow for the assessment of security procedures implemented in the company and the level of awareness of users and their susceptibility to social engineering attacks.
The most important benefits of conducting penetration testing include:
- independent assessment of the actual degree of security of IT systems in the company,
- identification of sensitive points of IT infrastructure, which are potential targets of an attack,
- measurement of the degree of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of systems for unauthorized persons,
- analysis of the real level of risk related to the revealed vulnerabilities and security gaps,
- recommendations on how to remove security vulnerabilities detected in systems,
- developing recommendations to minimize the risk of similar problems in the future.
Penetration testing is an important tool that will give your company insight into real security threats. Used as part of routine inspections, penetration testing can find vulnerabilities before a hacker does, so their value cannot be overstated.
How is penetration testing different from automated testing?
Penetration testing is mostly done manually, although testers also use automated scanning and testing tools. However, their activities go beyond what can be verified using automated tests, using their knowledge of the latest attack techniques to conduct a more in-depth analysis than is possible with the use of automation.
Key features of manual penetration testing:
- they allow you to detect vulnerabilities and weak points that are not on the most frequently used security lists (e.g. OWASP Top 10),
- they test aspects that may be overlooked by automatic tests (e.g. data validation, integrity check),
- can help identify false positives reported by automated tests,
- thanks to many years of experience, testers can analyze data to target attacks and test systems and websites in a way that automated (scripted) solutions cannot.
The most important features of automated tests:
- automated testing generates results faster and requires fewer specialized testers than manual penetration testing,
- testing tools automatically track results and export them to a centralized reporting platform at a predetermined frequency,
- manual penetration test results may vary from test to test, while running automated tests multiple times on the same system will produce the same results.
What types of penetration testing are available for your business?
One of the critical decisions that an experienced software house such as SOFTIQ should help you make is choosing the most optimal of the three scenarios for conducting penetration tests.
The most frequently mentioned types of penetration tests – referred to as “white-box”, “grey-box” and “black-box” differ primarily in the amount of information about the system being the target of the attack that the test team receives from the Client.
As a result, this affects, on the one hand, the level of complexity and time consumption of the selected type of test for the team implementing it, and on the other hand, the degree to which the test simulates the real course of a potential attack.
If you want to find potential threats and ensure the security of systems in your company, make an appointment with our expert. We will help you assess the risk and choose the appropriate penetration test variant.
What are the different penetration test scenarios?
1. “White-box” variant
- the team has full documentation of the tested solution provided by the client,
- this variant of the test simulates an attack by a person with access to the source code and project documentation, as well as full access to the system at any level of permissions,
- a penetration test in this form is accurate, usually takes less time, and costs less than other variants, but it does not reflect the most likely course of a hacking attempt.
2. “Grey-box” variant
- the team of testers has partial knowledge of the tested solution, provided by the client,
- the test simulates an attack carried out by a person with some knowledge of the system architecture,
- it is an intermediate variant, characterized by less realism, but cheaper and faster than the “black-box” test.
3. “Black-box” variant
- the team does not receive any information from the client about the tested system,
- the scenario reflects the most likely course of an intruder’s attack from the outside,
- testers start their work by collecting information about the company and the system that are publicly available, and then gradually use it to try to find gaps in the tested solution,
- is the most time-consuming variant of the penetration test, which translates into the cost of the service,
- a great advantage is the high degree of realism, unattainable with other test variants.
Bearing in mind the specificity of the company and the tested system, we advise our Clients on the selection of the most optimal variant of the penetration test for the company.
We also help to determine other key parameters of the test, such as the date of its execution (within or outside the company’s working hours), and also to decide whether or not to inform employees about the planned simulated attack (gaining the opportunity to check their real reaction to the threat).
What are the stages of conducting penetration tests?
What exactly happens during the security tests conducted by the SOFTIQ team? Let’s look at the four phases of the penetration testing process:
1. Planning – at this initial stage, we define, among other things, all the parameters of the test being carried out, so that it best meets the real needs of your company.
Together we assess and determine:
- what will be the scope of the system security assessment,
- which variant of the test will work best,
- whether the tests will be performed at the company’s headquarters or outside,
- what will be the duration of the test,
- whether some of the employees will be informed about the activities carried out.
2. Information Gathering – in this phase, testers collect and evaluate as much information as possible about the software and related systems. Depending on the scope of the test, they may seek publicly available information or use social engineering to obtain usernames and passwords.
3. Detection and Exploitation of Security Vulnerabilities – during this phase, the testing team uses the collected information to check security and exploit possible vulnerabilities. The goal is to mimic the actions of a potential hacker or malicious user. Testers attempt to gain unauthorized access to resources, functionality, and data.
4. Reporting – the effect of well-planned and conducted penetration tests is a large amount of information on the security level of systems in your company. Our clients receive a detailed report, including not only a list of vulnerabilities found by testers but also conclusions and recommended actions aimed at eliminating detected vulnerabilities to hacker attacks.
What are the costs of conducting penetration tests?
The cost of a penetration test may vary and be different for each Client, it largely depends on the scope and complexity of the company’s systems. The greater the number of physical assets and data, computer systems, applications/products, access points, physical office locations, providers, and networks, the more expensive a penetration test can be.
The final cost of testing may also be affected by:
- duration of the tests,
- experience level of selected testers,
- tools required to complete the tests,
- number of external testers involved.
To determine the exact scope of work, it is often advisable to access a demo version of the analyzed systems or provide some information about your IT environment. As a rule, the more questions the software house asks you at this stage, the better it bodes for the future – with too little data, there is a high risk that the offer you receive will not translate into high-quality work.
If you would like to find out the cost of professionally conducted penetration tests in your company, please contact our experts who will prepare an individual quote for you.
This post is also available in: Polski (Polish)