October 28, 2022

An Introduction to Penetration Testing: Part I

The growth in the I.T. Industry is one that cannot be denied, as we have explored before in previous blog posts cyber security in particular has been and continues to be a booming industry. But did you know that there are many different avenues within cyber security? 

If you’re set on a cyber security career we are sure you’ve seen positions for a Penetration Tester or an Ethical Hacker, but you may not be aware of exactly what they are, what you’re required to do or even the skills needed.

In this two part blog series, Newto are here to explain one of the most in-demand and exciting areas of cyber security: Penetration Testing!

An Overview

Penetration testing, also known as a pen test or ethical hacking, is a simulated cyber attack carried out by a company on its own computer system in order to assess its vulnerability to outside threats. White hat testers, so named for their ethical hacking practices as opposed to the illegal activities of black hat hackers, attempt to penetrate a system through a variety of methods, including Social Engineering (e.g., phishing emails), SQL injection (manipulating database code), and network sniffing (monitoring network traffic). The goal of penetration testing is not to damage or destroy data, but rather to identify potential security weaknesses so that they can be fixed before an actual attack occurs. In today’s increasingly connected world, penetration testing is an essential part of keeping computer systems secure.

The speed of information sharing increased dramatically with the invention of computers and the internet. This created new opportunities for criminals to access sensitive information, and the challenge of keeping data secure became more pressing. In recent years, the frequency and severity of cyber attacks has increased, as hackers have become more sophisticated. Today, an estimated 640 terabytes of data is transferred around the world every minute, presenting a rich target for thieves. To protect this vast store of information, businesses and individuals must remain vigilant, investing in strong security measures and continuously updating their defences. Only by staying one step ahead of the hackers can we hope to keep our data safe.

The key to resisting their efforts is to conduct thorough penetration tests throughout the year. By using this method to perform security testing on a network system you will be able to identify any potential vulnerabilities.

What is Penetration Testing?

Without doubt this is one of the first things you want to know. Penetration Testing is testing a computer system, network, or web application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could misuse.

Vulnerabilities could occur due to a variety of reasons:

  • Defects in the design of the hardware and software
  • An unsecured network usage
  • Complications within the computer systems architecture
  • Probable human errors

Why Penetration Testing:

Penetration testing normally estimates a system’s ability to protect its networks from external or internal threats. So, it really is essential in every sector for reasons such as:

  • Financial sectors want and need their data to be secured, so penetration testing is required to ensure security
  • Active Penetration Testing is the best safeguard against hackers
  • It helps in avoiding black hat attacks to protect the original data
  • It can measure the magnitude of the attack
  • Penetration testing helps to find loopholes and vulnerabilities in the system where an intruder can attack to gain access to the data

Penetration Testing: Step by Step:

When carrying out the tasks of a Penetration Tester, the following steps need to be taken: 

Step 1 – Planning Phase

  • The strategy of the assignment is determined
  • Existing security policies are used for implementing new strategies. 

Step 2 – Discovery Phase

  • The phases are all about collecting the information about a system like data, username, passwords. This is called “Fingerprinting”
  • Scan and inquiry about the various ports
  • Check system vulnerabilities

Step 3 – Attack Phase

  • Finding all the vulnerabilities in the system and exploiting them with necessary security measures

Step 4 –  Reporting Phase

  • Detailed findings of vulnerabilities and other loopholes
  • Provide a risk rating to the business due to those vulnerabilities and any other loopholes
  • Putting together a list of recommendations and solutions for identified vulnerabilities and other loopholes

We hope that this blog gives you a good introductory understanding of just what penetration testing is. In Part Two of this blog series we will explore: the different types of penetration testing, the tools required for penetration testing, when you should perform it and its benefits as well as the career path and salaries.

If you want to find out more before that, please reach out to the team at Newto and we can discuss our Cyber Security training programme with you.

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