What is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing or pen-test is a method of evaluating the security of a computer system or network by simulating an attack from a malicious source. Penetration testing is also known as ethical hacking, pen test, or white-hat hacking. It is similar to vulnerability testing but more focused on penetration – gaining access to areas within the network that would not usually be possible even with unlimited time and resources.
The objective of this test is to identify every potential avenue of compromise and determine how each one could be utilised to gain unauthorised access into your company’s sensitive data and systems. During this process, we will simulate all types of attacks and use any and all steps and methods that would be applicable in breaking through the security of your system(s). We can’t list them all as there are far too many, but some common types of attacks are include the following:
- Social engineering
- Physical security penetration
- Buffer overflows, SQL injection
- Malicious software, malware, backdoors, Trojans, etc
…and many more!
The process for conducting a Penetration Test is very similar to that of Vulnerability Testing, except penetration tests are designed to gain access (penetrating) to any systems on the network, such as servers and workstations. This includes services such as FTP, SMTP, HTTP, etc., along with database services such as MSSQL and MySQL. As each test is unique, we would only be able to give more detail once we have had an opportunity to discuss requirements with you to tailor our approach and testing techniques specifically for your needs.
Why Conduct Penetration Tests?
Businesses need to conduct penetration tests at least twice a year or when there are significant modifications to their networks because they present numerous benefits to network security and the organisation at large. Again, threats are constantly evolving, and technology is advancing; it becomes increasingly harder to protect networks from outside threats.
So, what are the benefits of penetration testing services?
- The main purpose of penetration tests is to identify vulnerabilities in a system that a malicious hacker can exploit.
- The secondary purpose is to provide information that may be used to strengthen the organisation’s security posture as a whole.
- They also test the effectiveness of company countermeasures and measures taken to reduce risk.
- By performing these tests before a cyber-attack occurs, companies can use their knowledge to adjust their policies and procedures accordingly.
- Penetration testing can also help companies determine if their staff has been adequately trained in cyber security and how confident they feel about defending against an attack.
- Ensure compliance with the regulatory and certification requirements, thus avoiding any penalties. If a good enough reason cannot be given as to why a business has not had a penetration test, then fines can be issued under requirements of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which requires that any organisation that processes personal information must have appropriate security measures in place.
- Secure sensitive company and clientele data.
- Protect the image of your brand.
- Prevent downtime and losses associated with hacks.
How Pen Testing Contributes to Overall Cyber Security Strategy
Digital transformation has impacted how companies operate. The digital space is an ever-evolving landscape, and with new developments, the security risks also increase. Further, business growth calls for the expansion of the IT network. And, to remain on top of your organisation’s cybersecurity requirements, you need to undertake a proactive strategy.
Pen testing enables you to remain abreast with the new ways in which malicious intruders can attack your systems. Thus, you can guarantee both client and organisation data security, and you have a greater scope on your network infrastructure. Penetration testing also provides detailed reporting, which helps in decision-making when allocating resources.
Common Security Vulnerabilities
Some vulnerabilities could be specific to an organisation, email but there are several common security vulnerabilities.
- Unpatched or outdated software
- Weak passwords and access credentials
- Network misconfigurations, such as unsecured wireless connections and default administrative passwords
- Insecure web applications and servers
- Poorly configured firewalls and routers
- Remote access to the company network over an insecure connection (email,)
- Vulnerable network ports that are not closed to outside traffic
- Outdated antivirus programs with outdated signatures )
- Denial-of-service attack
- SQL injection attack
- Session hijacking constantly evolve
- Buffer overflow
- Cross-site scripting
- Operating system attacks
Types of Penetration Testing
External Network Penetration Test
An External Network Penetration Test aims at identifying vulnerabilities related to the public-facing systems of your organisation’s online presence(website, web application, email server, etc.). Not only does a penetration test show you how a hacker could potentially access your network externally, but it also provides proof that vulnerabilities exist and explanations on the impact they have/could potentially have.
In order to undergo an External Network Penetration Test, at least one of three components must be present.
- An internet-facing system such as a public website or web application which can be directly accessed from the world wide web.
- Wireless access into your organisation’s network from a location outside its facilities, either through physical access or Wi-Fi signals originating from within.
- The organisation’s higher-level network is fully accessible from the internet without any type of firewall blocking access to specific systems (i.e. VPN, 3G/4G Cellular Data Connection, etc.).
Internal Network Penetration Test
An internal network penetration test is a cybersecurity test on an organisation’s internal network. The goal of this type of penetration test is to identify security vulnerabilities on the company’s internal systems and evaluate how easily a malicious actor can exploit them from within the organisation.
Depending on the scope of the test, the pen testers will gain access to the systems in your organisation like an employee and then try to access sensitive data, attempt to gain control of higher level employee authorisations or even access to cloud infrastructure. However, a white-hat hacker will typically be given login information for all necessary employees by a company before starting their work in order to avoid any potential security risks while testing an organisation’s networks.
Social Engineering Penetration Testing
This is the practice of testing your organisation’s communication security through controlled deception. It’s an evaluation of how vulnerable you are to a social engineering attack (“social” being the operative word). The goal of a pen test is to find out what information a social engineer could extract from your employees and computers in order to gain access to secure areas.
A good penetration tester will emulate the methods used by real-life hackers and provide recommendations on ways that your company can improve its defences against them. A common part of many penetration tests involves social engineering attacks, which include using real-world techniques to get employees to disclose passwords or other sensitive information about themselves or their companies.
Wireless Penetration Tests
A wireless penetration test, or wireless security assessment, is a method of evaluating the security of your company’s wireless network. The hacker can get onto your corporate network through public Wi-Fi access points and often without ever touching the corporate LAN (local area network). The only thing that stands between them and complete access to company resources is your WLAN (wireless local area network) strength and the passwords and encryption keys required to log in. If you use weak passwords—or none at all—and fail to protect employees’ laptops with full disk encryption, this may be all it takes for a hacker to gain unauthorised access.
Web Application Penetration Testing
A web application penetration test analyses the security of a web application, including:
- The security posture of a web application.
- Vulnerabilities within a website before an attacker can exploit them.
- Threats to authentication, session management and business logic as well as data validation and error handling.
- A wide range of attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), local file inclusion and many more.
- Custom application security testing for new software or the modification of an existing system to meet project requirements.
Mobile Application Penetration Testing
Mobile application penetration tests simulate attacks on mobile applications run on iOS and Android operating systems with the aim of identifying risks posed by improper storage of sensitive data or username manipulation.
Remote Working Assessment Test
With more organisations embracing working remotely, a remote working assessment penetration test helps to identify areas of vulnerabilities in your network. The testing reveals how hackers can access data through various devices and weaknesses in system protocols.
Penetration Testing Process
Our penetration testing service process follows a systematic method.
1. Identify the scope of engagement and conduct an extensive reconnaissance.
The reconnaissance phase is where an attacker gathers information about a target system in order to decide how best to exploit it later on. What information should be gathered? That obviously depends on what kind of vulnerability you’re looking for (whether it’s an authentication or configuration problem) but also on what kind of penetration test/audit you are performing
The scanning phase consists of finding out what vulnerabilities the target system has. This is done by using tools such as Nessus, Nexpose, snmpcheck, hydra, Metasploit (to name a few) or even manually if you want to get really technical about it. There are countless web application scanning tools available, and knowing which one to use will depend on your needs. Most testers will conduct a static or dynamic analysis. In case there was an upgrade in the system, the scan will also look for old security patches that a hacker could exploit.
This stage involves accessing the system using the weaknesses identified in the scanning stage. Once the tester identifies entry points, they exploit these vulnerabilities by using techniques like SQL map, Metasploit, SQL injection etc.
This is where you actually perform the attack. The important part about this phase is not just finding a vulnerability but also knowing how to use it – if you do manage to find an exploit for your target, then chances are it won’t work the first time around. That’s why having a debugger is very useful; sometimes, the best way to learn how to use an exploit properly is by trying it out with a debugger attached so that you can see what variables must be changed before the desired results take place.
4. Maintaining access
The tester will try and discover the extent to which hackers can exploit the identified weakness. The tester acts as a persistent attacker trying to access privileged areas of the network.
Once you’ve successfully gained access, this phase will consist of maintaining that access for as long as possible without being detected.
One example of this technique would be using worms, which are pretty much malware that spreads across an entire network without any user interaction required. They can help increase your attack surface by automatically finding new vulnerabilities in other systems, all the while hiding the fact that it’s an attack.
5.Covering Tracks Phase:
This phase requires proficiency in removing all evidence of your activities for good – if you don’t, then all your hard work could be in vain. Generally, this is done by deleting logs, removing or disabling security software, and hiding files/folders to not be found.
6.Analysis and reporting
During this stage, the tester provides a comprehensive report on their findings and recommendations for corrective actions to mitigate identified vulnerabilities. The penetration testing team documents all found vulnerabilities along with information regarding how it was discovered. Additionally, general system and application information is documented, like operating systems used, web server versions, etc., and problems or abnormalities cannot be explained by the penetration testers themselves.
Why Choose CloudTech24?
Experienced and Certified Penetration Testers
When it comes to cyber security, it’s always helpful to have a team of people who are well versed in the domain. Their experience not only helps reduce overall costs but ensures that there is no room for error. Our team of CREST certified experts is well-versed with the accepted penetration testing methodology. The pen testing will be in accordance with PCI DSS, CREST, and ISO 27001 regulations and standards. Further, the team has enough skill and remains up to date with current hacking methods that hackers could use to gain access to your security controls.
At CloudTech24, we work with SMEs, so we know your cybersecurity needs from other organisations. That’s why we tailor our pen testing packages to fit your needs and budget. The penetration testing service package that you select will reflect the actual needs of your organisation.
Integration With Your IT Support Needs
CloudTech24 provides an array of IT support needs, so you don’t have to deal with different service providers while catering to your IT security health. We are a one-stop shop for all your IT support needs. Having a penetration testing service provider that provides related services gives you better control over your overall IT strategy.
Reliable and Speedy Service Delivery
Our reliability has positioned us as a leading IT support provider in London, Sussex, and across the UK. We ensure an environment of open communication with our customers throughout the service delivery period. Our friendly and professional support team is easily accessible for any inquiries at any stage of the process.
Get in touch today for penetration testing services
Whether you are a small business looking to strengthen your security against hackers or a large company with multiple resources to defend, CloudTech24 penetration testing services are for you. Penetration testing is the only way to identify vulnerabilities in your system and cure them before being exploited by unwelcome users.
Our team of experienced professionals will make every effort to exploit your systems using pre-defined techniques as well as custom ones developed specifically for your system during the process. We help provide comprehensive analysis on how best to minimise risks moving forward with detailed reports about all possible flaws identified. So, get in touch with us, and our friendly support team will guide you on how to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Penetration Testing Services
HOW MUCH DOES A PENETRATION TEST COST?
Pen testing services charges differ depending on variables like complexity, methodology, penetration testers’ experience, remediation, and whether the testing needs to be onsite. On average, the prices range from about £1,000-£40,000, depending on the scope. Pen testers offer different packages so every business can find a suitable package that fits their needs and budget.
HOW LONG DOES PENETRATION SECURITY TESTING TAKE?
A security penetration test is a dynamic and complex testing environment. Because of this, it is impossible to answer as each procedure can vary significantly in size and time required to complete successfully. It’s hard to have an accurate number for how long a penetration test will take as too many variables are involved.
However, for example, in a medium-size company with 12 business units and about 3000 employees-A, typical engagement of this size will take about 4-6 weeks total. That’s where the 3-4 week range comes from in many security companies’ “standard” penetration testing engagements. It includes the time that it takes to plan (2-3 weeks), execute (1 week), and report (1-2 weeks)
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PEN TEST & VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT?
A vulnerability assessment is done with automated tools to find vulnerabilities on a computer system, while security professionals do penetration testing manually.
Pen tests are more extensive than vulnerability assessments. Penetration testing is designed to simulate what an actual attack would look like. In contrast, a vulnerability assessment is not as comprehensive and only indicates where vulnerabilities exist or might exist rather than actually exploiting them or attempting to access/exploit network resources.
While both are useful tools in pinpointing security vulnerabilities, a pen test is more detailed and can identify flaws like network configurations, password encryption. You get more accurate information, and retesting is done after remediation. Pen tests are done by an external team of ethical hackers who conduct a range of penetration testing services and have a vast knowledge of web application security, remote access attacks, operating systems, and they simulate attacks from the perspective of an insider and an external party. Vulnerability scans are conducted frequently and give an insight into the network security, but a pen test is more thorough.
IS IT LEGAL TO DO PENETRATION TESTING?
In the UK, several laws provide guidelines for pen-testing. Before testing, the client fills in a consent form that states the exact scope of the testing, duration, names of people giving consent, and exemption of items in the systems not included in the security testing like certain servers. The penetration test should also be within the data handling procedures agreed upon by the company doing the testing and their clients.
WHAT ACCREDITATIONS & CERTIFICATIONS SHOULD A PENETRATION TESTING PROVIDER HAVE?
With increased penetration testing, service providers, accreditations and certifications give you assurance while choosing your provider. CREST (The Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers) is the most widely recognised accreditation in the information security sector. There are three levels; practitioner registered and certified. CREST certifications provide uniform guidelines on methodology and performance.
The International Standards Organisation (ISO) also has ISO 27001 as the certification for information security handlers. ISO 27001 puts sensitive data under the control of senior management and provides a standard way of handling information security, thus providing assurance to customers.
Before accepting the services of a pen tester, many organisations, especially in the public sector, require the service provider to be CREST certified. The ISO 270001 is also becoming a requirement in many cyber security jobs.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD PEN TESTING BE CARRIED OUT?
The frequency of your tests will depend on several factors, including the size of your business, the sensitivity of your data and any changes you make to your overall security strategy. A good starting point is perhaps once every few months for smaller businesses with limited liability or less sensitive information. Larger organisations are more likely to see benefits from carrying out pen testing on a quarterly basis, at least, especially if they implement significant new systems or applications regularly and make changes to their network infrastructure. Remember that you do not need to wait for an annual review to carry out a penetration test. If you feel that there may be a security flaw in your organisation or network at any time, it is always better to address this sooner rather than later.
WHO NEEDS PENETRATION TESTING?
If your company or organisation uses any IT infrastructure to conduct business operations, then you’re susceptible to cyber attacks and thus should have pen tests. More businesses embracing remote working staff now access sensitive company data from multiple devices, increasing cyber security vulnerability. So, businesses ranging from hospitals, financial institutions, ecommerce platforms to retailers in various industries could all benefit from penetration testing services.