6 Different Types of Penetration Test

Companies carry out penetration testing as preventive security measures. So, what is penetration testing? A penetration test, sometimes called a pen test, involves launching a simulated attack on computer systems to search for exploitable system vulnerabilities or lapses.

The six different types of penetration tests are listed below.

  1. Social Engineering
  2. Web Application Testing
  3. Mobile Application Testing
  4. Wireless Penetration Testing
  5. Build and Configuration Review
  6. Internal/External Infrastructure Penetration Testing
Types of Penetration Test

1. Social Engineering

This type of pen testing is carried out to determine the level of compliance with security practices or rules of the employees of an organization. This aims to discover or verify an organization’s susceptibility to cyberattacks via social engineering techniques.

An image featuring social engineering concept

The methods employed in social engineering testing are information collection, target selection and engagement with the target. Social engineering tests are performed by first collecting information to become acquainted with the target.

This process can be done via direct engagement by impersonating someone the target knows or trusts, monitoring the target’s social media or collecting publicly available information on the target. Next, targets are carefully selected; less-aware employees are usually picked for the test. And finally, the targets are engaged, and pen testers carry out suitable attacks.

A social engineering pen test works by launching phishing attacks on the selected employees. These attacks could be BEC scams, whaling, pharming, angler phishing or spear phishing.

2. Web Application Testing

Developers employ web application testing to uncover website vulnerabilities, such as loopholes in codes or configurations that hackers can exploit. The methods employed in web application testing are functionality testing, usability testing, interface testing, compatibility testing, performance testing and security testing.

Web application testing is performed by first testing the functionalities of website features. All links, forms, cookies, CSS and HTML are tested to ensure correct functioning. Pen testers do usability testing by assessing website navigation and content, while interface testing is performed on web, application and database servers. Compatibility testing is done to ensure the website displays correctly across different browsers. Performance testing checks the website’s response time and speed under other loads and stress, and security testing ensures the constant denial of unauthorized access.

Web application testing works by ensuring all website features function correctly, smoothly and securely.

3. Mobile Application Testing

Mobile application testing evaluates the performance, functionality and usability of mobile applications on Android and iOS operating systems. The methods employed in mobile application testing are performance testing, functionality testing, usability testing, compatibility testing, interrupt testing, security testing and installation testing.

Ethical hackers first plan the mobile application testing process and then decide what type of test to perform. Next, manual and automatic test cases and scripts are tested to find bugs or flaws. The app is then tested for usability and subjected to beta tests to uncover any other issues.

The application’s performance is evaluated to discover any scalability weaknesses. And finally, there is a regression test on the main functionalities to ensure acceptable standards.

Mobile application testing works by identifying authorization, session handling, authentication and data leakage issues in Android and iOS applications.

4. Wireless Penetration Testing

This test is performed on Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN) and wireless protocols like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to ascertain vulnerabilities in encryption, access points and Wi-Fi protected access (WPA). Wireless penetration testing methods are scoping, survey, identification and analysis of weaknesses, exploitation of flaws and reporting.

An image featuring penetration testing mobile concept

Penetration testers first decide on a suitable strategy. After that, the testers gather information about the company’s wireless networks and use hacking software to find network vulnerabilities. Once identified, the vulnerabilities are safely exploited, and a report that details preventive or remediation techniques is created.

Wireless penetration testing identifies security risks associated with the wireless networks of an organization.

5. Build and Configuration Review

Build and configuration reviews analyze system builds and configurations to uncover misconfiguration across firewalls, servers and routers. The methods involved in this pen test type are data collection, configuration analysis and reporting.

Build and configuration reviews are executed by using manual methods and automated tools to collect information about network systems and configurations. Then, ethical hackers analyze and compare the collated data with the baseline settings. Finally, the testers make a detailed report that recommends appropriate remediation procedures to curb risks.

Build and configuration review works by discovering misconfigured networks to reduce or eliminate the risk of cyberattackers using such vulnerabilities.

6. Internal/External Infrastructure Penetration Testing

This penetration test examines internal network assets such as firewalls and routers or external network infrastructure, such as the cloud.

An image featuring a secure network infrastructure concept

Methods employed in this pen test are internal infrastructure pen testing and external infrastructure pen testing. Internal infrastructure pen testing is performed to have insight into the damage that could be caused if a cyberattacker gains access. This can be done by analyzing internal risks, like team members’ susceptibility to malicious attempts.

External infrastructure pen testing, on the other hand, evaluates the efficacy of perimeter security measures to recognize and avert malicious attempts and find flaws in internet assets like FTP (file transfer protocol) servers and emails.

This pen testing identifies and exploits internal and external networks to prevent future attacks.

What Is a Penetration Test?

A penetration test, otherwise called a pen test or ethical hack, is a process of executing simulated attacks on systems, networks or humans to find and exploit loopholes or vulnerabilities. The primary aim of penetration testing is to find out an organization’s security strengths, preparedness and response time in the case of an actual attack, security awareness of staff and much more. The report from a successful pen test is used to improve an organization’s security measures or policies.

What Is the Most Common Type of Pen Testing?

The most common type of pen testing is network pen testing. An organization’s network security is the most crucial security aspect. If the network is successfully hacked, about 90% of security restrictions will be bypassed by cyberattackers, leaving the compromised network entirely vulnerable. To prevent this, ethical hackers perform network penetration testing to emulate real hackers, find vulnerabilities in the networks and develop countermeasures to prevent hackers from exploiting those vulnerabilities.

What Should I Look For in a Pen Test?

During a pen test, vulnerabilities in networks, devices, configurations and hosts should be looked for. Loopholes in code, authentication, command injection, encryption and session management should also be sought. Doing this will help an organization protect against hackers’ exploitation of these features.

This is important:

Some factors to consider before launching a pen test include the size of the company, ethical hackers’ certifications and the reputation of the pen testing team. Other factors include the specialization of the team (which types of pen tests the team is good at) and if the pen test team or company has liability insurance.

Which Approaches Are Used in Penetration Testing?

There are three approaches used in penetration testing: black box testing, white box testing and gray box testing. The black box approach involves simulating an attack without prior knowledge of the organization. Contrarily, white box pen testers have all the information needed on an organization before launching an attack. Gray pen testing is between the previous two; the pen testers have little insight into how an organization’s security or network systems work.

Is Penetration Testing Important?

Yes, pen testing is essential. This procedure helps to identify system vulnerabilities before hackers. Pen tests evaluate an organization’s security strengths, boost the security infrastructure and improve security awareness amongst employees to ensure none are victim to malicious attempts.

What Are the Best Penetration Testing Tools?

Several penetration testing tools are available for different kinds of pen testing methods. Some of the best penetration testing tools are listed below.

  1. Powershell-Suite (Best Overall).
  2. BeEF (Best Open-source Tool).
  3. Metasploit (Most Used).

What Is the Difference Between Black Box and White Box Pen Testing?

In black box pen testing, the testers don’t have information about the organization before launching the emulated cyberattack. In contrast, white box pen testers have a complete understanding of how the organization works beforehand. The advantage of the black box vs. white box pen test is that this test maximizes actual attacks to help an organization evaluate the effectiveness and speed in detecting and stopping an unexpected attack. On the other hand, white box pen testing is a more comprehensive approach that gives detailed insight into security risks and helps to discover lapses that previous pen tests may have missed.

Emmanuel Ojodun Emmanuel Ojodun is a Nigerian writer with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He developed strong research skills during his undergraduate studies, which he found useful in writing on internet security. He describes his writing style as informative and engaging, and has scores of tech articles published under his name.
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