Penetration Testing Toolkit & Tools Web Applications

Penetration testing is a process designed to identify vulnerabilities in your system and provide remediation guidance. It’s important that you understand the steps required for penetration testing, as well as what needs to be done after the report has been delivered.

Penetration tests use social engineering, network scanning, and other techniques. The goal is to identify holes in your systems so they can be patched before malicious attackers find and exploit them. Penetration tests may not always reveal everything about a company’s cybersecurity posture, but they will help raise awareness of potential threats.

Let’s try to understand the pen test in detail with this step-by-step guide.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing is a method used to check the security of computer systems, web applications, or networks. Penetration testing is performed by talented and skilled IT security experts or security professionals to determine if a system can be compromised or gain access by an unauthorized user or hacker.

Penetration Testing is also called pen testing. Penetration testing usually focuses on finding system or security vulnerabilities before they are exploited into real attacks by hackers.

If you watch the latest pen testing news, you’ll see many cases where hackers have exploited areas and systems, providing unauthorized access to sensitive data like financial records, customer information, or intellectual property.

Why Penetration Test Required?

Pen testing can be performed for one of the following reasons: To identify vulnerabilities within your security infrastructure and recommend how to fix them.

It can also be performed administratively if the IT organization wants to ensure its infrastructure is adequately secured and protected against malicious attacks.

In many cases, pen testing may be required by business insurers or regulatory compliance bodies for legal liability reasons. This is especially true if the company does not update its information security policies.

Also, there are a number of reasons, like:

  • To ensure the integrity and security of a network and information systems.
  • To verify compliance with various standards applicable to the organization.
  • To detect persons, devices, or activities accessing systems without authorization and alert the system owners.
  • To define a security testing strategy for an organization.

How often do you conduct pen testing?

According to Industry Best Practices, most organizations conduct penetration testing at least once a year. The frequency of pen testing depends on the type of organization and its security requirements.

Tests can be conducted all year round as many new vulnerabilities that may not have been found in the older versions are discovered in newer software or operating systems.

If a cyber attack occurs, organizations may conduct pen testing after the incident to find out how vulnerable their network is.

Penetration testing can also be performed for various reasons: At the time of software, it identifies vulnerabilities in new versions of operating systems, devices, or software and fixes them before attackers exploit them. It’s important that organizations keep their security policies up-to-date. To test the effectiveness of new security controls and mitigate vulnerabilities that may be present in their network.

Different Phases of Penetration Testing

Different phases of pen testing can be conducted depending on the client’s requirements. The penetration test can be divided mostly into 5 phases, those are:

Planning Phase

The first and foremost phase of a penetration test is the planning phase. As you know, proper preparation and strategy are required before performing any action. Before starting this type of testing, IT security experts and network professionals should come together to design a test plan in coordination with other members of your organization.

The main goals of a penetration test are to identify and prioritize security vulnerabilities and strengthen the capacity of a network for a response during cyber attacks.

Secondly, it will help determine how vulnerable your network infrastructure is to malicious attacks by hackers.  It’s also essential to know what type of pen testing test plan will be carried out before conducting one. You should know what type of testing you need to get your desired result.

Discovery Phase

In this phase, we should collect the information required to perform penetration testing. Do these phases include gathering information about the nature of the business conducted by your organization, network infrastructure (i.e.)  number of servers in your company), and the number of devices connected to a network?

Also, you should gather information regarding the operating systems being used in your network and whether they are up-to-date or old. If an operating system is not updated, there are chances that it might contain a number of vulnerabilities that attackers could use to break into your network.

The Discovery phase also includes identifying the critical information, software, and network resources that should not be accessed from outside.  In this phase, you should also figure out if the remote employees have to access critical information via VPN.

Vulnerability Assessment Phase

It’s the phase used for finding your network’s vulnerabilities. The information collected in the discovery phase will be useful.

Exploitation Phase

In this phase, we should focus on what malicious attackers look for and how they exploit the vulnerabilities in a network.

Post Exploitation Phase

This phase is about ensuring you have taken care of your network post-exploitation. After exploiting its vulnerabilities, you should know if the attacker has left malware or any other infection in your system.

Reporting Phase

The main goal of this phase is to report the findings from all phases so that the organization can use them to strengthen its network infrastructure and document the pen testing report for future reference. This will help them know their current level of vulnerability and how malicious hackers have attacked them in case any incident occurs.

Who Conducts Penetration Testing?

Many different companies can be hired to perform a pen test. The actual providers will vary based on your location and the requirements of your organization.

Some penetration testing companies may only offer audits, while others may only provide vulnerability assessments or even full-blown penetration tests.

It’s important to educate yourself on what services are available and select a provider that can offer the full range of services.

Types of penetration tests

Different types of penetration testing can be used to get your desired result. You should know about each type and select the type that suits your needs. The following are the most common types of pen tests:

External Penetration Testing: External network security testing is the testing carried out at a network’s outer edge or boundary to validate its security. Also, the testing is designed to detect unauthorized access from outside and inside your network.

Internal Penetration Testing:  It’s a penetration test that is performed on internal network resources with the aim to discover vulnerabilities and weaknesses that are present on any internal systems like servers, workstations, databases, VPN, routers, switches, and even peripherals.

Mobile Penetration Testing:  Mobile penetration testing is a type of security testing performed on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It discovers vulnerabilities like spyware, malware, and password-protected apps.

What is the Penetration Testing Process?

Pen testing always starts with some planning phase. This may be as simple as mapping out your network or require more in-depth documentation, including documenting your network, systems, and processes.

The actual penetration testing process depends on the type of provider you are working with. Different providers have different methods of operation for their pen testing.

Some providers utilize automated tools to perform network vulnerability scans and then hand the results over to a human pen tester to work through a checklist or review reports of potential vulnerabilities that may exist on the network.

Other providers offer highly skilled humans who manually analyze and identify potential vulnerabilities in your environment through manual processes, technology-based assessment tools, and human analysis skills.

Usually, there’s a phase where remediation is performed once the provider has completed the penetration testing. This includes identifying new holes that have been uncovered, and they’re being closed out.

How Much Does a Pen Test Cost?

Prices for penetration testing vary widely depending on the scope of the work required to be performed and which provider is performing the assessment.

Typically, prices for pen tests start around $10,000 per day for smaller providers but can cost upwards of $50,000 per day for some of the larger providers.

Difference Between Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment

While they sound like similar concepts, there are a few significant differences between pen testing and vulnerability assessments that should be noted: A Pen Test is performed from an offensive perspective where the goal is to compromise systems and gain access to sensitive information or data.

An outside party performs a vulnerability assessment, and ultimately, they report the potential of the security infrastructure being compromised, not attempting to break in themselves.

Vulnerability assessments will always be cheaper than pen tests due to their nature. However, it is important to note that hiring a provider to perform only vulnerability assessments may not be enough if you hire a provider. A Vulnerability Assessment is just the first step in securing your infrastructure.

If a security hole is found during one of these tests and isn’t immediately closed out, it can easily lead to another potential security breach. Penetration testing should always be performed before or after the vulnerability assessment.

Can You Have a Pen Test Without Breaking Any Rules?

Technically no. To perform a pen test, you must have authorization from someone in your organization. This can be as simple as asking a technology professional to authorize an email giving permission for the testing, or it can be more complex depending on the organization’s location.

It’s important to note that if you have a CISO in your security environment, they are most likely responsible for authorizing the pen test. If this is not the case, it’s important to educate yourself on who has authority over pen testing and how to obtain their permission to conduct the test.

What Happens When a Vulnerability Is Found?

Once discovered and documented, the security provider will notify you of any new or existing vulnerabilities in your environment that have been found during their assessment. This step is very important as if left un-fixed, these vulnerabilities may further compromise your network and valuable data.

The provider will then provide a detailed report on all of the vulnerabilities they have found and potential ways to close holes where possible. They may also recommend additional testing or assessment be done depending on the findings listed in their report.

Penetration Testing Tools or Toolkit

There are a number of pen testing tools available on the internet that can be downloaded freely and help you find vulnerabilities easily without having any technical knowledge about them.

You can use some of the free tools for penetration testing, like:

Network Mapper (Nmap): A well-known tool scans your network and maps all connected devices to report your current bandwidth utilization. Also, it helps you determine which devices are running services known to have security issues. Nmap is installed on most operating systems, and it’s the first tool any ethical hacker will use when conducting a penetration test.

Aircrack: It is another free tool that can be used to perform various attacks on the wireless network. Aircrack-ng is useful in monitoring wireless networks and collecting information about the access points through which wireless networks are being hosted.

Kali Linux: It is one such very popular software considered an ultimate hacking toolkit. An attacker can use various tools with Kali Linux to perform attacks on computers and network systems.

Metasploit: A testing framework that helps develop and execute exploit codes for attackers to access the system.

Nessus: A network vulnerability scanner performs comprehensive scans of a computer or network to identify vulnerabilities in its security and firewall settings. Security experts also use it to verify whether the remote employees have proper permission to access critical data and information from outside.

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