In today’s digital world, huge parts of our lives and businesses are conducted online and through our digital devices. Think about, almost everyone now has a smartphone (at the very least) and usually several other devices such as tablets, laptops and desktops. As such, strong security practises have become absolutely crucialfor looking after your personal information. Particularly in the wake of GDPR which can see businesses facing huge fines as a result of a data breach.
One great way to ensure the security of your devices and information is by regularly checking and updating your systems – and penetration testing (pen testing) can be the ideal way to do this. In this guide, we’re going to look specifically at how penetration testing can highlight any weaknesses within your systems, looking in detail at the different types of testing you should consider.
What is penetration testing and why is it important?
A penetration test is designed to make you think like a hacker, so you can beat the hacker. It is a planned attack on your own software or hardware which should expose any flaws or vulnerabilities in your security and your systems. The idea behind this is to show you any areas that you need to improve on if you hope to fend off hackers and cybercriminals who could exploit these.
The different types of penetration testing
There are several different types of penetration tests you can run in order to do this and we’re going to look at five of the most popular and effective ones in more detail below.
1. Social engineering penetration testing
This is a type of social experiment in which you try to persuade or trick employees (or other individuals who have access to your information) into sharing sensitive information with you. Armed with this information hackers may be able to easily enter or break into your systems and gain access to your files or sensitive data.
Now, it’s worth noting that these individuals may be sharing this sensitive information by accident or without realising what they’re doing – it’s not always a malicious action. That said, human error is one of the biggest causes of data breaches and therefore this can be an important part of testing your security.
There are several techniques you can use to do this. For example, phishing emails are a popular way cybercriminals gather information. Similarly, scammers often use fake phone calls to impersonate trusted people or bodies. This technique is used to trick people out of sharing important information such as their email, password or bank details.
The biggest benefit of this type of testing is that it gives you valuable insights into how easy your employees or other third-parties might give away your information. This way you can educate them further letting them know where they went wrong and making them more alert in the future.
2. Network penetration testing
This is one of the most common types of pen testing and is designed to identify any vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure. As the network infrastructure is vast and complex, there are a number of areas that these tests tend to target. These include firewall testing, IPS deception, DNS level attacks and identifying any internet-facing critical assets that could be exploited by hackers and cybercriminals.
As part of the process, pen testers will use port and vulnerability scanners to scan your network for any technical vulnerabilities. Failure to patch any weaknesses that are flagged during a network pen test could leave your devices open to attacks or breaches.
3. Wireless penetration testing
We use wireless connections a lot in our daily lives, in particular for connecting to the internet. While wireless technology has made our lives much easier, it does also come with a range of security risks and vulnerabilities. Often, hackers and cybercriminals will try to utilise or manipulate wireless connections to gain access to your systems.
A wireless penetration test is about checking the security of every wireless device you own and use. So if you have lots of these devices within your business, this can take a bit longer. This test can be a very targeted approach and includes checking the security of devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and other smart devices such as speakers.
The testing involves finding any encryption weaknesses from these devices (such as session hijacking), highlighting any ways in which a hacker could penetrate your systems through wireless connections and finding any vulnerabilities within access points or admin credentials (such as weak passwords).
4. Web application penetration testing
With the increase in security threats from web applications on the rise, it’s important to run tests on applications and related aspects such as plugins and browsers. These all fall under the title of web application pen testing. This type of test inspects the end points of every web application that you as a user might interact with on a regular basis. This can be a very targeted process, giving you more detailed results when highlighting any potential threats and vulnerabilities.
There are a number of tools available that you can use specifically for web application testing but if in doubt, you can hire professional service providers to do this for you. They can even create their own testing methodology to make it more targeted.
5. Client-side penetration tests
The last test is client-side penetration testing. These tests are conducted to highlight any security risks that emerge locally. This means any vulnerabilities or flaws that might appear in a particular software, application, plugin or browser installed on your device. Hackers can easily exploit any gaps or flaws within these and they can therefore pose a big threat to your digital security.
These vulnerabilities can come from even the most popular programs, for example, Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Office, Adobeor media players. So it pays to check them all out via a client-side testing. Any tools or software you have developed yourself must also be put to the test as these can have bugs or flaws that can leave you vulnerable.