What are the different types of security penetration testing?

by Brad Garland

Security penetration testing (also known as pen testing) is often mixed up with the concept of vulnerability scanning for a corporate network. To clarify, vulnerability scanning is simply when cybersecurity professionals assess digital infrastructure and systems to find points of potential access or vulnerability.

On the other hand, security penetration testing is the actual attempt to exploit those vulnerabilities or otherwise hack the network, simulating a malicious attack or other unauthorized access, discovering security issues that need to be fixed or defended against.

There are five main types of security penetration tests that target different elements of networks and data systems. 

Network Service Test

This testing method targets all areas of the company network, both internally and externally, to detect risk points and attempt to exploit existing vulnerabilities. This often includes testing firewalls, IPS masking, DNS attacks such as network parameter tests, zone transfer tests, and route-based testing, and software module assessment. Client/servers, network databases, email serves, and FTP testing is also a main part of this process. 

Wireless Network Test

If a company incorporates Wifi in any of its operations or has employees that use mobile devices on wireless networks, this is an essential test to make sure unauthorized access isn’t occurring through wireless sources or devices. This includes smartphones, tablets, laptops, and similar employee usage points. Wireless access points and protocols should be tested, and any customers who connect with the business through wireless access should be involved in the assessment. 

Client-Side Test

Client-side testing is done on local machines for the business, specifically checking on software being used that could be exploited by external hackers. Third-party software can pose numerous threats, as they introduce many known vulnerability points that the users may be unaware of. 

Social Engineering Test

Since people are noted as the weakest spot of any network defense system or workflow, it is essential to test the “human elements” of a company’s database protective measures. This usually involves attempting to trick employees into giving up confidential information or conducting a phishing campaign to try and fool them, despite training measures. It can also involve evaluating how employees handle sensitive physical materials and device usage in ways that might leave it susceptible to access and exploitation.

Web Application Test

Lastly, any web applications such as browsers or apps on a smartphone can be used as vulnerability points and must be tested as such. Web browsers can have background scripts that run without users even being aware of it, and apps that were previously deemed safe could become problematic due to updates that are automatically downloaded (requiring ongoing, evolving testing measures).

Once penetration testing is completed on a network, it’s then up to the company’s IT team to determine which issues must be addressed most immediately and how best to mitigate the risks the testing has exposed. As issues are fixed, testing can be cycled through again to ensure the solutions have been implemented properly and no longer pose any risk.

Vala Secure offers all manner of penetration testing for your company, helping you detect and deal with vulnerabilities before hackers and criminal elements get to them first and cause massive damage to your business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your data!