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Penetration Testing 101

Magnifying glass searching for malware bugs.

Knowing an enterprise’s weaknesses is just as important as knowing its strengths. Penetration testing is the process of auditing a computer system, network or web application to uncover security vulnerabilities a hacker could exploit. The penetration testing process, which can be automated and/or manual, is a way to give enterprises valuable information on how to tighten their security measures.

Black Box Penetration Testing

In a black box penetration testing assignment, the tester is provided no internal knowledge of the target. Testers are given no architectural diagrams or source code that isn’t already publicly available. The downside of black box penetration testing : if the tester is unable to breach the system perimeter in question, any vulnerabilities remain undiscovered. However, since black box penetration tests rely on the tester’s ability to expose and exploit weaknesses in the enterprise’s outward-facing services, they are typically the quickest to run. Given the short time needed for black box penetration tests, they are perfect for enterprises that need a fast security check.

Gray Box Penetration Testing

Gray box penetration testing is the examination of a system from the perspective of a user within the company who has some elevated privileges on a system. Typically, gray-box penetration testers are given background knowledge of a network’s design and architecture and even an account on the internal network. Gray box penetration testing allows for a more focused test than one that is strictly black box. By having some knowledge of the internal systems, testers in gray box penetration tests are able to focus on the most vulnerable systems and don’t need to spend time finding information on their own. Gray box tests are the perfect way to simulate an attack from a hacker who may have had longer-term access and knowledge of the network.

White Box Penetration Testing

During white box penetration testing, testers are given complete access to source code, network design and architecture and more. In most cases, white box testing is the least efficient form of penetration testing, as testers are required to pore through massive amounts of information and data to identify the potential weak entry points. However, white box penetration testing, unlike gray and black box testing, allows testers to execute static and dynamic code audits. Although white box penetration testing provides an in-depth assessment of internal and external vulnerabilities, the close relationship between white box testers and developers may impact the tester’s behavior.

Alongside the different types of penetration testing methods mentioned above, enterprises can craft penetration testing plans that work for them to fully reveal system vulnerabilities. For example, a covert penetration testing study is a situation where almost no person within a company is aware that the test is occurring, which reveals system weaknesses in addition to vulnerable employees. Given that there are so many different routes enterprises can take in penetration testing, knowing which test is right can be difficult. RevBits penetration testing experts can help every enterprise select which type of test is best for them, execute a dual, automated and manual approach, provide a detailed vulnerability report and help patch every weakness.

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