In order to be certain your IT environment is secure and will remain so, you have to look at an IT environment through the eyes of a hacker. You should test your applications, network - your entire IT environment - for exploits possibly already known to hackers. These exploits are vulnerabilities in IT systems that hackers use to access an IT environment. If these vulnerabilities are unknown to the manufacturers of IT systems, but they are known to the hacking community, the vulnerabilities are called Zero Day Exploits. In case you didn’t know: it is illegal to consciously withhold knowledge of such vulnerabilities.
Penetration testing is a good way to find out which exploits a system is vulnerable to. In a penetration test, you try to access a computer system without using valid login information such as a user name and password. The goal is to search for confidential information anywhere in the system. If successful, there are clearly leaks in the security setup which must be resolved.
The Penetration Test
You start by collecting as much relevant information as possible. What is the OS? Which software versions, patches, web servers, IP addresses, server names, etc., are included in the network? All of the information is collected. Next, you compare the results of your research with known exploits and weaknesses, and start to look for potential entry points.
It is essential to create a detailed test report during penetration testing, because if a leak is discovered, you want to be able to walk through every step you took so that you can determine precisely where the leak is and whether it has been put to use. Generally speaking, the method used for a penetration test should be identical to the method a hacker would use. The only difference between a hacker and a penetration tester is that the tester was given permission by a company to penetrate its system. Such a test takes quite a bit of time. A real hacker might pay more attention to accessing the system without being noticed, but also leaves as soon as the goal is achieved. But during a penetration test, the point is to keep looking for the next vulnerability.
Various Goals for a Penetration Test
Penetration tests can be performed for reasons other than searching for and resolving leaks. The results of these tests are also used to train IT networking staff and IT security staff. Penetration tests are also used to test the security of new IT solutions such as cell phone apps and new wireless networks.