There are many cases where organizations suffer incidents that could have been avoided if the protection mechanisms had been reinforced at the time. Incidents include events such as information leakage, unauthorized access, or data loss, among many others. The analysis of the protection mechanisms must be a proactive task allowing the pentester (person who carries out the audit) to find their vulnerabilities and provide a solution before a cybercriminal takes advantage of this weakness.
Why Is It Essential to Perform a Penetration Test?
These processes let companies save the money and time required to solve future problems due to the vulnerabilities within applications.
Pentest Steps Process:
The Penetration Testing Process begins long before a simulated attack. This will allow ethical hackers to study the system, explore its strengths and weaknesses, and identify the right strategies and tools to break into the system. The penetration testing process typically goes through five phases: Planning and reconnaissance, scanning, gaining system access, persistent access, and the final analysis/report.
1:- Pre-Engagement Interactions and Reconnaissance or Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Gathering
Pre-engagement interactions, also known as scoping, are an often overlooked step in penetration testing. A penetration testing organization will define the logistics of the test, expectations, legal consequences, and the customer’s objectives and goals during this pre-phase.
Penetration testers should engage with your company during the Pre-Engagement phase to fully understand any risks, your organizational culture, and the optimal pentesting strategy for your company. A white box, black box, or grey box penetration test may be appropriate. It’s at this point that you’ll start preparing and matching your goals with specific pentesting outcomes.
The gathering of reconnaissance, also known as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), is a critical first step in penetration testing. A pentester’s job is to obtain as much information as possible about your company and prospective exploit targets.
Depending on the type of pentest you agree on, the penetration tester may have varying degrees of information about your organization or may need to find essential information on their own to reveal vulnerabilities and access points in your environment.
The following are examples of common intelligence gathering techniques:
- Search engine queries
- Domain name searches/WHOIS lookups
- Social Engineering
- Tax Records
- Internet Footprinting – email addresses, usernames, social networks,
- Internal Footprinting –Ping sweeps, port scanning, reverse DNS, packet sniffing
- Dumpster Diving
For detecting open entry points and vulnerabilities within an organization, a pentester follows a detailed checklist. The OSINT Framework gives a wealth of information about open data sources.
2:- Threat Modeling& Vulnerability Identification
The tester discovers targets and maps attack paths during the threat modeling and vulnerability identification phase. During the penetration test, all information acquired during the reconnaissance phase is used to guide the manner of assault.
The most common areas a pentester will map and identify include:
- Business assets – identify and categorize high-value assets
- Employee data
- Customer data
- Technical data
- Threats – identify and categorize internal and external threats
- Internal threats – Management, employees, vendors, etc.
- External threats – Ports, Network Protocols, Web Applications, Network Traffic, etc.
A pentester will often use a vulnerability scanner to complete the discovery and inventory of the security risks posed by identified vulnerabilities. Then the pentester will validate if the vulnerability is exploitable. The list of vulnerabilities is shared at the end of the pentest exercise during the reporting phase.
3:- Gaining System Access
Having understood the system’s vulnerabilities, pen testers then infiltrate the infrastructure by exploiting security weaknesses. Next, they attempt to exploit the system further by escalating privileges to demonstrate how deep into the target environments they can go.
4:- Persistent Access
This pentest step identifies the potential impact of a vulnerability exploit by leveraging access privileges. Once they have a foothold in a system, penetration testers should maintain access and hold the simulated attack long enough to accomplish and replicate malicious hackers’ goals. Therefore, in this pentest phase, we try to obtain the maximum level of privileges, network information, and access to as many systems as possible by identifying which data and/or services are available to us.
This is the phase in which we have to demonstrate what this security breach could mean for the customer. Gaining access to an old computer that is not even part of the domain is not the same as gaining direct access to passwords or compromised data.
5:- Post-Exploitation, Risk Analysis & Reporting
After the exploitation phase is complete, the goal is to document the methods used to gain access to your organization’s valuable information. The penetration tester should be able to determine the value of the compromised systems and any value associated with the sensitive data captured.
Some pentesters are unable to quantify the impact of accessing data or are unable to provide recommendations on how to remediate the vulnerabilities within the environment. Make sure you ask to see a sanitized penetration testing report that clearly shows recommendations for fixing security holes and vulnerabilities.
Once the penetration testing recommendations are complete, the tester should clean up the environment, reconfigure any access he/she obtained to penetrate the environment, and prevent future unauthorized access into the system through whatever means necessary.
Typical cleanup activities include:
- Removing any executable, scripts, and temporary files from compromised systems
- Re configuring settings back to the original parameters before the pentest
- Eliminating any rootkits installed in the environment
- Removing any user accounts created to connect to the compromised system
Reporting is often regarded as the most critical aspect of a pentest. It’s where you will obtain written recommendations from the penetration testing company and have an opportunity to review the findings from the report with the ethical hacker(s).
The findings and detailed explanations from the report will offer you insights and opportunities to significantly improve your security posture. The report should show you exactly how entry points were discovered from the OSINT and Threat Modeling phase as well as how you can remediate the security issues found during the Exploitation phase.
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How Detox Can Assist?
Detox Technologies has experienced security specialists to swiftly and easily identify assets that are affected by the Spring4Shell vulnerability, remediate them, and track the issue.