Understanding Penetration Testing – Protection through Attack

How does one measure the security of a cyber system?

To answer this question, let us take the example of drop tests.

If you watch videos about mobile phones on YouTube, you might have come across videos titles ‘drop tests’. In a drop test, people try to test the strength of a phone. They do this by dropping a phone from a given height under gravity. If the phone survives this test, it is said to be drop-proof. If not, its strength is naturally considered to be less so.

This experiment gives us an interesting insight into how the strength of something can be quantified. Only when subjected to some type of pressure or exertion can we truly know how strong something is. You might hold a phone in your hand and feel its strong and safe, but when it slips from your fingers and falls, you know it is being tested against the most extreme conditions. 

Cybersecurity systems are similar. Developers can say the system is foolproof and no one can break in. And yet, when a black hat hacker decides to test the limits of a system, there is a good chance of a breach taking place. 

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Penetration Testing to the Rescue

Penetration testing, as the name suggests, is a technique which involved subjecting a cyber system to a simulated cyber-attack with due permission in order to identify the vulnerabilities and weak points of a system. 

The techniques used to hack a system in penetration testing are the same as what a black hat hacker might use. The test doesn’t just stop at identifying weak points though. Ethical hackers performing penetration testing are expected to provide a clear picture of all the information a black hat hacker might have access to after exploiting the system through the vulnerabilities found. 

A typical security audit of any prominent digital system contains penetration testing. This is especially true for payment card industry which depends on regular penetration testing to iron out vulnerabilities which develop as black hat hackers grow more creative. 

Penetration Testing Stages

The stages of penetration testing can be divided into five different parts –

  1. Information Gathering – Studying a system through commonly available resources to get an overview of the system which is to be hacked
  2. Scanning – Understand the different parts of a cyber system. A good example is how hackers use Nmap to study networks
  3. Gaining Access – Hackers take control of a system by using the information gathered in information gathering and scanning. 
  4. Maintaining access – Retaining access to the system in order to check how much data and information can be stolen until the cyber system alerts itself to a breach and expels the insurgent
  5. Erasing Presence – Removing traces of the intrusion to check if the system can really be exploited and left without a scratch.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, this article covers the basics of penetration testing and its importance in the current state of cybersecurity. If you wish to take up an ethical hacking course in Delhi, consider my own program designed to help students from all walks of life, students, professionals, and even entrepreneurs. 

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