What Are the Penetration Testing Services and How Does It Work?

What Are the Penetration Testing Services and How Does It Work?

Penetration testing goes beyond simply preventing criminals from gaining unauthorized access to a company's systems. It creates real-world scenarios that show companies how their current defenses would perform when faced with a large-scale cyberattack.

Hacking a company's security protections used to take a lot of time and skill. However, today's technological advances make it easier than ever for bad guys to find an organization's most vulnerable spots. 

The purpose of penetration testing is to help companies discover where they are most likely to face an attack and to proactively reinforce those weaknesses before exploitation by hackers.

Know today what penetration testing is, how it works, what is analyzed, and also what is the difference from vulnerability analysis.

What are penetration testing services?

Penetration testing (pen testing) is a method that tests, measures, and improves the security measures of organizations' networks and systems, implementing the same tactics and techniques that a hacker would use. 

They can use access through the network: fiber optic, Centurylink internet, or DSL.

Penetration testing allows organizations to test their IT systems, networks, and web applications for potential security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker. 

Penetration testers need to gather information about the system they test, identify potential entry points, and simulate an attack to understand organizations' vulnerability to threats such as malware and ransomware.

The Pen Test aims to discover and report weaknesses in an organization's security posture. 

It tests security policies, data compliance, and privacy regulatory requirements, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the ability of the organization and its employees to discover and respond. to incidents.

Types of penetration testing

There are three methods of managing penetration tests that simulate cyber attacks.

  • Black box: Simulates a hack attempt that comes from outside an organization. The test starts with the pen tester not receiving any information about the organization's networks or systems.

  • Gray Box: Focuses on high-value areas of a network. They can often simulate a situation where an attacker has penetrated an organization's perimeter and has some level of access to its internal network.

  • White box: Replicates a hacking attempt that comes from within the organization. He sees pen testers pretending to be a malicious insider who knows how the organization's systems are set up.

Penetration testing tools

For the penetration test to be carried out, the existence of some tools is essential. Know what they are.

Recognition Tools

Penetration testing starts with reconnaissance tools, which collect information about the targeted application or network. Reconnaissance tools include port scanners, web service scanners, and network vulnerability scanners.

Vulnerability scanners

Vulnerability scanners help pen testers identify applications with known vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. They can be used to help a pen tester select a vulnerability to initially exploit.

Proxy tools

Web proxy tools allow pen testers to modify and intercept traffic between their browser and the organization's web server. This allows them to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in an application through techniques such as XSS and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).

Exploration tools

Exploitation tools are used to attack an organization in a pen test. They include software that can produce brute force attacks or SQL injections, social engineering techniques, and hardware designed specifically for pen testing, such as boxes that plug into a device and provide remote access to networks.

Post-exploitation tools

Upon completion of a test, the pen-tester uses post-exploration tools to cover its tracks. This includes removing the onboard hardware and taking steps to avoid detection, leaving the system as it found it.

Penetration test phases

The pen test is a 5-phase process:

1. Recognition

The first step is to define and plan the test scope and goals. This includes the systems that need to be resolved and the pen test methods that need to be used. 

Pen testers gather information about the organization's network to better understand how it works and its potential vulnerabilities.

2. Scanning

With the planning stage complete, the pen tester needs to analyze the application it is testing to understand how it will respond to intrusion attempts. 

They do this through static analysis, which inspects the application's code to estimate how it will behave during execution, and dynamic analysis, which inspects the code in real-time or in a running state.

3. Gaining access

The pen tester will then use web-based attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and Structured Query Language (SQLi) injection to discover and exploit vulnerabilities. 

This involves escalating your privileges, intercepting traffic, and stealing data to understand the level of damage an attacker can do.

4. Keep access

This stage assesses whether the discovered vulnerabilities can be used to gain an ongoing presence in the organization's system and the level of access they can achieve. 

This is intended to mimic Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), which allow an attacker to remain on a network for months and steal highly sensitive data.

5. Analyze

Test results are compiled to detail the vulnerabilities exploited, any sensitive data that pen testers were able to access, and the amount of time they could remain on the organization's system.

What is vulnerability analysis?

Vulnerability Analysis aims to identify vulnerabilities in a network to ensure information security. The technique is used to estimate the degree of fragility of the network to different risks.

A vulnerability assessment process that is intended to identify threats and the risks they pose typically involves the use of automated testing tools. That is, like network security scanners, the results of which are listed in a vulnerability assessment report.

As the findings reflected in the Vulnerability Analysis report are not supported by an attempt to exploit them, some of them may be false positives.

Vulnerability Analysis x Penetration Test

Above, you can already have an idea of ​​the differences between the two processes, but what are they effective? We have separated the main ones by topic below, check it out:

Difference #1: width vs. depth

The main difference between Vulnerability Analysis and Penetration Testing is vulnerability coverage, that is, breadth and depth.

Vulnerability Analysis focuses on uncovering as many security weaknesses as possible (broad-reaching approach). It should be employed regularly to maintain the secure status of a network, especially when changes are introduced (eg new equipment installed, services added, ports open).

Penetration Testing, on the other hand, is preferable when the customer claims that the network's security defenses are strong, but wants to verify that they are indeed hack-proof (too much depth approach).

Difference #2: The degree of automation

Another difference, linked to the point highlighted above, is the degree of automation. Vulnerability Analysis is usually automated. Thus, it allows for broader coverage of vulnerabilities. 

And Penetration Testing is a combination of automated and manual techniques, which helps to deepen weaknesses.

Difference #3: The choice of professionals

The third difference is in the choice of professionals who will perform the two security techniques.

Considering the importance of this procedure to guarantee the continuity and security of sensitive business information, relying on a specialized company to carry out the Vulnerability Analysis. Thus, it uses specific software, it is often more effective.

Penetration Testing, on the other hand, requires a considerably higher level of expertise (because it is manually intensive. Furthermore, it should always be outsourced to a specialized service provider.

What else do I need to know about the two processes?

Take a look at a quick quiz, which outlines the final differences in detail between the two techniques:

How often do you run the service?

  • Vulnerability Analysis: quarterly, with the completion of an additional test after changes in the network;

  • Penetration Test: Once a year at least.

What's in the report?

  • Vulnerability Analysis: a comprehensive list of vulnerabilities, classified according to risk;

  • Penetration Testing: a call-to-action document. It lists vulnerabilities that were successfully exploited.

Who performs the service?

  • Vulnerability Analysis: in-house security team or a third-party vendor;

  • Penetration Testing: A penetration testing service provider.

What is the purpose of the service?

  • Vulnerability Analysis: Discovers a wide range of potential vulnerabilities;

  • Penetration Test: Shows exploitable vulnerabilities.

The differences between Vulnerability Analysis and Penetration Testing show that both information security services are worth considering to protect your network. While the former is good for maintaining security, the latter uncovers real security weaknesses.

It is possible to take advantage of both services only if you hire a high-quality supplier. Thus, he needs to understand and, more importantly, translate to the customer the difference between Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Analysis.

Thus, in Penetration Testing, a good supplier combines automation with manual work (preferring the latter). Also, it does not provide false positives in the report.

At the same time, in Vulnerability Analysis, the vendor discovers a wide range of possible network vulnerabilities. Thus, it reports them according to their severity for the client's business.


In short, the purpose of PenTest is to enable technology analysts to know in-depth their weaknesses and where they need to improve. 

The efforts and investments in Information Security will be focused on the weaknesses of the corporation, shielding the structure against any potential security breach.

However, to help keep your network secure, search for good Frontier internet plans and carriers and trust.
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