Network Penetration Testing – A Complete Guide (2022)

network penetration testing

Hello hackers, I hope you guys are doing amazing. Today we will be discussing about Network Penetration Testing. So, if you are looking for some kind of guidance that how you can perform a successful network penetration test then you are at the right place. 

There are mainly four steps required to perform proper network penetration testing which include: 

  • Information Gathering
  • Reconnaissance and Discovery
  • Performing the Penetration Test
  • Reporting and Recommendation

After reading this article, you will have a proper understanding of what is Network Pentesting and how to do it properly. Additionally, you will understand the benefits of a network penetration test and you can use this information to explain it to your future clients.

Isn’t that amazing? So, let’s begin…

What is a Network Penetration Test? 

It is the process of finding the security vulnerabilities in system and network applications using various malicious techniques used by hackers to evaluate the network’s security. 

A Network Penetration Test is similar to a vulnerability assessment and it is also known as pentest which is conducted by ethical hackers to identify vulnerabilities in a network.

Benefits of Network Penetration Testing

There are lots of benefits of conducting a network penetration test on your systems including:

  • It gives a proper understanding of the network baseline.
  • Testing your system security posture and controls.
  • Prevention of network and data breaches.
  • Ensuring network and system security.

The In-depth testing of the network will allow businesses to understand their network baseline even better.

Network penetration testing helps businesses to test their network and system security controls to prevent attacks and data breaches and to ensure network security in the future. 

Network Penetration Testing is usually performed when the business has a good security posture or believes that they have the strongest security measures in place.

Now let’s briefly discuss the benefits of network penetration test to understand this even better. 

Understanding the Network Baseline

Mostly, some automated scanning tools like vulnerability scanners, port scanners, network scanners are used to understand the baseline of the network. 

Having the proper understanding of the network baseline allows the business owners to understand if the security controls are working properly or not, it also identifies existing vulnerabilities and provides them more information about their network.

Testing Network Security Posture 

The end goal of the network penetration test is to hack into the network and exploit the vulnerabilities by which we can identify the areas the which need improvement. 

Prevention of Network and Data Breaches

After successful network pen-testing is done, the results will help the business owner to fix the security issues to maximize the organization’s security.

It also helps the businesses in the prevention of future breaches because the network penetration test is done with the mindset of a real-world attacker attempting to break into the system.

Ensuring Network and System Security

By conducting a network Pentesting it helps in ensuring system security in many ways. 

For example, It might be possible that a business may have a very advanced security strategy with strong external defenses but their internal defenses, such as host-based Intrusion Prevention System (IDS) that prevent trusted hosts on the network, is not deployed. 

Now, I think that you have an idea about what is network penetration testing and how it can be beneficial for businesses. 

Let’s, understand the process of conducting a proper network penetration test. 

Important Steps of Network Penetration Testing

But before we begin, keep in mind that network penetration testing and vulnerability assessments are often used interchangeably. 

However, after the vulnerability assessment has been done and all the security patches have been applied. The business owners may want to test the security of their network.  

To perform a successful network penetration testing, we must have to complete these 4 steps:

Step 1: Gathering Information and Understanding Client’s Expectations 

Before discussing the goals of network penetration testing, there are few important things that you need to know. 

Penetration Testing generally falls into these three main categories:

  1. Black Box Testing
  2. Gray Box Testing
  3. White Box Testing

Umm… Now you must be thinking that this is similar to the types of hackers, but it’s not like that. 

First, let’s understand them one by one, after that you will be able to understand them more thoroughly.

Black Box Testing

In black-box testing, the hacker has a very minimal amount of knowledge or information of the targeted system or network.

This type of testing is usually done to identify and exploit the vulnerabilities of the outward-facing network as it is the quickest way to find the security loopholes of the network.

It is also important for you to know that if there are no loopholes found in the targeted network after the black box testing, then it does not mean that the network is completely safe. Vulnerabilities of the internal network will remain undiscovered.

Grey Box Testing

In grey box testing, the hacker has limited information on the targeted network or system functionality.

But they have more information than black box testers, such as network design information, documents, information about requirements, etc.

The main focus of this kind of testing is to test the security of the network with the position of a user who has access to the system. 

In this type of testing, it is checked that if a user has limited permission to access the system, then the user can escalate his / her privileges with that limited access of the system or not, that’s why it is called grey-box testing.

White Box testing

In this type of testing, Pentester has complete information about the targeted network and system such as source code and architecture documentation, that’s why it is called white box testing.

This type of penetration testing takes most of the time to be completed because complete information about the network and system is given to the Pentester before testing and that’s why they have to closely test the security of every point.

That’s why white-box testing becomes very challenging for the Pentester.

It is very important for you to understand these types of testing in penetration testing, whether you are a penetration tester or a business owner, as there are specific benefits of all these types of testing.

Understanding Client’s Expectations

After deciding which type of testing will be done, you will also have to discuss on which date and time the penetration test will occur, whether the testing will be done on a production and testing environment or not, and you must also clear that if the client wishes for the vulnerabilities to be exploited or simply identified and reported on.

It may seem pointless, but if your targeted network or system is having security measures, then critical systems can be shut down during the penetration testing and you must have to take care of it. 

Keeping all the things in mind, we can start Network Penetration Testing, but before proceeding you will have to discuss with your client when to start. 

Maybe you have to do testing in normal business hours or after normal operating hours or it may be possible that you’ll have to carry out the pentest in the night or on weekends. It all depends on the business’s schedule.

And at this point, you should have all the documentation that records all the information which will be used during the penetration test.

STEP 2: Reconnaissance and Discovery

It is now time for you to put your Pen tester’s Hat on. After getting all the important information from your clients like what will be the date and timing will be good for testing and what is the goal of network penetration testing. Now we can further move with our Reconnaissance and Discovery step.

Reconnaissance

During your reconnaissance, you will start by firing up the network and port scanners on your targeted network and systems so that you can get a view of the devices and existing vulnerabilities of the network. 

Here you’ll have to find out where the vulnerabilities are so that you can start exploiting those vulnerabilities.

During Information Gathering, you can also use social engineering techniques on people who work there, so that you can get even more Confidential and Personal Information about your target which can be used for malicious purposes.

You can use this tactic to find out the network’s vulnerabilities so that you can get access to your target a little more easily.

Discovery

At the time of penetration testing when we were looking for useful information to take our Pentesting process to the next step, this can be referred to as discovery.

This information can be used to compromise the security of the targeted network.

During grey box testing, we use some automated tools on the client’s network such as port scanners to check the target’s open ports and Vulnerability scanners to detect the vulnerability of the system so that we could start the process of gaining access to the network.

Step 3: Performing The Network Penetration Test

Now the Network Penetration Testing will be continued by the penetration tester by exploiting the vulnerabilities that have been identified in step 2.

Generally, in this step exploit scripts and custom scripts that you may code yourself will be used for exploiting the vulnerabilities.

In many cases, the pen tester at first starts the exploitation process by exploiting the easiest or the most critical vulnerability.

However, this is not a foolproof approach because it may require exploiting multiple vulnerabilities tested to get access to the network successfully. 

All this information is very important for the result preparation, at the time when you show the results to your clients, it will be beneficial for them to know what is the strong and week point in their network security.

Step 4: Reporting and Recommendation

In a Proper Penetration Testing report, it is very important to mention everything that your client needs to know. For example, what was your methodology, how many vulnerabilities were found, what sensitive data you find, etc.  

At the end of the report, you’ll also have to provide proper recommendations so that whatever flaws found during testing of the system can be fixed.

The system’s owner needs to know what vulnerabilities are present in their system and what impact they will have on their business due to that security loophole.

And it is the job of Pentester to include risk analysis in the report and help their client to take the right decision.

Always remember, it is not necessary that you do network penetration testing and you’ll break into your target.

If a tester has not been able to breach a network, then it does not matter that conduction of network penetration testing was worthless. It will show you how strong the security of the organization is in detecting and preventing attacks.

Conclusion

Network penetration testing is a very important part of a business’s security plan. In this article, you learned how to do successful penetration testing so that you can provide a proper pentest report to your clients.

I would be very happy to know how you liked this article, if you have got any value from it, then you should share this article and give us your feedback in the comments so that we can bring more good content for you.

See you in the next article with a new topic, Till then “Keep Learning Keep Hacking”. 

Also Read: Professional Guide to Become a Hacker

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