Penetration tests – tools and techniques of professionals
Every professional knows that knowledge and abilities are not enough and that a set of tools are also needed to help you get the job done. Penetration testers provide a necessary service to organizations and businesses who wish to get an up-to-date status of their defense system, especially in today’s evolving cyber world.
The tools they choose to use to perform penetration testing are key in determining whether they will succeed in preventing the next cyber hack or not.
So why are these tools used by penetration testers, and what are the most popular tools among professionals? Let’s start what the basics.
?What is penetration testing
Penetration Testing is a way of assessing the security level of systems, applications, mobile services, and infrastructure.
This assessment begins with mapping the organization’s digital assets, including integrated third-party tools, user behavior, etc. The purpose of the test is to identify the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the defense systems and produce a report detailing the findings and recommendations. Cyber firms perform pen-testing alongside other cyber security services.
Types of Penetration Testing
Application Penetration Testing
This test aims to detect flaws in the application layer of your web application security systems, and examines vulnerable components such as XSS, code injection, poor permission management, and code exposure.
Network Penetration Testing
An assessment of infrastructure devices accessible by network vulnerabilities focused on detecting network and system-level flaws such as various configurations, product-specific vulnerabilities, wireless network vulnerabilities, weak passwords, and infirm protocols.
Mobile Application Penetration Testing
Assessments aimed to identify hardware and software-level flaws in mobile applications such as weak passwords, unsecured protocols and APIs, vulnerable communication channels, various configurations, and product-specific vulnerabilities.
For further reading about types of penetration testing, continue to our full penetration testing article.
Why should I perform a penetration test
Compliance -Many cyber security standards, such as the well-known and popular GDPR, require an applicative and infrastructural examination of the organization’s defense systems, as well as consistent testing. Penetration tests are an effective way to perform these assessments and meet international standards required for business activity.
Examination of the security system- a penetration test is a comprehensive examination of the cyber defense system of organizations and raises awareness of an organization’s defense capabilities against cyber attacks. This knowledge is essential for the proper conduct of business and the protection of customer privacy, especially in a hyper-virtual world where investors consider cyber defenses of paramount importance in deciding whether to join as a partner or hire
Improving the defense system – Understanding the gaps between the sophisticated cyber threats and the current defense capabilities helps to strengthen and improve these capabilities.
Types of penetration testing tools
Identifies open ports connected to the corporate network and can be exploited for downloading malware, or other network vulnerabilities such as one-step authentication, weak passwords, and the like.
Taking port scanners one step further, the vulnerability scanner detects weaknesses at the application level and configuration errors. The scan can find vulnerabilities in defense systems, or use identifying information provided by the organization to find vulnerabilities in the internal network. The scanner uses a database of known vulnerabilities, anomalies, known bugs, configuration errors, and potential routes for internal network intrusion to compare with the findings.
Hardware or software that aggregates traffic data passing at a certain point in the network, and analyzes. Sniffers can be used to detect malicious intrusion attempts or malware installed on connected computers, as well as provide an in-depth understanding of how the network operates and monitors network behavior in the context of user behavior.
Although this tool can be used independently to surf the web anonymously (similar in behavior to the well-known VPN), the tool directs the traffic between a user and the server. The proxy serves as a disconnection point between the internal computer network and the open network. It enables the search of HTML vulnerabilities and the detection of exploits on the application level such as XXS attacks.
Weak passwords are the most common vulnerability and an easy target for hackers. In a penetration test, this tool provides a comprehensive scope of password strength used by the organization’s employees. This can assist in creating behavioral procedures and implementing protocols to prevent the usage of weak passwords.
Popular penetration testing tools
Some of us might have missed it, but the NMAP port scanner is popular not only among penetration testers but in Hollywood productions as well. This tool has made an impressive appearance in many TV shows and movies, such as The Matrix Reloaded, Mr. Robot, Snowden, and many more.
NMAP is short for Network Mapper and is a Linux-based open-source software that scans IP addresses and network ports. NMAP maps the network quickly without the need for sophisticated commands and supports complex scripts using a script engine that serves as a database.
Other features that make it the most popular tool include but are not limited to:
◾️Quickly detects all connected devices including servers, routers, switches, and mobile devices
◾️Identify services running in the system including web servers, DNS servers, and other common applications
◾️Finds information about the operating system running on the tested devices, as well as the versions
◾️Attacks systems using existing scripts
◾️A graphical user interface called Zenmap, used to develop visual mappings to create good and detailed reports.
The most popular vulnerability scanner software among intruders and hackers, Nessus scans the corporate network according to predefined criteria. The Nessus feature shows which devices connected to the corporate network are vulnerable and provides detailed recommendations on how to proceed to protect against a possible breach.
This free sniffer software is based on open source and has a large number of pre-built protocols, allowing to identify and analyze traffic in a readable and clear format. This tool is simple to use and dynamic, and penetration testers prefer to use it in part because of their abilities to extract specific information about certain movements and analyze them quickly. The WhireShark system can perform real-time analysis of active systems and protocols, as well as which accounts are most active.
PortSwigger’s web proxy tool is part of an extensive library called BurpSuite designed to test an application’s cyber defense system.
The Burp Proxy allows penetration testers to perform a MITM attack, which occurs when a hacker inserts himself between the user and the service provider, whether as a bystander listening or as an imposter of one party. The purpose of the attack is to steal personal information – credit card details, passwords, and account information – most often occurs in communications between users and financial companies, SaaS, online stores, and sites that require login to an account.
John the Ripper
You want to crack a password, call John. This open-source software supports a huge array of 15 operating systems and can crack cracked passwords using techniques like brute force, dictionary, and hybrid. In addition, the software has the ability to identify password quality, which makes it popular among intruders and hackers together.