A Comprehensive Guide to Penetration Testing: Types, Approaches, and More

Penetration Testing

The term “penetration testing” refers to the practice of reproducing an attack on a computer system or network in order to expose security flaws. Pen testing can be done on a single machine or an entire network; it is also known as vulnerability assessment. In this blog post, we will take a look at the different types of pen tests, the applications of pen testing, and the benefits of pen testing. We will also take a look at some of the finest penetration testing tools, the different approaches to pen testing and the best practices for Pen Testing.

What Is Penetration Testing?

A pen test (or penetration testing) is a type of security assessment in which a hacker tries to find and exploit flaws in a computer system. The objective of this simulated attack is to discover any security vulnerabilities that attackers may exploit. A penetration testing platform is required in order to perform this test. 

Pen testing is like a case in which a bank hires someone to dress as a thief and try to break into their building in order to get access to the vault. If the “burglar” succeeds in getting inside the bank or vault, the bank will gain important knowledge on how to improve security measures. Pen testing is a vital part of any organization’s security strategy.

Why Are Pen Tests Performed?

Pen tests are performed for a variety of reasons, but the primary goal is always to assess and improve security. Pen tests can be used to find vulnerabilities in systems before attackers do, or they can be conducted on systems that have already been breached in order to understand how the attack happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Pen tests can also be used as a way to train employees on how to identify and respond to potential security threats.

Types Of Pen Testing

  • Pen Testing Applications

This is a form of penetration testing that focuses on flaws in your apps’ security architecture, including missing patches and open vulnerabilities in externally-facing web applications, internal network apps, and end-user devices. Assessors focus on issues such as defective security protocols, including missing updates and exploited flaws in externally-facing web applications.

Because hacking methods and software updates change on a daily basis, it’s critical to test your apps for new flaws on a regular basis— and to realize that scanners alone aren’t enough since they usually only detect “the easy fruit.”

  • Network Service Pen Testing

The most frequent variety of penetration testing is network service penetration testing. It is also known as infrastructure testing.

The purpose of this test is to identify the organization’s most vulnerable network vulnerabilities and security flaws before they can be exploited.

  • Client Side Pen Testing

Penetration testing on the client side is used to detect security flaws or vulnerabilities in client-side programs. Putty, email clients, web browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari), Adobe Flash and other applications are common tools that may be tested.

  • Wireless Pen Testing

The purpose of wireless penetration testing is to identify and evaluate all connections between the business’s networked devices, such as laptops, tablets, cellphones, and any other internet of things (IoT) and others.

A wireless penetration test is typically conducted onsite since the pen tester must be within the signal’s range in order to access it. A NUC and a WiFi Pineapple may also be deployed onsite to perform the test remotely.

  • Social Engineering Pen Testing

Social engineering penetration testing is a type of computer security testing in which a malefactor attempts to deceive or persuade users into disclosing sensitive information, such as a username and password. Pen testers may use a wide range of social engineering tactics in their efforts to breach a network. Some examples of such attacks are Phishing Attacks, Vishing, Smishing, Tailgating, etc.

  • Physical Pen Testing

A physical penetration test is an imitation of a real-world security scenario in which a pen tester attempts to break through physical barriers in order to access the company’s infrastructure, structure, systems, or employees.

Top Penetration Testing Tools

If you invest in a good-quality penetration testing tool, it will definitely help you and your team to work more efficiently and also save a lot of time. Listed below are some of the top penetration testing tools that are available in the contemporary market:

  • Astra’s Pentest: Astra Pentest is a web application security pentesting tool that includes features such as an automated comprehensive scanner along with manual and automated pentesting capabilities.
  • Metasploit: Metasploit is a comprehensive platform for conducting penetration tests. The OWASP Top 10 list is a ranking of the top ten web application security hazards, as designated by the organization, all of which can be found by Metasploit. It contains elements such as vulnerability research and exploitation skills.
  • Nmap: Nmap is a powerful network mapping application that may be used to discover open ports, identify running services, and detect security flaws in a system.
  • SQLMap: The program SQLMap may be used to exploit SQL injection flaws.
  • Burp Suite: Burp Suite is a full-featured security testing platform. It has features such as an intercepting proxy, a software scanner, and manual testing capabilities.

Different Approaches To Pen Testing

Pen testing can be conducted using a variety of different approaches, including black box, white box, and gray box.

  • Black Box Pen Testing

During a black box penetration test, the pen tester is typically given little or no information about a firm’s IT infrastructure. One of the most significant advantages of this technique is that it can be used to simulate a real-world cyber assault, with the pen tester assuming the position of an unskilled attacker.

A black box penetration test typically takes between six and six weeks, making it one of the most time-consuming forms of penetration testing. Businesses may anticipate spending anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 for a report based on the amount of work involved in planning, executing, testing, and finishing it.

  • White Box Pen Testing

Penetration testing using a white box (also known as clear box, glass box, or internal penetration testing) is performed when the tester has access to the source code and operating system. 

The objective of a white box penetration test is to perform a thorough security review of a company’s operations, giving the pen tester as much information as possible.  

  •  Gray Box Pen Testing 

In gray box pen testing, a pen tester might be given user permissions on a host and asked to escalate them to domain administrator status. Alternatively, they may be instructed to acquire access to software source code and system architecture drawings.

A gray box penetration test provides you with more time to focus on specific areas of your network’s security, thus enabling you to gain a more focused and efficient evaluation.

Pen Testing Benefits

  • Identifying and correcting vulnerabilities before they can be exploited
  • Controlling data breaches and other security issues
  • Improving company compliance with and adherence to industry standards
  • Protecting brand reputation and customer trust
  • Improving incident response capabilities
  • Facilitating cost-effective security investments
  • Optimizing security controls
  • Generating actionable intelligence for security decision-makers
  • Improving security awareness and culture within the organization

Pen Testing Best Practices

To get the most out of pen testing, businesses should:

  • Define clear objectives and scope for the test in advance
  • Select a reputable and experienced pen testing provider
  • Ensure that all systems and networks to be tested are properly configured and updated
  • Cooperate fully with the pen testers during the engagement
  • Take immediate measures to address any vulnerabilities that are discovered


Pen testing is a critical part of any comprehensive security program. By identifying and remedying vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, businesses can reduce their risk of data breaches, improve their compliance with industry and government regulations, and protect their brand reputation. Pen testing best practices include defining clear objectives and scope for the test, selecting a reputable provider, and taking immediate action to remediate any vulnerabilities that are identified.

About the author


Steven Ly

Steven Ly is the Startup Program and Events Manager at TheNextHint Inc. She recruits rockstar startups for all TC events including Disrupt, meetups, Sessions, and more both domestically and internationally. Previously, she helped produce Dreamforce with Salesforce and Next '17 with Google. Prior to that, she was on the advertising teams at both Facebook and AdRoll, helping support advertisers in North America and helped grow those brands globally. Outside of work, Priya enjoys Flywheel, tacos, the 49ers, and adventuring around the globe.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe us

Please wait...
Want to be notified when our article is published? Enter your email address and name below to be the first to know.