What is a Pentest (penetration test)?

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At a time when we regularly hear about cyber security, Internet security and digital attacks, have you heard about the Pentest? Otherwise known as penetration testing, what does this concept mean and where does it lead us? Read on and discover all this in our article.

To begin with, there are several concepts that should not be confused: a penetration test is quite different from a security audit, which is not the same thing as a vulnerability scan. But don’t worry, if you read our blog regularly and subscribe to our newsletter, all these concepts will soon be clear to you.

Pentest Definition

A penetration test is a concept and a method that will study and examine a target by putting itself in the place of a malicious person – a digital attacker, often referred to as a hacker. The identified target can take different forms such as:

  • An entire network.
  • A web server.
  • A web application.
  • A mobile application.
  • An IP address.

The vulnerability scan mentioned above is part of the penetration testing process. The objective of the scan is to scan the target and to extract all the weaknesses in a list.

People often confuse a penetration test with a security audit, which are two very different things.

In a few words, a security audit serves to develop a map of a target’s security: an information system, application, software, etc. During the audit, no actual testing takes place. The weaknesses of a web application are therefore not directly tested during a security audit.

The penetration test is more concrete in the sense that it will point out real and existing flaws at any given time.

Why you should perform a penetration test on your app or software?

Unfortunately, cyber attacks have become commonplace. No one is surprised anymore to hear that a large corporate group has been attacked by hackers. Large companies, small and medium-sized businesses, institutional sites and even private individuals have all been targets of cybercriminals.

In 2020 alone, complaints about ransomware increased by 20%. Ransomware is a technique that allows malicious software to penetrate an individual computer or network  (phishing emails, via a website, a USB stick etc.). This software will encrypt the person’s data and hackers will then extort money in exchange for recovering the data with a decryption key. Another frightening finding is that 150,000 credit card details have been found for sale on the dark web. Malicious digital actions are multiplying.

On the other side of this bleak picture, actions and techniques to protect, defend and guard against these attacks are also flourishing.

The objectives of a penetration test (pentest):

Penetration testing has several objectives.

  • The first is that the pentest should detect in a precise way all the weaknesses of the information system (IS) or of the web, mobile or software application.
  • The second goal is to estimate the degree of risk of each vulnerability or flaw that has been observed. How much risk am I exposed to if I leave this flaw in my IS?
  • The third purpose is obviously to provide recommendations to correct the detected vulnerabilities in an appropriate way – and according to the urgency.
  • You should implement a penetration test on your application if you want to answer the following questions:
  • Is my application well protected? If not, what types of dangers and problems is it exposed to? How serious are my vulnerabilities?
  • How can I correct the flaws in my system? What actions should I take?
  • Which corrections should I start with? How do I prioritize my remediation plan?

When is the right time to perform a pentest on my software?

In order for the practice of pentesting to become a well-established habit – in a similar way as the design of a graphic charter or the implementation of natural referencing on a website – it is quite legitimate to ask yourself: what is the best time to carry out a pentest of my software?

Here are some key periods in the life of software app where it is appropriate to deploy a penetration test:

  • At the very beginning of a project during the design phase. The best time to integrate a penetration test is when conceptualizing the tree structure of your site, the functionalities it will contain and the design charter. Why? Because during the original design stages of your application, development should align with best practices in order to reduce the vulnerabilities of your software to a maximum. As a result, you can reduce the risk of potential attacks very significantly.

  • During the entire period of operation (use) of your software. Just like a technical check-up done every year at your garage for your car, get into the habit of calling in an expert to run an annual penetration test on your site. This can ensure you have a clear idea of what is going well and what is not going well in terms of computer security.

  • Finally, and we hope it will never come to this: if you have suffered a cyber-attack, it’s important to immediately conduct a petest to assess the damage and avoid another attack at all costs.

The pentest can be performed either externally with a simple Internet connection, or internally by connecting directly to the company’s internal network.

Who can I trust to perform a Pentest?

Put the pentest in the hands of a company that has a strong expertise in this field. A professional and trustworthy service provider who has knowledge and experience of the different materials and technologies on the market. We recommend Maltem Consulting Group.

Thank you for reading this far – we hope that this article has provided you with some answers to the questions you had about penetration testing.

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