12 Tips for Pen Testers

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There are important things to keep in mind regarding pen testing, including some steps to take to reach business goals:

  1. Define business objectives, not technical objectives. For example, test if the credit card database or the central enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is reachable and vulnerable. Pen testing firewalls is a lot less useful.
  2. The creation and use of pen testing checklists will allow you to test more thoroughly and find more vulnerabilities.
  3. Google hacking is a very quick way to query your web presence and find easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
  4. Structured Query Language (SQL) injection vulnerabilities and misconfigured wireless networks continue to be the most common external perimeter breaching vectors.
  5. Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a common web vulnerability, but it poses different risk levels for different industries or systems. It almost never allows external access or system control.
  6. Create application and network diagrams; by understanding the underlying structure, you will be far better at reaching objectives.
  7. Always try easy-to-guess or default passwords, especially on shared users and system accounts; they are still very common.
  8. Sniffing is a great way to understand network traffic and can almost always obtain clear-text or easy-to-break passwords. Commonly used protocols, such as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) or File Transfer Protocol (FTP), send clear-text passwords.
  9. Certain hacking techniques commonly disrupt system stability or network communications; in particular, man-in-the-middle techniques and buffer-overflow exploits should be avoided or tested only in controlled environments.
  10. In general, the more connected an application is, the easier it will be to hack. Databases, domain controllers and web sites are frequently easy targets.
  11. Always convert vulnerabilities into risks by determining asset value and probability of attack. There are many ways to scan for vulnerabilities. A pen tester is better poised to determine risk by understanding the complexity of the attack and the access level obtained.
  12. One of the main benefits of pen testing is creating a sense of urgency in the organization. Always take screenshots, screen videos or give live demonstrations of the findings. This will help advance the security awareness of everyone involved.

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