External Penetration Testing: A Definitive Guide

by ImmuneBytes
External Penetration Testing

Web 3.0, the latest iteration of the internet, has taken over almost every sphere of life. Although this evolution offers enormous scope and opportunity, it poses critical cybersecurity risks that web 3.0 must address. Repeated attacks and mishandling of hacked information have become the norm, forcing people, and other legal entities that use their data, to make stringent data management and network security efforts.

With the rise of Web 3.0 innovations, we have seen a surge in the prevalence of cyberattacks, necessitating security solutions. One such method inherited from web 2.0 is External Penetration Testing. 

External network penetration testing gives an ethical hacker access to your security perimeter. It allows an external entity to stimulate vulnerabilities of your blockchain projects in order to determine the extent of their impact. 

This blog will talk in detail about external penetration testing, including its working mechanism, methodology, tools, and more.

Let’s Begin!

What is External Penetration Testing?

Probably one word that can define external pentesting is Ethical Hacking. An external penetration test is a limited, simulated hacking technique. It involves a security professional trying to breach your system via an external network to expose the extent of security vulnerabilities in your project. 

A penetration tester post locating a vulnerability tries to exploit it, and acquire access. This is done to provide a real-world scenario of the bug and an in detail description of the issue. Also, it helps in determining the potential attack vectors which could compromise the system’s functionality. 

What is External Penetration Testing?

How Does External Penetration Test Work?

Penetration Testing is like a mock drill that simulates a real-life cyber threat situation to provide security coverage to your project. It provides a third-party perspective on your system’s security and is a reliable way of emulating a malicious hacker’s behavior on the targeted entity. 

External Penetration Testing Methodology

External Pentest can be broken down into a 5-step process and described below. 

External Penetration Testing Methodology

Prior to the commencement of pentesting, security professionals collaborate with the client to decide their collaboration terms, security objectives, and testing method to be deployed.  

Step 1: Planning and Reconnaissance 

The initial step of the procedure includes defining the scope and aim of the penetration technique, along with the type of pentest to use. 

From recognizing the testing assets to deploying diverse techniques and penetration tools, a complete roadmap of the process is defined at this stage. 

Step 2: Scanning and Vulnerability Assessment

In the next stage, the tester understands the target system’s response to various intrusion attempts. This is done using static and dynamic techniques, as explained below.

  • Static assessment

It examines an application’s code to scrutinize its functioning. These tools scan the code in its entirety. 

  • Dynamic assessment

It analyzes the code during its execution state, providing a real-time performance of an application under question.

Step 3: Exploitation

Exploitation is the actual performance stage of penetration testing. In this phase, the testers try to exploit systemic errors with a range of attacks. 

They employ web application attacks to identify a range of vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, backdoors, and others. Testers then attempt to exploit these vulnerabilities, typically by breaking access control, stealing data, intercepting traffic, and so on, to gain an understanding of the potential harm they can cause.

Different tools like Nmap, Wireshark, Metasploit, Nessus, Burp Suite, and more are used to exploit bugs. Although, these tools depend on the project’s requirements. 

Step 4: Detailed analysis Report

A compilation of the entire penetration test findings and results are curated into a report, including:

  • The specific vulnerabilities were discovered during the test.
  • Accessed sensitive information.
  • The time the tester was able to remain undetected in the system.

Step 5: Refactoring  and Rescanning

This step involves developers making the required changes in the code based on the vulnerabilities detected during pentesting. 

Post-refactoring, the code is then assessed by the testers to confirm that the code is performing as per its intended behavior. 

Recommend for: DeFi Pentesting

Tools of External Penetration Testing

Penetration testing entails risk assessments. Finding tools that can help your testers is a more effective and efficient way to get rid of this complexity.

There is no such thing as an all-encompassing pen-testing tool. Instead, different target systems require different tool sets for port scanning, application scanning, and direct network penetration. The various types of pen testing tools can be divided into five categories.

  • Research tools are meant to locate network hosts and open ports.
  • Vulnerability testers, look for flaws in systems, web applications, and APIs.
  • Proxy tools include specialized web proxies and common middleman proxies.
  • Exploitation tools to gain systemic footholds or asset access.
  • Post-exploitation tools for interacting with systems, maintaining and expanding access, and accomplishing attack goals.

Here are a few external penetration testing tools deployed by penetration testers to make your project bug-free. 

  • Burp Suite Pro
  • wireshark
  • Nikto
  • Sqlmap
  • Nessus
  • Archini
  • Metasploit Framework
  • Nmap
  • Custom Scripts
  • Hydra
  • GHDB
  • Openvas

Pros of External Penetration Testing

External penetration testing provides an outsider’s view of your system’s security, providing a thorough analysis of systemic defects and their impact. 

Following are some of the merits of external network penetration testing. 

  1. Data Protection

The data breach has been a severe cause of concern for both organizations and users. Functioning like real-world hackers, pentesters simulate cyberattacks closest to the actual scenario. This way, it becomes possible to detect data leakage points, which can then be plugged in to prevent future data attacks. 

  1. Security Compliance

The external penetration testing checklist includes visibility, providing insights on security priority, and analyzing security threats. It makes it clear how an attacker can compromise your systemic issues.

Also, it provides insight into prioritizing security expenditure based on actual threats. Finally, understanding an attacker’s perspective might allow one to form a response plan relative to substantial risks.

  1. Cost-effectiveness

Compared to internal penetration testing, where you have to maintain a complete tech team of pen testers, outsourcing security analysis to security professionals using a tested methodology can significantly reduce security compliance costs.

  1. Acts as a security shield for your project

Penetration testing safeguards your project against threats, including:

  • DDoS assaults
  • Insider threats
  • Cybercrimes
  • Individual rogue actors

What can you gain from External Penetration Testing?

External penetration testing provides a fresh perspective closer to a real-world hacker. Alongside, the following are other advantages of opting for the external pentesting technique. 

  • Enhancement of your security capabilities through penetration testers recommended remediations.
  • A clear view of how a malicious attacker might compromise your cyber systems.
  • Understanding an attack’s occurrence allows you to create an incident response plan tailored to specific threats.
  • It acts as a security certificate, making you believe you are getting closer to meeting your company’s compliance and regulatory requirements.

Mapping up

With cyber threats penetrating deeper and deeper into our digital landscape, it becomes imperative for businesses to put a security plan in place. Penetration testing is one such measure that probably has the closest resemblance to real-world attacks.  

An external penetration test is a mock drill where ethical hackers imitate the actions of malicious attackers to expose your system’s security challenges. Ideally, it should follow the vulnerability scanning process in order to provide 360° security to your web applications. 

FAQs 

Q1:What are the three penetration testing methodologies?

Sol: The three methodologies of penetration testing include:

  • Black box testing

Here the pen testers are devoid of the internal knowledge of the target system. A black-box penetration test identifies system security flaws that can be exploited outside the network, and the tester has to rely on dynamic analysis techniques. 

A disadvantage of this approach is that if the testers cannot breach the security perimeter, any internal defects could go undiscovered and unpatched.

  • White box testing

White box, open box, or logic-driven testing lies on the flip side of the black box testing. Here, pentesters have access to the system’s complete internal working and intended behavior to be exploited. The testers can deploy static analysis on the code. 

White-box testing is the most time-consuming type of penetration testing because it requires browsing through massive amounts of data to identify potential points of weakness.

  • Gray box testing

Here the tester follows a middle path, where, unlike the black box, some information to the extent of a user is provided. In contrast, detailed knowledge, as in the case of the white box, is hidden. 

It provides a more focused and efficient analysis of the system’s security and allows deploying static and dynamic testing techniques. 

Q2: What is the difference between external pen testing and vulnerability scanning? 

Sol: Vulnerability scanning is analogous to problem detection only. It is an automated technique of detecting possible susceptible bugs in the system, while penetration techniques not only see but exploit those vulnerabilities using external pen testing tools to determine the extent of the security issues caused by them. 

Q3: How much does external penetration testing cost?

External penetration testing is a complex and nuanced process that requires long hours of manual effort and relies heavily on human intelligence; therefore, it is always more expensive than vulnerability scanning. However, because it does not necessitate the maintenance of a technical team of pentesters, it is less expensive than internal pentesting.

Q4: How long does it take to perform external penetration testing? 

Although it is based on the project and the methodology applied to perform penetration testing, it usually takes a few weeks or even months in some cases to complete pentesting. 

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