What Are the Different Types of Penetration Testing?

doing penetration testing

To make sure your system is safe against threats, you should perform different types of penetration tests. If you want to get rid of security weaknesses that hackers can exploit, you must first identify vulnerabilities.

Monitoring systems with regular penetration tests will ensure absolute protection, so keep reading to find out everything about this testing.

What is the Purpose of Penetration Testing?

A penetration test is an attempt at breaking into a company’s network performed by IT security professionals. The purpose of this simulated cyberattack is to check network infrastructure for exploitable vulnerabilities.

Security controls like this one are necessary for all businesses, but they’re especially vital for banks, investment firms, and other financial companies. The finance sector is much more likely to be targeted by hackers who are trying to acquire and then sell people’s sensitive data.

Penetration tests are also used to check projects in development. When you identify flaws within the system and fix them in advance, you prevent any future misfortunes. Hence, after completing the “testing phase,” a pen tester needs to provide you with a detailed report on the findings.

You want to have clear guidelines on how to fix issues within your system and minimize (if not get rid of) your risk exposure. Taking steps toward resolving vulnerabilities is the main purpose of penetration testing.

Phases of a Penetration Test

Before we talk about different types of penetration testing, let’s go through phases of pen testing. These five stages can be found in any kind of pen test:

1. Planning

In order to find out what types of penetration testing methods you’ll use, first you need to consider what systems need to be targeted and what you want to achieve.

You need to define the scope and goals of the pen test, gather the intelligence needed for the tester (IP addresses, domain and subdomain names, etc.) and create a general plan of action approved by both the testers and security control managers.

Without proper planning, you won’t get the desired outcome from your tests.

2. Scanning

Scanning will help you understand how targeted applications, devices, or servers react to penetration attempts. You want to perform both static and dynamic analysis, meaning you’ll be examining the application/device in a non-runtime environment and also while running.

3. Going In

The core part of penetration testing is actually performing the “attack” on the system. Gaining access can be done via cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and other methods. The goal is to uncover the target’s vulnerabilities and exploit them to reveal potential damage (data breach, blocking traffic, etc.).

4. Maintaining Access

Not only do testers try to gain access, but they also want to stay inside the system. In order to test your network against persistent threats, pen testers need to identify and exploit vulnerabilities that allow in-depth access.

Checking how long a malicious actor can be inside your system without anyone noticing is a valuable piece of information. Your security measures need to be aimed at early detection because every passing second increases the potential damage.

5. Analysis

The most important part of pen testing is reporting on the findings. This report will be used by your security team to fix flaws in your system as soon as possible, so you need a comprehensive, detailed report, which should include:

          • Executive summary for strategic direction
          • Detailed procedure of the hacking attempt
          • Description of vulnerabilities found
          • List of data that was accessed
          • The response time
          • Penetration tools and methods used
          • Risks assessment
          • Remediation suggestions

Approaches to Penetration Testing

Penetration testing can be more intrusive than vulnerability scans. Depending on your staff’s training and ability to fight off an attack, you can choose to conduct an easier or a more serious penetration test. If you need to meet important deadlines or you’re having a big business project coming up, you don’t want to perform overly intrusive tests that can lead to a denial of service and reduce your overall productivity.

In most cases, a penetration tester will give you the option to inform your staff in advance about the security controls. However, it’s advisable to take a more spontaneous approach and check how your team responds to a “live” threat. This will allow you to see the response firsthand and fix the most dangerous vulnerabilities as soon as possible.

Naturally, you’d want to inform the upper management or chief information security officer in your company about the upcoming penetration test to avoid escalating the situation.

Depending on the severity of penetration tests and the amount of information provided by/for your staff, we can differentiate between three main approaches:

      • Black box penetration testing
      • White box penetration testing
      • Grey box penetration testing

Black Box Penetration Testing

A black box penetration test is conducted without any kind of information provided by the pen tester or for the tester either. This means that the tester will go in “blindly,” without prior knowledge of your network configuration and IT infrastructure. Likewise, your security team won’t know anything about the test and will act according to a “normal” cyberattack.

This approach may be the most authentic because the test shows exactly what types of vulnerabilities in your system a potential hacker can exploit. However, black box penetration testing can last up to six weeks.

White Box Penetration Test

During a white box test, a penetration tester has all needed information, including network maps and credentials. Clear box testing saves much time (and reduces the overall cost of the pen test). It’s mostly used for simulating a targeted attack on specific points in the system.

Grey Box Penetration Testing

The grey box testing approach includes limited information shared with the tester – for example, login credentials. A grey box test is used to understand the correlation between the level of access and potential damage that can happen. It’s a combination of both efficiency (in terms of costs) and authenticity (since provided information is limited).

Types of Penetration Tests

types of penetration testing
There are a lot of types of penetration tests, each one requiring specific methodology and tools. To choose the best type for your business, you need to set clear goals. What do you want to achieve with pen testing?

Do you want to test a particular security program, or do you want to check your cloud security? With clear objectives, you’ll have a much easier time conducting penetration tests.

Network Penetration Test

Network service penetration testing (often called infrastructure testing) is used to identify dangerous vulnerabilities in the network infrastructure, which includes:

      • Servers
      • Firewalls
      • Switches
      • Routers
      • System hosts
      • Printers
      • Workstations

Pen testers can focus on the internal network or external factors (targeting security flaws of internet infrastructure). Internal testing can include many tests, from firewall bypass testing to zone transfer testing. Sometimes a particular scenario is followed – for example, stealing credentials from an employee via a phishing attack and trying to access the network.

External penetration testing involves targeting external parts of the company (such as the company’s website or domain name servers) with the goal of accessing valuable company data. To perform any kind of network penetration testing, you need to set the number of internal and external IPs to be tested, the number of websites to be tested, etc.

Web Application Penetration Testing

Testing of web applications aims to uncover coding and development flaws that can be exploited by hackers. Many different penetration tools and “hacking” techniques are used to break into the website application and their components, such as ActiveX, Plugins, Silverlight, Scriptlets, and Applets.

Note that testing of web-based applications should be meticulously conducted in order to go through all the endpoints. Hence, pen testers need to carefully plan all the phases of penetration testing mentioned above. They should also create a detailed report with the results of the testing and provide ways to improve the app.

Wireless Network Penetration Testing

Wireless penetration testing includes examining connections between all wireless devices in one company, from laptops to smartphones. The tester needs to be in the range of the wireless signal, so these tests are performed in the company.

Physical Penetration Tests

A physical penetration test includes pen tester attempts to get through physical barriers that protect business infrastructure. If a pen tester can gain physical access to your server room, imagine what a cyber hacker could do! You must get rid of all security weaknesses, including physical ones, and implement stricter controls (locks, cameras, etc.).

Social Engineering Tests

Social engineering penetration testing attempts to trick a user into disclosing sensitive information. Pen testers often send phishing emails to your employees in order to gain access to login credentials, business data, and other kinds of intel.

Since social engineering tests are testing the response to phishing emails and scams, you should only inform upper managers about the upcoming tests. Performing black box penetration testing might be more expensive, but it will provide you with more accurate predictions of your employees’ actions during a social engineering attack.

It’s also recommended to provide additional training on the dangers of social engineering attacks after pen testing ends. If employees “failed” the test (for example, if they’ve been tricked into providing some information or clicking on suspicious links), they need to be additionally educated on cybersecurity. Raising awareness about protective measures will strengthen your entire IT infrastructure because many common access points used by hackers are provided by unwitting employees.

Social Engineering Tests

A client-side pen test is used to discover security vulnerabilities in client-side applications, including email providers, web browsers, software programs, etc. This type of penetration testing can prevent many serious attacks, such as malware infections, cross-site scripting, HTML injection, and others.

Cloud Penetration Testing

Cloud penetration testing is a simulation of the attack on your cloud provider. You want to make sure that your files are encrypted and secured from unauthorized access. Public cloud environments are more vulnerable to cyberattacks, so it’s recommended to use a secure cloud system tailored especially to your business.

Mobile Application Testing

Penetration tests of mobile applications include static and dynamic analysis of said applications. Whether in Android, iOS, or any other operating system, mobile applications need to be carefully checked for vulnerabilities. From examining source code to data in the RAM, the entire mobile environment should be protected against unauthorized access.


Pen testing will boost your overall security efforts. Depending on your business objectives, you can benefit from application penetration testing, physical penetration testing, or something else. Every business is targeted differently, so it’s best to consult with cybersecurity professionals to find the best protection possible for your business.

Why risk everything and become a target for hackers? You’re risking not just the financial loss associated with data breaches, but your entire business reputation as well. Nobody will trust a business with their sensitive information if it’s constantly falling victim to cyberattacks. Not to mention, hefty lawsuits can create many problems if you’re not protecting your clients’ data. If you’re running a financial firm, stop worrying about hackers lurking and protect your system.

Get a Triada Networks’ cybersecurity package (with frequent pen tests!) that’s tailored to your needs. Schedule a free consultation today!

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Triada Networks can be your partner that will provide long-term protection! We have more than twenty years of experience working with financial firms, so you can be assured that we’ll take care of your every need.