what is penetration testing

Penetration testing is also generally referred to as a pen test (or ethical hacking). With an increase in sophistication, white hat testers are also increasing to ensure that computer systems remain secure from hackers trying to destroy information networks.

The challenge to keep information safe arose as computers gained the ability to share information across communication lines. It seems like every day begins with a new headline regarding the latest cybersecurity attack. Today, with about 640 terabytes of data tripping around the globe every minute, there is a lot of information hackers continue to steal. 

The key to resisting their efforts is to conduct thorough penetration tests throughout the year.

It is a method used to perform security testing on a network system to explore a network to identify potential vulnerabilities.

However, these terms are interchanged, and there is a considerable amount of confusion in the industry regarding the difference between pen testing and vulnerabilities. 

Let’s see. 

A vulnerability scanning simply identifies and reports noted vulnerabilities. This test attempts to exploit the vulnerabilities to decide whether the illegal activity is possible.

We’ll cover the following topics Penetration Testing

  1. What is Penetration Testing?
  2. Why is it required?
  3. How to do a Penetration Test?
  4. What are different types of Penetration Testing?
  5. What tools are used?
  6. When to Perform Penetration Testing?
  7. How is Penetration Testing Beneficial?
  8. Manual Penetration vs. Automated Penetration Testing
  9. Advantages and Disadvantages
  10. Careers
  11. Roles and Responsibilities

What is penetration testing?

Penetration Testing is testing a computer system, network, or web application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could misuse.

Vulnerabilities could be due to multiple reasons:

  • Defects in the design of hardware and software
  • Unsecured network usage
  • The complicated computer systems architecture
  • Probable human errors

Why Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing normally estimates a system’s ability to protect its networks, from external or internal threats. So, it is essential in every sector because:

  • Financial sectors want their data to be secured, so penetration testing is required to ensure security
  • Active Penetration Testing is the best safeguard against hackers
  • It helps in avoiding black hat attacks to protect the original data
  • It can measure the magnitude of the attack
  • It helps to find loopholes in the system where an intruder can attack to gain access to the data

How to do Penetration Testing

The following phases need to be performed to execute Penetration Testing: 

Penetration Testing Tutorial: Learn Manual & Automated Types  PenTest

Step 1) Planning phase

  • The strategy of the assignment is determined
  • Existing security policies are used for implementing new strategies. 

Step 2) Discovery phase

  • The phases are all about collecting the information about a system like data, username, passwords. This is called Fingerprinting. 
  • Scan and Inquiry about the ports.
  • Check system vulnerabilities.

Step 3) Attack Phase

  • Finding all the vulnerabilities in the system and exploiting them with necessary security privileges.

Step 4) Reporting Phase

  • Detailed findings of vulnerabilities and other loopholes.
  • Rate of risk on business due to those of those vulnerabilities and other loopholes.
  • Recommendations and solutions for those vulnerabilities and other loopholes.

What are different types of Penetration Testing?

It is categorized based on different parameters:

1. Penetration testing based on knowledge of the target:

Black Box

  • When the attacker does not know the target, then it is called black-box testing. Here Pen tester uses automated tools to find the vulnerabilities and loopholes of the systems which take a lot of time.  

White Box

  • When the penetration tester has complete knowledge about the target, then it is called white box testing. Here white box testing takes less time when compared to black-box penetration testing. 

Grey Box

  • When the tester has partial information about the target, it is referred to as gray box penetration testing. 

2. Penetration testing types based on the position of tester:

  • External penetration testing – Testing conducted outside the network.
  • Internal penetration testing – Testing conducted inside the network.
  • Targeted testing- Performed by the organization’s IT team and the Penetration Testing team.
  • A blind penetration test-  Tester with no prior information except the organization name.
  • Double-blind test- Only one or two people within the organization might be aware that a test.

What are the tools used for penetration testing?

The important tools used are:

  • NMap- This tool is used to trace the route, vulnerability scanning, port scanning, etc…
  • Nessus- Traditional network-based vulnerabilities tool.
  • Pass-The-Hash – This tool is used for password cracking.
  • Nessus – This tool is used for network and web application vulnerability scanners.
  • Wireshark – This tool is used for profiling network traffic and for analyzing network packets.

When to Perform Penetration Testing?

This is a process that needs to be performed regularly for securing the system. In addition to this, it should be performed:

  • When the security system identifies new threats by attackers.
  • When you add a new network infrastructure.
  • When you update your system or install the software.
  • When you relocate your office.
  • When you set up a new program/policy.

How is Penetration Testing Beneficial?

It offers the following benefits:

  • Enhancement of the Management System − Provides detailed information about the security threats and also measures the vulnerabilities levels and suggests to you, which one is on priority and which one is less. This feature helps the pentester to accurately manage the security system.
  • Avoid Penalties: Fine − Helps in keeping major activities updated in one’s organization. So, penetration testing protects you from giving fines.
  • Avoid Financial Damage − Can protect your organization from a simple breach of a security system that may cause millions of dollars of damage.
  • Customer Protection − Can protect your organization from keeping your customer’s data intact and helps in avoiding financial and reputation damage. 

Manual Penetration vs. automated penetration testing:

Manual Penetration TestingAutomated Penetration Testing
Requires expert professionals to run the testsProvide clear reports with less experienced professionals
Requires Excel and other tools to track itHas centralized and standard tools
Sample results vary from test to testResults do not vary from test to test
Memory Cleaning up should be remembered by usersAutomated Testing will have comprehensive cleanups.


  • Identify and resolve system vulnerabilities.
  • Gain valuable insights into your digital systems.
  • Establish trust with your clients.


  • Mistakes can be costly.
  • Determining the test conditions.
  • Testing could be unethical.

How to Become a Pen Tester: Skills, Career Path

If you’re the type of person who loves solving puzzles and cracking codes, then this job is for you!. You’d be employed by organizations to test legally to break and hack their systems.

Requirements for Pen Tester:

There are some qualifications and skills that an individual can consider:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or any relevant branch.
  • There is also a variety of penetration testing certifications that can help you break into the field and even demonstrate advanced skills
  • Strong networking skills. Understanding computer networks at an expert level enables pen testers to exploit vulnerabilities and make you the best pen testers.
  • System administration skills. Understanding how computer servers work is an important part of pen-testing.
  • Programming skills. You don’t necessarily need to learn complete coding as a software developer does! but programming skills are helpful.
    Scripting languages like  Python, PHP, and Ruby and web development languages like  HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, etc…can prove quite useful.
  • Automation skills. Scripting languages help you automate tasks so understanding these languages’ can make you a better pentester.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills. Soft skills are a big part of a pen-testers job. Pen testers need to pay close attention to the smallest detail to make the biggest difference.

Role and Responsibilities:

  • To enable penetration tests one must collect the required information from the organization.
  • Finding loopholes that could allow hackers to attack a target machine
  • Pen Testers should think like real hackers though ethically.
  • Work done by Penetration testers should be reproducible for developers to fix it.
  • A Pentester is responsible for any loss in the system or information during the Software Testing.
  • A Pentester should keep data and information confidential. 

Also read: Top Cyber Security Interview Questions and Answer 

Pen Tester Salaries

According to Payscale, the average salary for a Penetration Tester is  Rs 597,735/year.

Source: Payscale

If you wish to learn Penetration testing which is a part of cybersecurity, then check out our Cyber Security Course which comes with Globally Recognized Certificate from Stanford Center for Professional Development.

This training will help you understand cybersecurity in-depth and help you to gain the skills to protect networks, secure electronic assets, prevent attacks, ensure the privacy of your customers, and build a secure infrastructure.

Got a question for us? Write in the comments section and we will get back to you!



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