Physical Penetration Testing Methodology

Learn more about our methodology and the steps used in our physical security penetration testing engagements

physical-penetration-testing-methodology

When people think of cybersecurity, they often turn an eye to areas such as computers, networks, web applications, mobile, and IoT (Internet of Things). All important areas to firmly secure, however, when developing an overall cybersecurity strategy, sometimes organizations get caught up in their tech and inadvertently overlook their physical security. Performing physical penetration testing is essential to ensure your security plan is robust and able to withstand bad actors from infiltrating and exploiting your business.

RedTeam Security understands the need to ensure your physical security barriers can withstand attempts made by these bad actors to gain access. Our experienced penetration testers are highly skilled at identifying any physical vulnerabilities in your organization’s physical defenses. Contact RedTeam Security today at 612-234-7848 to learn more about the penetration testing phases we offer.

What is Physical Penetration Testing?

Physical pentesting simulates real-world scenarios where criminals attempt to compromise your physical security barriers with the intent to access your buildings, systems, and even your employees’ knowledge.

Our physical pentesting methodology is comprised of several phases and each and every test is conducted consistently using globally accepted and industry-standard frameworks. To ensure a sound and comprehensive physical security test, RedTeam leverages industry-standard frameworks as a foundation for carrying out penetration tests. At a minimum, the underlying framework is based on the NIST Special Publication 800 Series guidance and OSSTMM but goes beyond the initial framework itself.

RedTeam’s expert pentesters will carefully examine both your physical surroundings and internal environment to identify potential weaknesses. We’ll also spot any potential vulnerabilities that may exist in your established security controls so you can employ additional countermeasures.

What Are The Benefits Of Physical Penetration Testing?

Investing in physical penetration testing comes with the benefit of exposing any weak physical barriers that might be present, along with enabling you to understand any risks you face and the damage attackers can cause should they breach your physical barriers. When our experienced pentesters set out to perform physical penetration testing, we do so intending to expose any lapses, weaknesses, or hidden vulnerabilities in your organization’s physical goals. Other primary benefits of physical penetration testing include:

  • An experienced eye to examine all aspects of your physical security methods to determine any potential risks – sometimes, it takes an objective eye that isn’t overly familiar with your facility to detect weaknesses.
  • Ensure your physical controls, including locks, cameras, sensors, and barriers, are intact and free of any flaws.
  • Make certain your physical security defenses are as strong as they can be – if we detect any weaknesses, we’ll highlight these and address how they can be remediated.
  • Identify any human weaknesses in your organization and help develop strategies to integrate security awareness training as a part of your security posture.
  • Develop more robust overall security policies to ensure individuals with ill intent don’t successfully launch physical or cyber attacks against your organization.

Even if you invest a large portion of your budget to strengthening your digital defenses, all can be for naught if a criminal can easily access your facility to steal equipment, data, or any of your other valuable assets. RedTeam Security’s pentesters are extremely thorough and have years of experience in detecting even the most obscure weaknesses. We’ll flesh out any vulnerabilities so you can rest assure no attackers will be able to exploit you.

Physical Penetration Testing Steps

The steps of a penetration test that are performed by RedTeam Security on your physical location are pretty straightforward. We take a meticulous approach to ensure nothing is overlooked. Every security detail is accounted for – you can be certain attackers will be exploring everything from your locks to peeping in your windows. They’re not above dumpster diving for information that can help them achieve their malicious goals. We get into an attacker’s mindset as we cover all angles throughout our penetration testing phases using the following steps in our methodology.

Physical-Pene-testing-methodology

Information Gathering

As with other types of penetration testing, the first phase in a physical penetration test is to focus on gathering as much information as possible about the target. We call this passive reconnaissance, aka information gathering. This Is one of the most critical steps in our pentesting processes because it helps us to examine your organization from the perspective of a “bad guy” and enable us to see everything an attacker would be by utilizing public tools, such as Google Earth. Using this approach, it is usually possible to learn a great deal about the target’s (in this case, your facility’s) surroundings and environment.

Open Source Intelligence

Once we’ve gathered knowledge and intel about your facility, we turn our eye to a step we call Open Source Intelligence. Open Source Intelligence gathering can be quite telling about a target, its people, and specifics about the physical environment. To accomplish this step, we utilize a different set of public tools, including social networks and job boards, to name just two.

Criminals are adept at pulling together any “pieces of a puzzle” displayed publicly and, by analyzing the information they collect, it begins to paint a picture of the target and its primary operations. Using the details they’ve collected, they can usually develop a nefarious strategy to obtain the final puzzle pieces they need to access your sensitive information.

By carefully examining the public side of your company, we can learn much about your organization, how it operates, and uncover any weaknesses that might exist in your employees (i.e. information sharing on Facebook) so you can remediate them.

Active Reconnaissance

The Active Reconnaissance phase of physical pentesting helps us to detect security vulnerabilities you might not suspect exist. In this next step, we take a more active “hands-on” approach by gathering information that can be found offline – here is where we put our strong knowledge of social engineering to work. This often includes calling, emailing, or otherwise directly contacting your staff, security guards, and vendors to try to obtain information not publicly found or learn details that are impossible to find online. 

Unfortunately, humans are the weakest link in security strategies and social engineering attacks happen more often than we’d think. People often inadvertently give out enough information for bad actors to be able to pass any validation and authentication processes through trickery by individuals with ill intent. Any information we obtain from the people we contact will be used to build a better plan as the physical penetration testing process progresses.

Covert Observation

Covert Observation is exactly what it sounds like. By this point, we’ve already mapped your physical facility to find its secured and unsecured points. Still, now we dig deeper to see where we can bypass existing barriers or access unsecured ones. This often includes performing covert photography of the target (your facility) up close to identify physical security controls and monitoring staff as they are coming and going. If you have an open facility in a glass building, we may even try to zoom in to see what sensitive information we can pick up on your employees’ computer screens.

Attack Planning

By this point in our steps to penetration testing, the information collected in the previous phases is beginning to coalesce. Vulnerabilities, exit points, entrance points, cameras, guards, fences, company technology, staff members, and other relevant information are used to begin planning an attack.

Pretexting

Planning and intelligence gathered by various means have, by now, morphed into a plan of attack. Pretexting involves setting the plan into action and ensuring the team’s equipment, transportation, and personnel are synchronized and ready to execute.

Infiltration, Exploitation & Post-Exploitation

During these phases, the team exploits vulnerabilities discovered using information and intelligence captured during the assessment’s earlier stages. Post-exploitation involves penetrating further into the environment and setting up to maintain a persistent backdoor.

The Real Cost of Not Doing Physical Penetration Testing

Many companies decide if they add some heavy-duty locks, security cameras, and an alarm system, it’s enough to protect their facilities. What they don’t consider are the information security risks associated with social engineering, phishing, poor authentication processes at entry points, and other less obvious access points attackers will target. Any breaches made through these attack vectors will be expensive.

The real costs of not doing physical penetration testing can be quite high. Aside from the risk of breached data from a lapse in physical security (e.g. theft of laptops, valuable papers stolen, or other asset losses), you’ll want to weigh out additional costs when calculating your overall security assessment budget.

  • Hefty fines and legal fees. If attackers succeed and breach your organization, if your organization is found to be non-compliant, this can be costly.
  • Damage to reputation. Once the public hears about data breaches of any kind that puts PII at risk, it can put a large blight on your professional reputation or brand name.
  • Impact on future profits. If you lose public trust, this will have a severe impact on future profits; not to mention it’s usually costly to regain consumer confidence.
  • Money associated with exploits. A big trend for attackers is to steal assets or data and then demand ransom for its exchange.
  • Remediation costs. After an incident, an organization has to fix the problems. Either way, you’re going to need to budget for physical security. It’s better to be proactive and prevent existing problems before an incident occurs.

While the immediate costs associated with any kind of incident response are usually easy to calculate (and they can go into millions depending on the size of the data breach and if any violations of compliance, such as HIPAA, have occurred). What many organizations don’t realize there are many intangible costs involved as well if good security posture is not achieved. These also should be factored into the real cost of not doing physical penetration testing.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Cyber Security Expert Today

When planning your cybersecurity and security testing strategies, while securing your tech is vital, it’s important to think beyond computer systems, malware attacks, firewalls, wireless networks, web applications, mobile applications, and other digital security weaknesses. Ensuring your physical security is the best it can be is an essential part of any security program.

RedTeam Security’s expert staff is highly skilled at performing physical pen tests. Our robust processes will ensure your facility’s physical security is intact. RedTeam’s security professionals will work diligently to identify any potential vulnerabilities within your organization’s walls to make certain everyone working or associated with your organization isn’t inadvertently falling for classic social engineering ruses or giving out sensitive or unpublished information or materials. Are you ready to beef up your physical security? Schedule your free virtual meeting with a RedTeam Security expert today at 612-234-7848.

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