Whatever your industry, cybersecurity is a priority. The number of reported cyber incidents continues to rise, and securing against cyber threats is increasingly important. This leaves many asking “what are the different types of penetration testing?” Here’s a primer on the various approaches to security penetration testing and what they accomplish.

No business wants to suffer the negative consequences of a major cyber attack. For one thing, cybersecurity attacks are costly. In 2017, for example, WannaCry ransomware infected more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries. The perpetrators demanded $300 ransom per computer.

The average data breach costs a company $3.86 million while the average denial of service attack costs a company $2.5 million.

Other negative impacts to consider include:

  • Compliance issues and possible fines
  • Downtime
  • Loss of business reputation
  • Customer attrition

Penetration tests are a great way to detect holes in your security defenses. With the help of security experts you can identify vulnerabilities and learn what actions to take to protect your business and prevent attack.

What Is Security Penetration Testing?

There are always new vulnerabilities on the horizon. A business can’t rest on its cybersecurity laurels or simply hope for the best. The different types of security penetration testing recognize the ingenuity and motivation of cybercriminals looking to make a buck, damage a company, steal intellectual property, shut a system down, or wreak havoc for political gain.

Penetration tests are more rigorous than a vulnerability scan, which relies mainly on automated tools to identify weaknesses. Regular penetration testing (also known as pen testing and sometimes called security testing) involves manual effort to dig deeper than a scan and helps keep a company current by examining the effectiveness of security controls in real time. The testing can also help with compliance with FDIC, HIPAA, PCI or other compliance standards.

Penetration testing can target servers, network endpoints, wireless networks, network security devices, mobile and wireless devices, software applications, as well as physical entry points. The primary types of testing, though, are network, physical, and application penetration tests with social engineering elements thrown in, too.

Different Types of Security Penetration Testing

Network Penetration Testing

In network penetration testing, testers identify exploitable networks, systems, hosts and network devices (i.e.: routers and switches) to find vulnerabilities. This pen test simulates an attack to:

  • Understand the organization’s level of risk
  • Reveal openings hackers might use to compromise or take over systems or networks
  • Address and fix security flaws
Physical Penetration Testing

Also known as physical intrusion testing or physical security penetration testing, this type of pen testing attempts to compromise perimeter security, intrusion alarms, motion detectors, locks, sensors, cameras, mantraps and other physical barriers to gain unauthorized physical access to sensitive areas.

Required in several industries for compliance requirements, this type of testing can give decision makers a better idea of cybersecurity unknowns. By identifying physical security control flaws and real risks the business faces today, physical pen testing provides valuable insight into the security of physical assets.

Application Penetration Testing

Application penetration testing employs globally accepted and industry standard frameworks to attempt to compromise, gain access, or take over apps, be they software, web applications or mobile applications. The testing identifies application security flaws and helps companies to see their software through the eyes of both hacker and experienced developer.

It’s a good idea to have different people test the security of an app than those who developed it. as developers are often too close to their work to effectively analyze its security flaws.

The better you understand application complexity and can communicate that to your security partner, the more effective this type of security penetration testing can be.

Social Engineering Testing

This type of testing attempts to exploit human error. The testers will try to gauge your employees’ risk of succumbing to social engineering. Bad actors often take advantage of human frailties to set their plans in motion. People are, regrettably, susceptible to persuasion or manipulation that could lead them to inadvertently put your business at risk.

Security Penetration Testing: Key Takeaway

Any organization could be at risk of data breach, systems hack, malware or ransomware attack, or cybercriminals illicitly accessing their network’s processing power.

Still, certain industries may need particular types of testing done. Utilities, for instance, should be sure to include physical pen testing to address all of their equipment assets spread across miles and miles of their network. Financial institutions, meanwhile, need to be sure to secure mobile banking applications in addition to their physical premises and own network and servers. The list goes on.

Learn more about the value of penetration testing for your business by contacting RedTeam’s experts for a consultation customized to your needs. Or, you can get a customized penetration testing quote for your organization directly by answering the few questions in our scoping questionnaire.