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The Perfect Recipe for DIY Penetration Testing

Being able to make a proper hollandaise sauce is said to be the mark of a great chef. It’s arguably one of the most complicated sauces to make. Why? Your proportions have to be right, the bain-marie’s water should be hot (but not too hot), and you have to be careful how fast you combine the various ingredients with one another. Oh. And, if you get water in your mixture —  forget it! The sauce won’t come together properly.

Point is, there’s a lot to consider. It’s a true test of patience. However, if you do it right, the result is amazing. The same can be said for penetration testing. Seriously.

Penetration testing is when you or an outside security consultant discovers your network’s vulnerabilities and exploits them to reveal how you need to further secure your network. There are many steps. However, if you perform a pen test correctly, it’ll tell you a lot about how to better secure your network.

Here’s a list of steps to follow if you are interested in performing your own penetration test.

1. Know the Potential Consequences

While penetration tests are necessary for knowing exactly how you need to bolster your network security, there are potential, short-term consequences to consider.

Pen tests involve probing your network. As a result, it may become sluggish during the test. Meaning, computers may run more slowly or, in rare cases, it can crash your system.

In order to avoid possible downtime, it’s best to get proper training on doing your own pen testing. Or, enlist the help of a security consultant. That way, you can be sure you’re testing properly and minimize the negative consequences that may occur.

2. Gather Essential Information

The first step in a pen test is to extract as much information as you can about it. This is usually done by scanning it via open source programs like Nmap or Lansweeper. They’ll be able to map out your network, scan all of its open ports, and provide you with valuable information on which computers and devices are connected to it. Additionally, you’ll learn what applications these machines are running, what OS they’re using, any end users running unauthorized services.

In addition to learning about your business network, you’re going to want to gather information that can possibly be used to gain access to it. For instance, the names of IT and leadership as well as social media accounts which sometimes reveal pet names and personal information that may be used in passwords.

3. Do a Vulnerability Scan

Next, you need to run a vulnerability scan. Tools like OpenVAS and Qualys FreeScan are good scanning programs that will provide you with valuable insight into your network. They will show you which machines have outdated software versions, any security patches your network needs, which wireless access ports are open, what communication applications aren’t secure, and how strong your passwords are.

4. Exploit Your Network’s Weaknesses

Through the weaknesses you discover during the vulnerability scan, you’ll attempt to gain access to your business network and the sensitive data it houses. Metasploit, an ongoing computer security project, allows you to match vulnerabilities to pre-programmed exploits and contains tools that help you create your own.

For instance, if you can get hold of your server’s password file, you can likely use a password cracking tool to uncover network passwords. You’ll then be able to use these passwords to access sensitive business applications and data.

In this phase of penetration testing, you’re going to want to test your employees, as well by sending out a fake phishing email and/or trying to entice them to reveal login details or other sensitive business information. The truth is, 66% of data protection leaders admit employees are the weakest link in an organization’s security posture. If your employees are going to click on a phishing email or readily provide a stranger confidential information, that’s something you need to address via security training.

5. Bolster Your Network    

Take action! Use what you learned via the penetration test to increase network security. Knowledge is only powerful when you use it to your advantage.

In the last twelve months, 75.6% of businesses became cyberattack victims. That’s why it’s essential to be proactive and protect your network. Hackers will use any route they can to enter your network and gain access to its sensitive business data. If they do, your company may lose resources, experience downtime, and damage its reputation. This can all be avoided by performing regular penetration tests.

Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.