What is Network Penetration Testing ?
Network penetration testing, often referred to as “pen testing,” is a simulated cyber-attack against your network to evaluate its security. The primary objective of network testing is to identify vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and gaps in your network security before malicious hackers have a change to exploit them. This allows your businesses to better understand it’s security posture and take corrective actions accordingly.
There are two main types of network penetration testing: external penetration testing and internal penetration testing. The former focuses on identifying vulnerabilities in the network that are exposed to the internet, such as web, vpn and email servers The latter, on the other hand, aims to uncover internal vulnerabilities that could be exploited by someone who already has access to the network, which could be an employee, contractor or a hacker who has compromised the network via other means.
Now that we’ve established what network penetration testing is and the types of tests that can be conducted, you may be wondering how we perform these tests? The answer lies in a structured approach known as a network penetration testing methodology.
What is a Network Penetration Testing methodology?
A structured methodology is crucial for conducting a thorough and effective network penetration test. One of the most widely recognised frameworks is the Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES). According to PTES, a typical network penetration test involves several phases:
Pre-engagement Interactions: Defining the scope, objectives, and rules of engagement.
Intelligence Gathering: Collecting information about the target network.
Threat Modeling: Identifying potential threats and attack vectors.
Vulnerability Analysis: Scanning and identifying vulnerabilities.
Exploitation: Attempting to exploit the identified vulnerabilities.
Post Exploitation: Gathering data from exploited systems to understand the impact.
Reporting: Documenting findings, data, and recommendations for securing the network.
Common Internal Network Vulnerabilities
Unpatched Windows Machines Insecure Network Segregation Unencrypted Communications Legacy Network Protocols (Netbios, LLMNR) Default SNMTP Community Strings
Common External Network Vulnerabilities
Insecure Firewalls Vulnerable VPN endpoints Misconfigured Web Servers Default Credentials DoS (Denial of services)
What is the goal of network penetration testing?
The goal of network penetration testing is to safeguard an organisation’s network infrastructure against potential threats by identifying and evaluating its vulnerabilities. This is achieved through a simulated cyber-attack (Done be professionals such as ourselves), which, contrary to real-world breaches, is a controlled, ethical activity designed to assess the network’s robustness without causing disruption.
Both external penetration testing and internal penetration testing aims to highlight any areas of weakness within a network’s security apparatus, whether they are exposed to the external digital environment or nestled within its internal mechanisms.
The goal of a network penetration test can vary widely depending on the testing requirements for the organisation. Penetration testing can either be from an authenticated or unauthenticated perspective or both. Tests can also be conducted from a grey box, white box or black box perspective.
Below are some common goals often detailed in network penetration tests:
- Ensure the network adheres to relevant regulatory and compliance standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS, by validating the security controls in place.
- Simulate cyber-attacks to test the efficacy of the incident response plan and understand how well a security team can identify, contain, and mitigate a real-world breach attempts.
- Discover and document vulnerabilities in the external-facing assets like web applications, email servers, and VPN endpoints.
- Identify weaknesses within the internal network, such as misconfigurations (Such as legacy protocols), unpatched systems (Old windows systems), and insecure data storage practices.
What are the benefits of a network penetration test?
The benefits of conducting a network penetration test are manifold:
- Identify Vulnerabilities: Before they can be exploited by cybercriminals.
- Regulatory Compliance: Helps in meeting cybersecurity standards and regulations.
- Risk Assessment: Provides a realistic view of your network’s security posture.
- Cost Savings: Prevents the financial losses associated with data breaches.
- Peace of Mind: Knowing that your network has been rigorously tested and is secure.
In essence, network penetration testing is an investment in your organisation’s cybersecurity, offering both immediate and long-term advantages.
What is the difference between a vulnerability scan and a penetration test?
While both vulnerability scans and network penetration tests aim to identify weaknesses, they are not the same. A vulnerability scan is an automated process that scans the network for known vulnerabilities, using tools such as Nessus and OpenVAS. It is less comprehensive and doesn’t simulate real-world attacks the same was a manual assessment does.
A network penetration test is a far more rigorous and exhaustive evaluation of network security. Unlike a vulnerability scan, a penetration test doesn’t just stop at identifying vulnerabilities; it goes a step further to actively exploit them. This is akin to simulating the tactics, techniques, and procedures that a genuine attacker might employ. For instance, while a vulnerability scan might flag the use of outdated protocols like Link-Local Multicast Name Resolution (LLMNR), a penetration test would actively attempt to compromise the network using poisoning attacks on these protocols.
What are the next steps?
Contact a member of our consulting team either by phone, email, or pigeon post. We will then discuss whether we can help you and arrange a scoping meeting to discuss your requirements.
In the scoping meeting, our expert consultants will discuss and finalise which digital assets you need testing. We will then put together a project proposal and quote based on the requirements and agree on a schedule for conducting the security assessment.
The testing starts. A member of our penetration testing team will liaise with a member of your company throughout the entire testing process. If we have any questions or concerns, you will be the first to know.
Report & Remediate
A penetration test is useless without a well-written report. Our reports are written in plain English, concise and thoroughly documented. Each report will detail an executive summary, risk ratings, a business risk summary and all of the issues we found throughout the engagement.
Book your retest.
Here at Sencode we offer free retesting with every penetration test we conduct.
You fix the issues, then we will verify they can no longer be exploited by an attacker.
Get a security certificate for your business.
Just a PDF document with a list of issues? No way.
Our clients receive a testing certificate that can be shared with partners and customers alike. Showing that your company takes security seriously.
Frequently Asked Questions
The cost of a network penetration test in the UK can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the scope, complexity, location and retesting requirements.
A general guideline for network penetration testing costs in the UK are as follows:
– Small Businesses: For a small business with a simple network, costs might range from £1,000 to £5,000.
– Medium-sized Businesses: For a medium sized business with a simple network, costs might range from £5,000 to £15,000.
– Large Enterprises: For large enterprises with multiple locations and complex networks, the cost can easily exceed £15,000 and go up to £30,000 or more.
These prices are variable based upon number of assets being tested, retesting requirements, after-hours testing and skills required to conduct the engagement.
It’s advisable to get multiple quotes from different providers and to have a clear understanding of what is included in the price.
Get a free, no obligation quote from one of our expert staff.