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Randy Lindberg 07 Apr 2021 4 min read

What is Network Penetration in Cybersecurity?

The confetti just recently fell ringing in 2021, and unfortunately cybersecurity and data breaches are already top of mind. Even organizations that sell security services have been breached proving that despite a company’s best attempts, it’s critical to remember that no one is completely immune to nefarious cybercriminals. So what can you do? How can you prevent would-be hackers from breaching your digital walls?


It starts with network penetration testing. Now, you might be wondering, what is network penetration in cybersecurity, and how can you test for it in order to prevent it? Network penetration or “pen testing” is a test that is performed by IT security experts with the goal of discovering and taking advantage of vulnerabilities in a company’s IT infrastructure.


What is Network Penetration Testing?

The best way to explain network penetration testing is that it’s a vulnerability test for your hardware and/or software systems to detect leaks or vulnerabilities that could potentially lead to a breach. These penetration tests, called pen tests for short, are typically performed by IT and security professionals, and there are three tests that are considered the most popular in the industry. These are:


    • Black Box: This test is a simulated attack intended to emulate what an average hacker or cybercriminal would do to breach your internal system or network. Most hackers won’t have any knowledge of your unique network, so the attempts to exploit your vulnerabilities would be based on what a typical member of the public would see. It’s important to note this because internal vulnerabilities may not be detected in black box penetration tests.
    • White Box: In a white box pen test, your security or IT professional will test internal threats. These tests often take a long time to plan and run because it requires learning how your company’s unique infrastructure is set up. However, you’ll likely uncover more information than you would in a black box test that can help you better prepare for threats.
    • Gray Box: The best way to describe a gray box test is that it’s a combination of black box and white box testing. In this case, the tester receives some knowledge related to the network ecosystem, or they may simply be given limited access to an internal network or web application. For example, they may be given a generic login for a basic level of access that they will then use to see if they can gain higher level access and exploit your systems.


How do Network Pen Tests Work?

There are four steps that are generally used by IT and security professionals:

  1. Determine the best test to use
  2. Recon - discovering the potential weaknesses that a hacker might attempt to exploit
  3. Development and running of the tests to attempt to exploit vulnerabilities found in the recon phase
  4. Reporting - this is the step where your penetration tester will share what vulnerabilities were able to be exploited, and they will give recommendations for plugging any leaks


This process may be quick and painless, or it could take up to a month. How long it will take really depends on your organization’s internal system and network ecosystem. As you may expect, the larger your organization and the more complex your network, the more time it will take to complete the testing.


The truth is, this is not something you want to rush. When you consider the fact that some hackers spend months and even years working to break a network’s internal systems and look for vulnerabilities, a month of testing is well worth the security suggestions the results will provide. It’s more critical than ever that your company or financial institution is protected.


Schedule a penetration test with Rivial Security today.