Explain the Techniques Used in Penetration Testing

Explain the Techniques Used in Penetration Testing

Penetration testing, also known as pen-testing or ethical hacking, is a cybersecurity practice used to identify potential weaknesses in a digital system's infrastructure or application. This type of test uses the same tools and techniques as malicious hackers, allowing organizations to better understand their system's vulnerabilities before malicious actors exploit them. By proactively testing security controls, organizations can reduce the time and cost of a data breach.

The main objective of penetration testing is to identify, analyze, and report system vulnerabilities. This activity is part of a larger information security process that often includes risk management, risk assessment, and remediation. During the testing process, a security team will simulate a malicious attack and use different techniques to gain access to the system. Different types of tests are employed, depending on the target system, its purpose, and the types of security controls in place.

Types of Penetration Tests

Organizations can choose from two main types of penetration tests. The first is an internal test, which is conducted from within a network to examine the security of the internal systems and applications. The second type is an external test, which is conducted from outside a network to evaluate its external defenses such as firewalls, web applications, and email security.

Pen Testing Techniques

Penetration tests can be conducted manually or through automated tools. Manual testing is more comprehensive, and requires a skilled tester to use different techniques to target the system and exploit its weaknesses. Some of the most common pen testing techniques include credential stuffing, password cracking, network scanning, SQL injection, social engineering, and exploit testing.

Credential stuffing is the practice of using automated tools to test lists of leaked usernames and passwords against an organization’s servers. With password cracking, an attacker tests multiple passwords against an authentication system. This can be done by using brute force, dictionary, or hybrid attacks. Network scanning is used to find and identify live systems, open ports, hosts, and services on a network, while SQL injection allows an attacker to run arbitrary code on the server through malicious commands.

Social engineering attacks are based on the manipulation of users and administrators into performing actions that are not in their best interests. Exploit testing involves the use of automated tools to identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited and used to gain access to the system. Once these vulnerabilities are detected, it is then possible to create a plan of action to mitigate them.


According to a recent study by Verizon, 91% of successful data breaches began with a stolen password. Additionally, the 2019 Cost of Data Breach Study by IBM and Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach was $3.92 million. This cost can be significantly reduced by proactively testing security controls with penetration testing.