What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing 101

Definition of Penetration Testing:

Penetration testing can be described as a legal and authorized attempt to locate and successfully and effeciently exploit computer systems for the purpose of making those systems more secure and protected. Penetration testing is a form of security testing that provides information on the configuration of the ogranization’s system by using public-domain sources. Penetration testing methods includes probing for vulnerabilities as well as giving proof of concept (POC ) attacks to demonstrate the vulnerabilities are real. Proper penetration testing always ends with particular recommendations for addressing and fixing the issues that were discovered during the pen test. On the whole, this procedure is used to help secure and protect computers and networks against future attacks.


In penetration testing, knowing the difference between penetration testing and vulnerability assessment is important. As many people including vendors in the computer security community or the internet security community incorrectly use these terms interchangeably. A vulnerability assessment is the process of reviewing services and systems for possible security issues, whereas a penetration test essentially performs exploitation and provides proof of concept attacks to prove that a security concern exists. Penetration tests go a step above vulnerability assessments by simulating a malicious user activity and providing live payloads in order to test the computer systemer or the network itself. With regards to penetration testing, the procedure of vulnerability assessment is actually one of the steps utilized to complete a penetration test.

Penetration testing can reveal and show to network administrators, system engineers, IT managers, and executives the possible and potential penalties of a real attacker breaking into the network. Penetration testing shows and demonstrate security weaknesses missed by a common vulnerability scan.

A penetration test will point out vulnerabilities and report how those weaknesses can be exploited and taken advantage. It also shows how an attacker can exploit several minor vulnerabilities to compromise a computer or network system. Penetration testing reveals the gaps in the security model of an organization and helps organizations strike a balance between technical prowess and business functionality from the perspective of possible security breaches. Penetration testing also provides helpful information which is useful during disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

A penetration tester can be differentiated from an attacker only by intent, purpose and lack of malice. Therefore, employees, staff members or external experts must be cautioned against conducting penetration tests without having proper authorization. Incomplete and lacking quality penetration testing can result in a loss of services and disruption of business continuity.

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