What is Pentest? | Penetration Testing Definition and Methods

September 29, 2021

What is a Pentest Service?

Pentest (Penetration Test) is a controlled cyberattack that helps check for exploitable vulnerabilities. This blog will help you understand the complete execution of a penetration testing service.

Penetration testing is not a one-time operation. It is a sophisticated, dynamic-lifetime process that is vital for the organizations and must be carried out comprehensively by professionals.

What is a Pentest Service?

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration Testing is a cyber security process to find and exploit vulnerabilities in IT systems. Penetration Testing is vital for identifying and addressing weaknesses. The purpose of this attack is to identify any weak spots in a system’s security defenses that attackers could take advantage of.

Who Performs Pentests?

Usually the contractor “Ethical Hackers” perform the pentests. The test being performed by someone who doesn’t know the system ensures that all system vulnerabilities are exposed.

What are Pentest Tools?

What are Pentest Tools? There is a list of the popular pentesting tools.

Tools for Exploitation and Collecting Info:

Tools for Credentials and Wireless:

Tools for Web Apps and Shells:

Tools for Vulnerabilities:

Tools for Reverse Engineering:

Pentest Methodologies

Many pentest methods are depending on the security system and the motivation of the organization.

The different types of pentest methods that a pentester can choose include:

a. Black Box

Pentesters have limited knowledge about the security system.

b. White Box

Pentesters are provided with detailed information about the security system.

c. Grey Box

Pentesters are provided with user-level information about the security system.

1.1. Network Pentest

A network penetration testing is performed by attacking business networks, network applications, websites, and attached devices by “Ethical Hackers (or Pentesters)”.

Pentesters assess the security of the target networks and analyze how motivated attackers can circumvent target system’s controls by manually reviewing, testing, and exploiting issues to get to the actual risk posture, covering all aspects of the target system’s external cyber presence, networks, websites, public records, DNS, email systems and certificates.

1.2. Web Application Pentest

Web application security is the method of making applications safer by identifying, modifying, and improving their security. Security flaws are unavoidable, just like any other program errors. Web vulnerability scanners and other web security monitoring techniques may help in the detection of possible application security flaws.

One of the most reliable sources in web application pen testing is The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) . OWASP works to assist pen testers with cheat sheets, web application security trainers, testing guides and testing tools. But the Top 10 List is the most popular OWASP Project.

Web Application Pentest

OWASP Top 10

The OWASP Top 10 is a standard awareness document for developers and web application security. It represents a broad consensus about the most critical security risks to web applications.

  • Top 10 most critical security risks to web applications
  • Most well-known project of OWASP
  • Latest version published in 2021

OWASP Top 10 2017

OWASP Top 10 2021

Pentest In Cybersecurity Process

2.1. What are the Phases of a Pentest Project?

What are the Phases of a Pentest Project

  1. Scoping and Planning: Agree with the customer on the scope, timing and boundaries of the project.

  2. Discovery: Gather information on the target from public sources, like using open source intelligence (OSSINT) to find personnel contact information.

  3. Vulnerability Identification: Use technical tools to gain further knowledge of the target's assets, like using automated scanning tools to identify networks, hosts and vulnerabilities.

  4. Threat Modeling and Exploitation: Develop threat models and attack scenarios to accomplish Pentest goals such as gain remote access to systems or the customer database, e.g. using Metasploit to run exploits against known vulnerabilities.

  5. Lateral Expansion and Maintaining Access: After gaining access, test lateral expansion to simulate how far an attacker can go and if your security monitoring controls would detect their activities.

  6. Reporting: Provide executive management and technical reports that include business risk, technical vulnerabilities, and suggested remediation strategies.

2.2. Pentest and Risk Analysis (or Risk Assessment)

Risk assessment is the process of identifying, analyzing and evaluating risk. It helps to ensure that the chosen cybersecurity controls are appropriate organization faces.

2.3. Risks of Pentest

If the Pentester is inexperienced, a pentest can bring damage.

Here are some pentest risks:

  • The high cost of mistakes: If a pentest isn’t executed properly, the tester can crash servers or corrupt data.

  • Unrealistic conditions and biased results: If the security team knows about an upcoming test, they may prepare themselves and the system for it. If the pentest is performed in an unrealistic environment, the results won’t be reliable.

  • Time and scope limitations: Pentesters have limited time to report the results. This limits the number of exploits that pentesters can use. But hackers usually have unlimited time to plan an attack. Therefore, comprehensive testing in limited time cannot be completely reliable.

Pentest and Other Types of Test Audits

Penetration Tests, Vulnerability Assessment, and Security Audits are usually confused when offered by security service providers. All of them are security terms, but each serves a different goal and they have different outcomes.

3.1. Pentest and IT Audit

While a pentest is a simulated cyberattack against the security systems, a Security Audit means evaluating a system’s risk level against a set of standards or baselines. Standards are essential rules while baselines are the minimally acceptable level of security. Standards and baselines reach reliability in security implementations and can be individual to industries, technologies, and processes.

Pentest and IT Audit

Vulnerability assessment looks at how a system should operate and then compares that to the system’s current operational state.

Companies must construct a security audit plan that is improvable and sustainable. Associates must be involved in the process for the best result.

a. Types of Security Audits

There are two forms of Security Audits:

  • Internal Audits: In these audits, a company uses its resources and internal audit department.

  • External Audits: In these audits, a contractor organization is commissioned to conduct an audit.

b. What Systems Does an Audit Cover?

During a security audit, the vulnerabilities that may be examined are:

  • Network Vulnerabilities
  • Security Controls
  • Encryption
  • Software Systems
  • Architecture Management Capabilities
  • Telecommunications Controls
  • System Development Audit
  • Information Processing

3.2. Pentest and Red Team Operation

Red Teaming, in contrast to penetration testing, is concentrated on target objectives. Instead of putting a priority on finding as many vulnerabilities as possible, a red team attempts to test how an organization’s security team responds to many threats. The red teaming project will always concentrate on the objectives, seeking to get access to sensitive information in stealth, avoiding detection.

Pentest and IT Audit

Usually, a red team project will lay out specific objectives and the process will involve a lot more people than a standard penetration test. In spending more time in scoping and needing more resources, Red Team assessments may lead to more detailed comprehension of the level of risk that identified security vulnerabilities might pose to the organization.

3.3. Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a systematic and automated review of security weaknesses in an information system. It evaluates if the system is susceptible to any known vulnerabilities, assigns severity levels to those vulnerabilities, and recommends remediation or mitigation, if and whenever needed.

a. What is Vulnerability Management and What Is the Difference?

Vulnerability scanning refers to running a tool and getting a report of a prioritized list of vulnerabilities, Vulnerability Management is a cyclical process or program that incorporates the scan results to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks continuously and proactively.

3.4. Source Code Review

A secure code review is a specialized task involving manual and/or automated review of an application's source code to identify security-related weaknesses (flaws) in the code. A secure code review does not attempt to identify every issue in the code but, instead, looks to provide insight into what types of problems exist and to help the developers of the application understand what classes of issues are present. The goal is to arm the developers with information to help them make the application's source code more sound and secure.

a. Source Code Analysis Tools

Source code analysis tools, also referred to as Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools, are designed to analyze source code or compiled versions of code to help find security flaws.

Some tools are starting to move into the Integrated Development Environment (IDE). It’s effecti̇ve to use source code analysis tools during the software development phase to detect problems. This is a powerful phase within the development life cycle to employ such tools, as it provides immediate feedback to the developer on the issues that they might be introducing into the code during the code development process. This immediate feedback is very useful, especially when compared to finding vulnerabilities much later in the development cycle.

b. Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Scales well – can be run on lots of software and can be run repeatedly (as with nightly builds or continuous integration).
  • Useful for things that such tools can automatically find with high confidence, such as buffer overflows, SQL Injection Flaws, and so forth.
  • Output is good for developers – highlights the precise source files, line numbers, and even subsections of lines that are affected.


  • Many types of security vulnerabilities are difficult to find automatically, such as authentication problems, access control issues, insecure use of cryptography, etc. The current state of the art only allows such tools to automatically find a relatively small percentage of application security flaws. However, tools of this type are getting better.
  • High numbers of false positives.
  • It can’t frequently find configuration issues since they are not represented in the code.
  • Difficult to ‘prove’ that an identified security issue is an actual vulnerability.
  • Many of these tools have difficulty analyzing the code that can’t be compiled. Analysts are not able to compile code because they don’t have the right libraries, all the necessary compilation instructions, and the code, etc.

3.5. Social Engineering

Social engineering is the art of manipulating people, so they give up confidential information. It uses psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information.

Social engineering attacks consist of one or more steps. An attacker first scopes the targeted victim to gather necessary background information. Then, the attacker tries to gain the victim's trust and give stimuli for subsequent actions that break security actions.

Social Engineering

Most Known Social Engineering Attack Techniques

  • Baiting
  • Scareware
  • Pretexting
  • Phishing
  • Spear Phishing

3.6. DDoS Attacks

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disturb the normal traffic of the target server or network by overwhelming the target or with a flood of Internet traffic.

A DDoS attack is launched from numerous compromised devices, often distributed globally in what is referred to as a botnet.

3.7. Load Testing

Load testing in software testing is a non-functional testing methodology that is used commonly to estimate the performance of web-based applications, client systems or servers, etc. The test estimates the operating capacity of the application when its user traffic is at high volumes.


In this blog post, we’ve covered penetration testing. We’ve introduced different tools that could be useful in pentesting. We provided information about pentest methodologies and revealed the phases and risk of a pentest project. In addition, we talked about other types of testing.

We hope it was useful information. Please visit our Pentest page to see the penetration testing services PurpleBox offers.

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Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing (Pentest) is used to test your security controls and identify flaws in your apps, cloud and network through the eyes of a malicious actor.