The power of penetration testing to identify security risks

Reja Rapheekh Updated on: October 27th, 2023
penetration testing

In the universe of cyber attacks and threats, it is crucial to safeguard web applications and software systems. Various tools and techniques are used for this purpose, and one of them is ‘pen testing’ aka ‘penetration testing’. Organizations implement pen testing as a cybersecurity strategy. This technique is often called ethical hacking since it stimulates cyberattacks on a system, network, or application to detect vulnerabilities that could be possibly exploited by malignant attackers. 

How does it work? 

penetration testing

Pen testers are significant tools that dive deeper into the software code and investigate the application’s security controls, data protection mechanisms, and potential entry points. After discovering the security gaps, it will take action.

Reasons why penetration testing is needed

For identifying vulnerabilities 

Vulnerabilities are of different kinds. They might be known vulnerabilities or zero-day vulnerabilities ( which are newly discovered but not yet patched). The role of penetration testing is to unmask the weaknesses within a system that may not be apparent through regular security tests. 

Real-world testing 

Sometimes, detecting vulnerabilities could be more entertaining through pen testing. They often imitate real-world cyber attacks and provide companies with a realistic assessment of their security posture. And guess what? They get an idea on how their defenses would fare against actual attacks. 

Risk mitigation 

What is the benefit of identifying weaknesses before attackers exploit them? It can reduce great risks if organizations are one step ahead of the attackers. They can take proactive steps to mitigate such risks. Various methods, including reconfiguring systems, patching software, or implementing additional security measures, fall under this umbrella. 

Compliance and regulation 

Penetration testing in specific industries and regions requires regulation and compliance standards. It is very important to meet these requirements to avoid legal and financial consequences.

For protecting sensitive data 

Penetration testing plays an important role in protecting sensitive data, financial records, and confidential information. It makes sure that the data is adequately protected from unauthorized access or theft. 

Different types of penetration testing strategies 

For accessing the security of a system, network, or application, penetration testing uses several strategies or methodologies. Let’s see what they are; 

Black box testing 

In this testing, the tester possesses no knowledge of the internal workings of the system being assessed. They solely depend on outside information and approach it as an external attacker would. 

White box testing 

In contrast to black box testing, the tester has full knowledge of the internal workings such as the architecture, design, and source code of the system. This allows an in-depth assessment of vulnerabilities. 

Grey box testing 

This is a combination of both black box testing and white box testing. Which means, the tester develops a limited knowledge of the system which may include information about its architecture. 

External testing 

The testing that accesses the security of externally facing systems including websites, mobile applications, and network perimeter defenses. Testers try to attempt vulnerabilities from an external perspective. 

According to the specific needs and goals of organizations, these penetration strategies can be tailored.

What are some common web application security risks?

Injection attacks: 

In some cases, untrusted data can be sent to the interpreter as a part of a command. This may lead to the execution of unintended comments or unauthorized access to data. And this kind of security risk is termed an injection attack. SQL injection, NoSQL injection, and OS command injection are some examples of injection attacks.

Broken authentication: 

Any weakness in the authentication system allows attackers to gain sensitive information. Weak passwords, session management vulnerabilities, insecure password resets, and credential recovery are the possible reasons for broken authentication. 

Sensitive data exposure 

Inadequate protection of sensitive data might result in unauthorized access and potential theft. Examples include insecure storage, improper data handling, and insufficient encryption.


It is vital that companies are aware of the security risks and take the necessary measures to prevent them. Penetration testing is a comprehensive security strategy implemented by many organizations. It identifies and addresses vulnerabilities before any major attack takes place.