Software Penetration Testing – Steps and Tips

Software Penetration Testing - Steps and Tips

Penetration testing resembles a hacking attempt that provides a picture of the overall security of the system. Most firms undertake software penetration testing since it helps them detect common and hidden vulnerabilities through customized attack methods and resolve them before they are used by a real hacker.

There are differences between software penetration testing and vulnerability assessment procedures which the firm must be aware of in order to make the right choice. Vulnerability assessment merely detects the security weakness and organizes them into a document to be assessed by the IT department later. Pentesting, on the other hand, visualizes the attack method to see if the ethical hacker can breach the system.

Software Penetration Testing Process in 4 Steps

For a successful software penetration testing process, there are four phases that cover the majority of security issues, their location, and their remediation.

1. Gathering information – Reconnaissance

As the first step of the planning phase, the ethical hacker first gathers information about the system in order to understand the context of the business logic and other insider information. This information will then be used to design the attack methods so as to get maximum results and engage in better remediation procedures.

2. Scanning for vulnerabilities

Ethical hackers use different scanning tools to detect potential vulnerabilities at important positions within the system. They also get to realize the incident response of the system during a hacking attempt and this information can be used to formulate exploitation techniques.

3. Breaching the system

With the data gathered during the reconnaissance and scanning stages, the ethical hacker is able to exploit a security weakness or use a payload to enter the system. The next part of the plan is to evaluate how long they are able to stay within the system undetected by routine security checking or authorized security individuals. The ethical hacker will keep collecting data about the system during this time and use this to find the next vulnerability even if the IT team manages to compromise their current position.

4. Remain hidden

To remain within the system as long as possible, it’s a given that the ethical hacker must remain hidden. They will also have to clear up all traces of their activity since this can serve as a potential reminder to the cybersecurity team. 

Software Penetration Testing – Types and Methodologies

Based on the aspects of the system to be tested, there are different methodologies of software penetration testing that are best suited to each situation:

  1. Black box penetration testing – Here, the ethical hacker has very little background information about the target system. They must breach the system using common exploits and learn about the system using publicly available information and whatever is garnered during their activities.
  2. Grey box penetration testing – In this kind of testing, the tester proceeds with some information about the target system that helps with pentesting particular aspects. This methodology is most similar to real-time hackers.
  3. White box penetration testing – Testers use this technique to understand the impact of insider attacks using sensitive information regarding the company and its employees. It covers the possibilities of both accidental and intended misuse of information such as employee credentials, system details, etc so as to discover the potential vulnerabilities in these areas.

There are also different types of software penetration testing techniques to test various systems, applications, and contextual situations:

  • Mobile application penetration testing

Due to the popularity of Android-based or iOS-based mobile applications, a lot of firms engage in mobile penetration testing especially since business is often conducted on the go. The applications need to be secured properly so that there are no leaks of sensitive data and customers find it trustworthy to divulge their personal information in exchange for services.

  • Network penetration testing

Here, the penetration tester will focus on the network environment, its components, and operating devices to detect all potential vulnerabilities and their business impact. The typical cost of website penetration testing is between $500 and $1000. Pentesting mobile applications and web apps costs between $700 and $5000. The cost of Pentesting cloud infrastructure, network, and devices varies even more. It normally ranges between $400 and $2000.

  • Web application penetration testing

This is a common type of penetration testing since most firms find web applications crucial to their business since the security of client-facing assets is vital. Web applications host highly sensitive data such as usernames and passwords, personal information, company secrets, etc.

  • Social engineering penetration testing

Sometimes included as a part of the network penetration testing procedure, the pentester usually begins by attacking the users of the client’s services through methods such as phishing, brute force attacks, etc. These attacks are then escalated to understand the potential of exploitation and the business impact posed by these vulnerabilities.

  • Physical penetration testing

This kind of testing focuses on the physical security controls such as RFID mechanisms and their operability.

These are a few of the tips and strategies under software penetration testing that every firm must be aware about before beginning the procedure. Crucial information such as this can define the scope and goals of testing so that there are optimal results gained from the procedure.

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About the author



Tom is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and 2 cats. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on phones, tablets, wearables and more. You won’t see Tom anywhere without his ANC headphones and the latest smartphone. Oh, and he happens to be an Android guy, who also has a deep appreciation for iOS.