Penetration Test

A penetration test, or sometimes pentest, is a software attack on a computer system that looks for security weaknesses, potentially gaining access to the computer’s features and data. The process typically identifies the target systems and a particular goal—then reviews available information and undertakes various means to attain the goal.

A penetration test is designed to answer the question: “What is the real-world effectiveness of my existing security controls against an active, human, skilled attacker?” We can contrast this with security or compliance audits that check for the existence of required controls and their correct configurations, by establishing a simple scenario:  Even a 100% compliant organization may still be vulnerable in the real world against a skilled human threat agent.

The process typically identifies the target systems and a particular goal—then reviews available information and undertakes various means to attain the goal. A penetration test target may be a white box (which provides background and system information) or black box (which provides only basic or no information except the company name). A penetration test can help determine whether a system is vulnerable to attack, if the defenses were sufficient, and which defenses (if any) the test defeated.

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