Skip links

8 Major Types of Penetration Testing

Types of Penetration Testing

Types of Penetration Testing


In 2020, the average cost to businesses that experienced a data breach was $150 million.

And with hacking via attack vectors making up over half of the world’s most recent data breaches worldwide (the other half is made up of phishing and malware), the threat of having your company’s data stolen is more real than ever.

There is a way to mitigate the risk of your business’ or customers’ data from being stolen, which is closing the gaps in your security posture. To find out which gaps you need to close, you first need to identify them, which is where pen-testing comes in.

First, you need to know about the various types of penetration testing that can help you so you can decide which approach to take.


What is Penetration Testing? And Why are there Different Types of Penetration Tests?


A penetration test (also called pen-test) is a systematic audit of your existing cyber security controls.

During these tests, a penetration tester engages in what is essentially an ethical hack of your business’ IT infrastructure.

In other words, an experienced cyber security expert behaves the same way a malicious attacker would and attempts to gain unauthorized access to your network infrastructure. The main difference between a penetration tester and a hacker is that the pen tester informs you of gaps in your cyber security that you can then close.

This allows you to strengthen your organization’s cyber security to a degree that is defensible in the real world and stands a much better chance of repelling a legitimate attacker.

The reason why there are different types of penetration tests is that hackers use different strategies based on several key factors:

  1. The amount of private information they have on you or your business
  2. The types of access points that are available to exploit
  3. The nature of your organization’s data

Because of these considerations, there are several types of pen tests that you’ll want to know about, so you can choose which ones to utilize. All cyber security experts agree that businesses should get at least one pen test done annually, due to the number of rapidly evolving attack methodologies.


Worried About the Extent of Your Cybersecurity Vulnerability?

Talk to us about getting a penetration test performed today.

Book a Meeting


The 3 Main Types of Penetration Testing: Black, White, & Gray Box


We will get into some of the more focused penetration testing types later on. But for now, these are the 3 overarching categories of penetration tests to be aware of:


1. Black Box Penetration Testing

This type of pen testing is also known as an “external network pen test” and is designed to mimic an attack where the hacker has little to no knowledge of your IT infrastructure but is using a variety of automated tools in an attempt to gain access to your system, one way or another.

The amount of information the hacker has at their disposal marks the primary difference between an internal and external attack, with the latter typically taking a much longer time to complete.

As with the real-world version of the attack, a black box penetration test can take several weeks to complete, but can also provide very valuable insight on where your security posture is the weakest.


2. White Box Penetration Testing

Also known as “crystal ball” or “internal pen testing”, this type of penetration testing mimics an attack where a hacker has considerable knowledge of your IT infrastructure. This could include elements like source code, IP addresses, passwords and software architecture.

White box tests are essential for gauging your organization’s readiness to repel an attack from any hacker with inside information, which most commonly includes current and former employees. In fact, in 2020, 70% of all data breaches occurred in on-premises assets.


3. Gray Box Penetration Testing

As the name would imply, this type of penetration testing incorporates some elements of both the white and black box variants. The simulated attack in this version of pen testing sees the supposed hacker attempt to gain unauthorized access to your network infrastructure with partial knowledge of your system.

Examples of partial infrastructure knowledge include host user privileges or software code, which they would then use to gain access to more sensitive information deeper within your system.

When you engage with CP Cyber for pentesting services, we collaborate with you or your IT personnel for white and gray box testing.


Want to Discover the Biggest Cybersecurity Threats in the World Today? Read these Informative Articles.



Types of Penetration Tests


The 5 Major Types of Penetration Testing


Now that we’ve covered the three main categories of penetration tests, let’s take a look at more focused types of penetration testing:


1. Network Penetration Testing

This is one of the most common types of penetration tests, and is also known as “infrastructure testing”. Primarily, the main point of this test is to highlight security gaps in all the elements of your network infrastructure such as firewalls, services, routers, switches, workstations and printers.


2. Web Application Penetration Testing

A web application pen test is performed by attempting to gain unauthorized access to a web app directly. Common web applications used by businesses today include APIs, Java, ActiveX and more. These types of penetration tests are typically very time-consuming but can expose glaring holes in your security architecture.


3. Physical Penetration Testing

This is where pen-testing is performed against all of your physical security controls. The pentester makes attempts to bypass locks, card readers and cameras in order to mimic a physical breach of data centers or offices.


4. Wireless Penetration Testing

In this type of penetration testing, the goal is to find and close security gaps that can be exposed through exploiting weaknesses in your wireless networks.

Naturally, the penetration tester needs to be within the range of your wireless network to perform the test. In doing so they will attempt to gain unauthorized access, then show the impact of the breach by demonstrating the devices also connected to the WiFi networks such as laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones and other IoT devices could also be compromised.


5. Social Engineering Penetration Testing

Social engineering tests involve a security expert tricking an employee either in-person or remotely to gain access to your system. These, unfortunately, are both tactics frequently used by real-world hackers, as the human element is often the weakest link in any security system, cyber or otherwise.

Examples of social engineering tactics used by cybercriminals include email phishing campaigns, scam phone calls and USB drops, just to name a few.


Getting Expert Help to Determine Which Types of Penetration Tests Your Business Requires


At CP Cyber, performing in-depth penetration tests is one of our greatest skills. We have all the expertise and experience working with businesses, both large and small, to handle any of your cyber security requirements.

Talk to us today for a free consultation so we can assess your pen-testing needs together and calculate the cost of penetration testing services.

Share the Post: