In today’s world, the technology we use has evolved at an exponential rate. It wasn’t long ago that the idea of seamless internet over a wired connection was little more than a pipe dream. And yet here we are in a world where virtually all businesses run on high-speed internet free from cables. But it’s also opened us up to a host of cybercriminal threats. One of the best ways to test for these vulnerabilities? Wireless penetration testing.
How to Conduct Wifi Penetration Testing
If you want to reap the benefits of pen testing, one of the best methods is to test the waters with a wireless or wifi pen test. It’s a unique form of pen testing that combines both physical and virtual elements to analyze one of the most vulnerable areas of your overall cybersecurity.
This guide will walk through exactly how you should conduct a wireless pen test, or how a contracted agency (like us) would go about conducting one. That way, you know how to carry out the procedure yourself, or what to expect when hiring professional help.
What is Wireless Penetration Testing?
Wireless pen testing is a method of cybersecurity analysis that provides detailed information on any and all vulnerabilities related to your wifi networks. It’s a deep dive into what networks exist, how powerful their security is, and what devices connect to them—and how.
Wireless pen testing includes connectivity to devices such as:
- Desktop and laptop computers
- Tablets and mobile devices
- All Internet of Things (IoT) devices
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of how to analyze and resolve these issues.
Steps to Execute Wireless Pen Testing
A wireless pen test functions just like any other variety of pen test (see below). It differs simply in the focus of its analysis, which is aimed more at wifi network connectivity than any other vector of attack, such as web applications. Executing any pen test requires gathering information, launching an attack, then reporting on the findings.
For a wireless test in particular, the process breaks down into the following six steps:
- Identifying networks
- Investigating vulnerabilities
- Exploiting the wireless networks
- Reporting on results of exploitation
- Crafting a plan for strengthening security
Let’s take a closer look at each of these stages.
The first stage involves gathering as much information as possible.
In a wireless pen test, that means gathering intelligence on and about what networks are used or related to the business in question. This stage depends heavily on proximity and geographical location. The pen tester must orbit the office or headquarters in question, ideally in a moving vehicle, and probe for:
- All wifi networks owned or used by the business
- Wifi networks that business devices connect to
- Any wifi networks that personal devices connect to
- Other wifi networks nearby that a device could be connected to
This stage is less about detailed identification and analysis and more about the general blanket coverage and compiling of raw data.
This sets the stage for more detailed data processing.
#2 Identification of Networks
In this next stage, it’s time to narrow down the broad list generated in the reconnaissance phase.
This stage involves working with the list of wifi networks to identify and begin producing specific data about each one specifically. For every network flagged above, the pen tester begins to create individual profiles. Specific characteristics are collected and used to categorize networks; these traits include but are not limited to:
- Names of individual networks and devices connecting to them
- Typical traffic and usage patterns of devices and individual networks
- Channels, ports, and divisions within networks
This information will be used in the next step to develop a dataset targeting and prioritizing specific weaknesses.
#3 Vulnerability Investigation
Once the particular wifi networks have been determined, it’s time to start plotting out how to attack them. This is the last and most crucial planning step.
At this stage the attacker will begin to perform even more detailed analysis on the wireless networks, searching for any and all flaws or weaknesses that could be exploited. Any weak link that can be compromised could snowball into control over the entire system.
The attacker will scan both the data generated from the previous stages and other public and proprietary datasets to determine what vulnerabilities should exist, in theory. Then, initial attacking scans of the actual wifi networks and access points will determine which of these potential weaknesses exist in reality on the client’s system.
Once all of this data has been collected and processed, it’s time to start the attack.
#4 Exploitation of Wireless Networks
This stage provides the payoff of all the planning in the prior stages.
The exploitation phase of a pen test comprises the actual attack. It’s the execution of ethical hacking with the goal of seizing control of the client’s cyber assets. The pen tester in any kind of pen test will use this stage to breach the system as quickly as possible, plunge as deeply as they can within the system, and exit, all without being noticed.
For a wireless network scan this stage consists of some combination of the following:
- Exploiting one given weakness in a wifi connection to get inside the system
- Doubling back and testing laterally for additional paths for first entry
- Following one path as far as it goes, seizing as much control as possible
- Opening up additional paths for future exploitations within the system
Once the hacker has exhausted all possible exploitations, or reached a limit determined in the negotiation of scope, the exploitation is complete.
#5 Reporting of Results
If the attacker has been diligently recording all data produced across the various steps above, this stage is relatively straightforward. In this stage, the attacker compiles all information and categorizes it based on the goals set out for the attack.
The aggregate data is broken down into individual reports or sections detailing:
- The topography and quality of the client’s security infrastructure
- A detailed list of risks, as well as their distribution and relevance
- A record of how, where, and why wifi-related risks lead to others
This reporting isn’t the final revelation of a pen test.
A thorough testing agent will also work with the client to produce a plan of action for correcting errors found and strengthening all cyberdefenses.
#6 Targeted Correction and Rehabilitation
Finally, the attacker will end the pen test by converting the offense into defense.
All vulnerabilities found and all exploitations actualized become fodder for a recovery plan that the attacking agent will generate on behalf of the client.
This plan should involve multiple cybersecurity processes that both patch existing gaps in the armor and add additional layers to confound attackers who make it past the perimeter. Ideally, the solutions should cover both short – and long-term fixes.
A diligent pen testing agent (like us) will also help the client implement these strategies.
Different Types of Pen Testing
The best defense is a good offense. And there are many different approaches to offense.
Wireless pen testing is just one of the many ways to utilize ethical hacking to your advantage when building your cybersecurity matrix. The wider umbrella of pen testing includes targeted tests that focus on various different elements of your cyberdefenses.
All the various kinds of pen testing fall into two main categories:
- “Black hat” pen testing – Also called “black box,” in this kind of simulated attack the hacker begins with no information provided, mirroring real-world spontaneous attacks. This kind of testing often focuses on external analysis (see below).
- “White hat” pen testing – Also called “white box,” in this kind of pen test a hacker is provided a specific set of predetermined information that informs the test. In many cases white hat/box testing focuses on internal analysis (see below).
In many cases the actual test performed doesn’t fit completely into either category. A hacker may be provided with certain information, white hat style, but then also perform additional reconnaissance (black hat tactic). These “grey hat” (or ”grey box”) versions may be planned upfront or they’re the consequence of an on-the-fly adjustment on the part of the tester.
In addition to these overall categories of starting informational context, another main distinction exists between two other main models of penetration testing:
- External pen tests – These tests begin from “outside” your company’s physical and virtual perimeters. They typically focus on the ways a hacker can enter into your system, as well as how quickly and easily they can infiltrate inner cogs of the network.
- Internal pen tests – In contrast, internal pen testing begins from “within” your company’s perimeter. They typically focus on what kinds of damage a hacker can do once already inside, including how quickly they can completely control your system.
Across these four major categories, wireless pen tests are just one of the possibilities.
Other Varieties Focuses of Pen Testing
Pen tests can also focus on a number of other areas, or combinations thereof, besides your company’s wireless networks. The other main focuses of pen testing vary—including both white hat and black hat (and internal or external) analysis— is in addition to hybrid forms.
The other main types of pen testing to consider include:
- Network service pen tests – These kinds of simulated attacks look at all kinds of networks involved in your company’s interconnected systems. Moving beyond just wifi, they also probe into areas such as:
- IPS deception loopholes and DNS attacks
- Firewall configurations and software modules
- Web application pen tests – These penetration tests focus on web-based applications, diving into browsers and all plugins or extensions that users rely upon to navigate the internet and perform work or business functions. The hacker will focus on:
- Links, error messages, cookies, HTML, and CSS
- Navigation capabilities, content, and histories
- User profile information (credentials, payments, etc.)
- Social engineering pen tests – Unlike the other forms of testing noted above, social engineering involves a human element. This kind of analysis entails trying to compromise a cybersecurity system through a trusted member. Examples include:
- Remote scams like phishing that trick personnel into revealing login information to a hacker, who then accesses your systems “as” the victim
- A physical break in or scam, like fraudulent identification, that gives the attacker access to hardware with access to your systems
Across these various focuses, one of the best ways to ensure your company is as safe as it can be is to mix and match individual analyses to best capture the topography of your digital landscape. By using a hybrid approach that mixes white and black hat features, along with the perfect balance of internal and external analysis, you can find the perfect fit.
Maximize Your Cyberdefenses With RSI Security
As you can see, wireless or wifi pen testing is far from the only kind of penetration-based cybersecurity analysis your company can use to bolster its cyberdefenses. At RSI Security, our penetration testing services include a suite of options, including but not limited to:
- Cloud computing pen testing
- Network security pen testing
- Web application pen testing
- Compliance pen testing
- Hardware pen testing
- Firewall pen testing
- Mobile pen testing
Our mission is tailoring cybersecurity services to the exact needs and means of your business, so we enable you to pick and choose which particular tests are right for you. Our experts have years of experience in the field, and we’re guaranteed to meet and exceed the standards for penetration testing set out by PTES and other regulatory industries.
Aside from pen testing, we’re also an industry leader in a vast array of cybersecurity consulting, analysis, and solutions. Whether you need to ensure compliance or patch a known vulnerability, our team of experts can help. Contact RSI Security today to see what we can do for you.