Penetration testing is a widely-adopted, effective tool for assessing security gaps in any organization’s IT infrastructure. It involves conducting a vulnerability assessment of your IT infrastructure by “ethically hacking” systems, networks, or applications, emulating an attack to project how a real hacker would operate. When implemented using an infrastructure penetration testing checklist, or through a managed security services provider, pentesting will mitigate cybersecurity threats and help to ensure that a real attack can’t compromise your data.
Types of Infrastructure Penetration Testing Checklists
When developing an infrastructure penetration testing checklist, it is critical to design testing efforts around identifying as many security gaps as possible. For maximum ROI on penetration testing, infrastructure pentest checklists should attempt to simulate the worst possible attack scenarios. To that effect, there are three primary kinds of pentest to consider when planning:
- Internal infrastructure penetration testing
- External infrastructure penetration testing
- Hybrid infrastructure penetration testing
Consulting with a penetration testing partner on best-use cases of infrastructure penetration testing checklists will guide your implementation and strengthen your overall security posture.
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External Penetration Testing Checklist
External penetration tests simulate attacks from outsiders who have limited or no knowledge of your internal IT infrastructure. The lack of insight has resulted in using the term “black box” to describe these ethical hacking attempts.
A robust external penetration test will ensure that the tester has no specific contextual information about your organization’s systems, networks, or applications when simulating an attack. These tests are especially effective for predicting how an unknown threat actor might behave when targeting your systems—a likely attack scenario for many.
An infrastructure pentesting checklist that optimizes external pentests should include:
- Information sources – Generalized information about the targets to be tested:
- IP addresses of the target networks or system components
- Open-source information on the target (e.g., from Internet sources)
- Inventory of perimeter defenses – Security infrastructure to circumvent:
- Firewalls and routers
- Access control mechanisms
- Incident response mechanisms
- Incident response protocols – Mechanisms in place to mitigate attacks:
- Systems or networks that respond to the external pentester’s breach attempts
- The resilience of infrastructure cyberdefenses, such as firewalled networks
- Networks and systems that are easily breached
Preparing for an external penetration test using a comprehensive infrastructure penetration testing checklist will enhance pentesting effectiveness and identify critical vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity infrastructure.
Internal Penetration Testing Checklist
Unlike external penetration tests that are conducted with limited knowledge of an organization’s infrastructure, internal penetration tests provide a tester with insider information on the existing security infrastructure or access to select systems. This knowledge is negotiated with the tester prior to the assessment, and it is meant to emulate an attack from within (i.e., an employee). In contrast to external attempts, internal penetration tests are referred to as “white box.”
An infrastructure security testing checklist for internal penetration tests should include:
- List of existing vulnerabilities – Infrastructure components must be assessed to identify known vulnerabilities, including:
- Web application vulnerabilities (e.g., cryptographic failures, SQL injection)
- Network vulnerabilities (e.g., incorrect file directories, security misconfigurations)
- Inventory of IT infrastructure – An updated list of all the digital assets in your organization’s infrastructure that can be targeted by cybercriminals, including:
- Hardware devices (e.g., physical servers, workstations, desktops)
- Networks (both internally and externally hosted)
- IoT devices (e.g., printers, thermostats)
- Data sources (e.g., network and application data)
- Reporting mechanisms – The internal pentesting team should receive clear guidance on how to:
- Compile findings from the penetration test
- Provide detailed analysis of security vulnerabilities
- Recommend changes to address identified vulnerabilities
A well-designed internal penetration test will help address critical challenges to your infrastructure security when guided by an infrastructure penetration testing checklist.
Hybrid Penetration Testing Checklist
Hybrid penetration tests combine elements of internal and external penetration tests and generate deeper insight into gaps and vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity infrastructure. Often, these will begin as external tests and then continue on as internal ones. They may use various features of both methodologies in any order to emulate a long-term or multi-pronged attack. Hybrid pentests are, accordingly, called “grey box.”
A hybrid infrastructure penetration testing checklist should include:
- Assessment of internal and externally-facing security controls, including:
- Authentication controls
- Identity and access management controls
- Network security controls
- A framework to identify gaps in compliance with regulatory frameworks that require robust security controls, including:
Regardless of your choice of internal, external, or hybrid penetration testing, it is critical to have infrastructure penetration testing checklists to streamline overall security testing. For more specific testing—such as pentesting sensitive networks—an infrastructure penetration testing checklist can serve as the baseline for a network pentest checklist.
Maximize your ROI on Penetration Testing
Implementing infrastructure penetration testing checklists will help you maximize your ROI on security testing and build robust penetration testing capabilities. As a leading penetration testing partner, RSI Security will help you rethink your pentesting infrastructure for maximized effectiveness. To optimize your penetration testing, contact RSI Security today!