What Are The Different Types Of Penetration Tests?

What Are The Different Types Of Penetration Tests?

If you are part of the IT industry, you must know how important your security infrastructure is to guarantee protection against data breaches. Malicious attacks on your platform, systems, and services can cause data leaks, harming your customers and resulting in them losing trust in your company, not to mention the financial losses you incur if you cannot manage the risks adequately.

Knowing where your strengths are, where you’re most vulnerable, and where your team should invest its precious time is half the cybersecurity battle. But how do you identify these factors and determine how to prioritize your tasks? The answer to these questions becomes clearer when you perform regular penetration tests.

The penetration test, a pen test, is an essential part of the offensive security workflow. This test, which includes many interconnected elements and components, lays a solid foundation for your security team and identifies focal points and initiatives for your team to work on as you progress.

If you want to understand penetration testing more comprehensively, you can check out our blog here.

This blog will explore the different types of penetration tests and dive into the various components and strategies you can employ to get the best results.

What are the Different Types of Penetration Tests?

There are essentially two types of pen tests:

  1. Black Box Test:

Pen testers in black box testing have no advanced knowledge of your internal processes. They work in the dark, as a true hacker would, to discover and probe system vulnerabilities. This penetration testing paradigm best represents the risks presented by unknown or unaffiliated attackers.

Pen testers do not need to be experts in the application’s code, internal structure, or programming when evaluating software. However, they generally understand what the software they are testing is supposed to do.

The disadvantage of black box testing is that the tester may not find all vulnerabilities during the test due to a lack of information shared with them.

Test Design:

Black box tests simulate an attack by an outside third party connected to the internet with no prior or inside knowledge of the business since the pen tester(s) are provided no information about the environment they are assessing. 

  1. White Box Test

Before beginning white box testing, you will disclose all known software vulnerabilities and system misconfigurations to the testers. White box tests validate or correct your internal risk assessment and management controls.

White box penetration testing aims to simulate a malicious attack by someone with insider knowledge of your system or, at the very least, the fundamental credentials required for access. White box testing, one of the most popular pen testing techniques, has several advantages: It’s simple to automate and offers clear, engineering-based rules for when to stop testing.

The disadvantage of white box tests is that they may miss unimplemented or non-compliant aspects of your system or program. Because these tests cannot cover every scenario, some may go untested.

White box testing focuses on the positive: how well security functions in software or a system. This also implies that some tasks may be overlooked.

Test Design

During a white box pen test, the pen tester is provided with inside knowledge of the internal architecture of the environment they are assessing. This enables them to assess the potential harm a malicious current or former employee could cause the business. 

Besides these, there are several other kinds of tests:

  1. Gray Box Test

A gray box penetration test, as the term implies, is a hybrid of white box and black box testing. In this case, the tester begins with a limited understanding of the system or app being tested. Gray box testing is advantageous because it combines the code-targeted methods of white box testing with the simpler techniques of black box testing.

Gray box testing is thought to be more appropriate for web apps’ distributed networks or systems. Because there is no source code or binaries to test, white-box does not work well with web apps.

Gray box testing has the following advantages:

  • It combines the best of both realms, incorporating benefits from both white-box and black-box testing models.
  • Because it is built on functional specifications and architectural views rather than source code or binaries, it is less intrusive than black- and white-box models.
  • It is unbiased, which means it keeps a distinct line between the tester and the developer.

Test Design:

The pen tester is provided limited information about the environment and a standard user account during a grey box pen test. They can use this to assess the degree of access and information that a legitimate user of a client’s or partner’s account would have. 

  1. Internal Network Pen Test:

Internal network penetration testing examines the security of your internal networks and systems and simulates actual attack scenarios initiated from within your organization. These tests assess the degree to which an external attacker could traverse your internal networks. Additionally, the testers can assess the security of your wireless local area network architecture.

Internal pen testing can also evaluate Intranet web applications when performed within the company. This form of testing aids in the detection of vulnerabilities within the corporate firewall.

Because external attacks are more common, organizations may neglect to perform internal pen tests; this is a bad decision. Internal tests can assist an organization in defending itself against disgruntled workers or contractors who are conscious of internal security policies and passwords.

Accessing the environment without appropriate credentials allows you to perform a number of internal penetration tests, including:

  • Proxy server testing;
  • Spam email filter testing;
  • Security vulnerabilities testing;
  • Credential encryption testing;
  • Network firewall testing;
  • Cookie testing;
  • Contact form testing;
  • Open ports testing;
  • Application login page testing;
  • HTTP method testing;
  • Username and password testing;
  • SQL injection testing;
  • XSS testing;
  • Access permission testing;
  • Testing user sessions;
  • Brute force attack testing;
  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack testing;
  • Browsing directory testing.

Test Design:

An internal pen test is similar to a white box test. During an internal pen test, the pen tester is provided with a wealth of specific information about the assessed environment, such as IP addresses, network infrastructure schematics, protocols used, and source code.    

  1. External Network Pen Test:

External network intrusion testing verifies the network perimeter’s security. It evaluates the efficacy of your firewalls, routers, intrusion detection systems (IDS), operating systems, and internet or untrusted network services.

External network penetration testing is performed from outside the organization and involves the testing of web applications. The evaluators pretend to be hackers unfamiliar with your internal system. They frequently only function with the target system’s IP address.

Pen testers practice assaults on your servers, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems by searching and scanning public websites for information about your website hosts, which they then attempt to compromise.

  1. Wireless Penetration Test

Wireless penetration testing finds and investigates the connections between all devices on a company’s wireless network. These products include laptops, tablets, smartphones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These penetration tests are typically conducted on-site because the penetration tester must be within range of the wireless signal to obtain access.

The six stages of wireless penetration testing are reconnaissance, identifying wireless networks, vulnerability research, exploitation, reporting, and remediation. This type of penetration test is typically performed due to coding errors, particular requirements, or a lack of expertise in cyber attack vectors.  

What are the Different Attack Vectors and Methods Involved in Penetration Testing?

You can instruct your third-party pen testers to choose the attack vectors you want to test for vulnerabilities. These include:

  • Network: You provide an IP address range and live hosts within that range.
  • Applications: For web apps, you provide production URLs and any subdomains to test, while for mobile apps, you provide binaries/devices/links or demo/test versions of the apps that replicate production apps and environments.
  • APIs: You provide the number of API destinations and calls.
  • On-site attacks to gain entry to physical network devices and wireless access points.
  • People: You may or may not supply a list of potential email addresses. Penetration testers can use social media and open-source intelligence sources to identify target lists, purchase similar domains, and set up cloud servers to bypass your email filters and deliver phishing links to your target users, allowing them to take control of their machines.
  • Cloud: Penetration testers will attempt to attack your apps using cloud-based services, serverless functions, containers, SQL/no-SQL stores, APIs, and consoles.
  • IoT devices: a target is any hardware gadget with an IP address. These devices can be a simple target for an attack if they are configured with default credentials.

Pen testers practice attacks on your servers, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems by searching and scanning public websites for information about your website hosts, which they then attempt to compromise.

Now, let’s check out some penetration test examples:

  • Mobile, software, and online application tests;
  • Routing problems, firewalls, port scanning, FTP, and secure sockets;
  • Wireless network experiments, including low-security hotspots and access points;
  • Physical tests, such as brute force and on-site attacks, are used to gain entry to physical network devices and access points;
  • Phishing is a type of social engineering test that is used to trick employees into disclosing sensitive information, typically over the phone or via email;
  • Cloud tests, including document processing and cloud storage; and,
  • Client-side tests exploit weaknesses in client-side software programs.

How Much Time Does it Take For a Penetration Test Process To Be Performed?

Here is a step-by-step framework of the process generally followed by pen testers:


  • Scoping call for initial understanding and price quotes
  • Signing SOW and an NDA
  • Kick-off test

During Test

  • Gathering information
  • Monitoring Vulnerabilities
  • Exploitation
  • Post-exploitation
  • Initial Analysis and Reporting


  • Report Review
  • Remediation
  • Final Analysis and Reporting

The time commitment for this procedure is determined by the type of penetration test you want to perform.

If the test is a black box with no authentication, the tester may be able to complete most of the work without much participation from your team during the testing time.

A white box test may necessitate some participation during the testing process if you have a large and complex network and access provisioning process. 

Depending on the size and breadth of the attack vectors, most penetration testing firms take one to four weeks to complete a penetration test. While the test itself may not require much of your time, you should set aside enough time to address any weaknesses discovered by the penetration test. Depending on the availability of your resources, typical remediation processes can last 90-180 days. 

It’s critical that you allow enough time for these factors and some extra lead time because penetration testing companies may not be able to begin your test right away.  

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