Information Security Testing Guide For You

By Prometteur solutions 20 Min Read

Information security testing involves proactively evaluating systems, networks, and applications to uncover vulnerabilities and safeguard sensitive data.

As cyber threats proliferate, more sophisticated hacking tools emerge, and data regulations intensify, robust security testing has become imperative for organizations today. 

Information security testing encompasses various types of authorized simulated attacks against an environment to probe for weaknesses before bad actors exploit them.

The process involves recon, scanning, analysis, penetration attempts, and remediation to strengthen defenses holistically.

This blog provides an in-depth information security testing guide covering fundamental concepts, methods, benefits, challenges, and best practices. By outlining the vital facets of security testing, organizations can make more informed decisions when evaluating risks, selecting providers, or building programs to shield critical assets and data.

What is the Importance of information security testing?

Information security testing delivers immense value for organizations seeking to get ahead of threats in an ever-evolving digital risk landscape.

Conducting proactive evaluations of systems, applications, networks, and people is pivotal for managing vulnerabilities before criminals weaponize them.

Uncovering Unknown Security Gaps

While audits verify compliance with policies and standards, they cannot identify previously unknown risks.

And penetration tests conducted after major security incidents come too late. This reactive approach enables attackers to access sensitive data and systems undetected over extended durations.

Information security testing exercises through simulated attacks uncover overlooked weaknesses in apps, networks, hosts, and processes before bad actors exploit them.

Detailed reporting provides actionable insights to focus limited security resources on fixing the highest-risk flaws first. Attempting to compromise environments also stress-tests existing tools and incident response to enhance protections.

Operational and Reputational Risk Reduction

Successful mega-breaches inflict severe financial consequences across regulatory fines, lawsuit settlements, IT recovery costs, and loss of future revenue after customers defect.

Testing security controls regularly reduces the chances of criminals infiltrating networks housing sensitive information. And bulletproof defenses augment brand trust.

Compliance and Certification Support

Many regulations and standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, and NIST CSF mandate periodic evaluations supporting compliance.

Security testing results provide necessary evidence during audits related to vulnerability management and risk reduction programs.

Obtaining industry certifications also relies on stringent testing requirements demanding methodical evaluation of environments.

Maximizing Security Posture With Limited Resources

With growing attack surfaces from new digital touchpoints yet security budgets struggling to keep pace, optimized utilization of available expertise and tools is imperative.

Formal testing frameworks allow focusing defences on priority flaws rather than wasting efforts randomly. Testing also builds comprehensive situational awareness of threat capabilities outpacing siloed audits of individual segments.

Together this reduces risk efficiently by crystallizing high-impact security hardening efforts.

Information Security Testing Types

There are several types of information security testing techniques. Let us take a look at the most common ones.

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning utilizes automated tools to probe networks, systems, applications, and databases for known weaknesses.

The scans detect misconfigurations, missing patches, default passwords, and other vulnerabilities by passively analyzing the target.

Regular vulnerability scans provide visibility into the evolving attack surface to prioritize patching based on risk levels.

Top vulnerability scanners integrate with databases of identified CVEs and compliance standards to comprehensively evaluate environments.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing involves hands-on attempts to exploit systems using tools and techniques similar to real hackers.

The goal is to compromise security controls to evaluate how attackers could gain access to sensitive data.

Skilled ethical hackers perform network penetration testing, web and mobile application penetration testing, wireless penetration testing, and social engineering testing.

The results demonstrate actual risk levels rather than just compliance. Testing stresses incident response readiness by simulating realistic attacks.

Web Application Testing

As digital experiences increasingly shift online, securing web applications from injection flaws, broken authentication, sensitive data exposures, XML external entity attacks and other OWASP Top 10 risks grows pivotal.

Automated and manual tests evaluate the security posture of web apps during development and post-production.

Static, dynamic, interactive and runtime application security testing uncovers logical flaws and risks from unauthorized access attempts.

Network Security Testing 

Evaluating internal and external network security defences is crucial as infrastructure expands with hybrid cloud and remote workers.

Network penetration testing, firewall audits, and network analysis probes for misconfigured ACLs, vulnerable services, default accounts without MFA, and weaknesses in network segmentation.

The findings help optimize network security controls, NAC, SIEM, IPS and other safeguards.

Mobile Application Testing

With customers and employees increasingly relying on mobile apps, adversaries attempt to breach sensitive APIs, intercept insecure data flows, leverage platform vulnerabilities and undertake other attacks.

Testing verifies proper encryption, tampering defences, secure storage of secrets, device binding, and robust binary protections on iOS and Android apps before release.

Mobile pen testing post-launch checks for data leaks, authorization issues, and OWASP MASVS risks. 

Wireless Security Testing 

The convenience of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth comes with heightened threats of war driving, evil twin AP, KRACK and other wireless attacks.

Regular wireless penetration testing with commercial tools or open-source frameworks like Kali Linux uncovers rogue access points, misconfigurations in WEP, WPA2, WPA3 encryption, and default credentials facilitating unauthorized connections.

Hardening wireless networks using the latest standards enhances security.

Social Engineering Testing

Despite sophisticated technical controls, humans represent the weakest security link subject to phishing, vishing, smishing, baiting and other manipulation.

By simulating realistic social engineering attacks and measuring susceptibility rates across the workforce, organizations significantly reduce this pressing risk vector.

The findings also reinforce secure behaviours through targeted awareness training on identifying and reporting suspicious emails, links and attachments.  

Benefits of Information Security Testing

Here is an explanation of the benefits of information security testing using relevant subheadings and focused keywords:

The Core Advantages of Undertaking Information Security Testing

Information security testing delivers immense value for organizations seeking to get ahead of threats in an ever-evolving digital risk landscape.

Conducting proactive evaluations of systems, applications, networks and people is pivotal for managing vulnerabilities before criminals weaponize them.

Pinpointing Unknown Security Gaps

While audits verify compliance with policies and standards, they cannot identify previously unknown risks. And penetration tests conducted after major security incidents come too late.

This reactive approach enables attackers to access sensitive data and systems undetected over extended durations.

Information security testing exercises through simulated attacks uncover overlooked weaknesses in apps, networks, hosts, and processes before bad actors exploit them.

Detailed reporting provides actionable insights to focus limited security resources on fixing highest-risk flaws first.

Attempting to compromise environments also stress-tests existing tools and incident response to enhance protections.

Slashing Operational and Reputational Risk

Successful mega-breaches inflict severe financial consequences across regulatory fines, lawsuit settlements, IT recovery costs and loss of future revenue after customers defect.

Testing security controls regularly reduces the chances of criminals infiltrating networks housing sensitive information. And bulletproof defences augment brand trust.

Streamlining Compliance and Certification Efforts

Many regulations and standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, NIST CSF mandate periodic evaluations supporting compliance.

Security testing results provide necessary evidence during audits related to vulnerability management and risk reduction programs. Obtaining industry certifications also relies on stringent testing requirements demanding methodical evaluation of environments.

Optimizing Defenses With Finite Budgets

With growing attack surfaces from new digital touchpoints yet security budgets struggling to keep pace, optimized utilization of available expertise and tools is imperative.

Formal testing frameworks allow focusing defences on priority flaws rather than wasting efforts randomly.

Testing also builds comprehensive situational awareness of threat capabilities outpacing siloed audits of individual segments. Together this reduces risk efficiently by crystallizing high-impact security hardening efforts.

Information Security Testing Process

Conducting rigorous information security testing relies on undertaking the following structured stages:

Careful Planning and Scoping

Defining the precise testing goals, scope, schedules, environmental considerations, legal approvals sets up success.

The plan outlines the types of assessments, depth of analysis, rules of engagement, and reporting requirements given available budget and skills.

Proper scoping ensures focus on critical assets and alignment with business priorities.

Gathering Necessary Background Intelligence

Understanding the target infrastructure through reconnaissance using OSINT sources, footprinting servers, profiling web applications, mapping network topology and gleaning other useful information arms the testers.

This information gathering occurs passively without actively probing defences initially. 

Identifying Vulnerabilities via Automated Scanning

Running well-updated vulnerability scanners after the recon phase uncovers security misconfigurations, missing patches, unsafe coding practices and exploitable weaknesses.

The scans tactically probe networks, operating systems, databases, applications programming interfaces and source code for flaws by analyzing responses.

Attempting Realistic Exploits as Attackers Would  

Executing Realistic Hacking Techniques

Armed with insights uncovered during vulnerability scanning and reconnaissance, skilled security testers launch exploitation efforts to compromise systems, mimicking tactics used by malicious actors.

The testers use commercial, open source and custom penetration testing tools combined with programming skills and creativity to find security gaps. Instead of just pointing out flaws, the testers actively verify exploitability levels during this intense testing phase.

Network Penetration Testing

The testers attempt breaking into internal corporate networks from both outside and inside perspectives.

External network penetration testing simulates hackers on the public internet trying password guessing, network service exploitation, firewall circumvention and other avenues to gain initial access. 

Internal network testing assumes a breach of the perimeter via phishing or guest Wi-Fi and tries privilege escalation, and lateral movement tactics to access critical servers housing sensitive data.

Application Penetration Testing

Testers probe customized web apps, commercial SaaS apps, APIs and mobile apps for injection attacks, authentication flaws, insecure data flows, insufficient logging, absence of rate limiting and other OWASP Top 10 risks.

Social Engineering Testing

The human element represents a crucial attack vector. Testers launch realistic spear phishing, phone fraud, SMS spoofing, USB drop and other deception campaigns targeting employees. By measuring susceptibility rates, training programs are enhanced to boost threat awareness.

Wireless Penetration Testing

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth risks increase with pervasive mobility and IoT. Security experts use commercial wireless scanners and Kali Linux to uncover misconfigured encryption cyphers, default passwords on access points and client devices along with exploits in WPA2, WPA3 and other protocols. 

Assessing Intrusion Impact

By successfully compromising systems in different ways, the testers quantify ease of attack based on hacker skill levels.

The depth of access and privileges obtained by circumventing defences further evaluates the effectiveness of security controls.

This demonstrates actual risk contrasting with just compliance reports.

Documenting Risks and Recommending Safeguards

Detailed test reports quantify risks uncovered during evaluations, reproduce exploit methods, assess difficulty levels, and specify tactical and strategic fixes to strengthen security posture. Tracking milestones around remediation while periodically re-testing defences continues the cycle of continuous security improvement.

Information Security Testing Best Practices

With a range of methods like network penetration testing, application security testing, and social engineering – choosing techniques aligning with business risks enhances efficiency.

External-facing web apps call for DAST scans and bug bounties. Compliance to HIPAA demands network penetration tests and physical social engineering every year.

Clearly Defining the Scope and Expected Outcomes 

Detailing the precise scope, types and depth of testing before starting avoids scope creep. Setting expectations on test goals (compliance verification or risk analysis), attack vectors (external only or internal too) and what constitutes test success or failure anchors activities.

Ensuring testing happens only after formal approval and in full compliance with laws is mandatory.

Testing must not access, modify or destroy production data. Using tools like WebScarab, sqlmap legally during penetration tests instead of Nessus, nmap in some regions illustrates ethics.

Involving Stakeholders in the Testing Program

Engaging development, ops, legal and business teams in planning testing, interpreting results and hardening systems per recommendations amplify success.

Stakeholder insights guide effective scoping too.

Thorough Documentation and Actionable Reporting

Comprehensive reports covering all findings, and practical remediation guidance enable driving security hardening.

Establishing metrics like time-to-remediate vulnerabilities demonstrates progress. Executive and technical reports ensure alignment with business needs.

Tools and Technologies for Information Security Testing

Let us walk you through some important tools and technologies for information security testing.

Executing Realistic Hacking Techniques

Armed with insights uncovered during vulnerability scanning and reconnaissance, skilled security testers launch exploitation efforts to compromise systems, mimicking tactics used by malicious actors.

The testers use commercial, open source and custom penetration testing tools combined with programming skills and creativity to find security gaps. Instead of just pointing out flaws, the testers actively verify exploitability levels during this intense testing phase.

Network Penetration Testing

The testers attempt breaking into internal corporate networks from both outside and inside perspectives. External network penetration testing simulates hackers on the public internet trying password guessing, network service exploitation, firewall circumvention and other avenues to gain initial access. 

Internal network testing assumes a breach of the perimeter via phishing or guest Wi-Fi and tries privilege escalation, and lateral movement tactics to access critical servers housing sensitive data.

Application Penetration Testing

Testers probe customized web apps, commercial SaaS apps, APIs and mobile apps for injection attacks, authentication flaws, insecure data flows, insufficient logging, absence of rate limiting and other OWASP Top 10 risks.

Social Engineering Testing

The human element represents a crucial attack vector. Testers launch realistic spear phishing, phone fraud, SMS spoofing, USB drop and other deception campaigns targeting employees. By measuring susceptibility rates, training programs get enhanced to boost threat awareness.

Wireless Penetration Testing

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth risks increase with pervasive mobility and IoT. Security experts use commercial wireless scanners and Kali Linux to uncover misconfigured encryption cyphers, default passwords on access points and client devices along with exploits in WPA2, WPA3 and other protocols. 

Assessing Intrusion Impact

By successfully compromising systems in different ways, the testers quantify the ease of attack based on hacker skill levels. The depth of access and privileges obtained by circumventing defences further evaluates the effectiveness of security controls.

Information Security Testing Standards and Regulations

ISO/IEC 27001

The ISO/IEC 27001 information security standard mandates regular independent testing of controls as part of the ISMS (information security management system).

Organizations must undertake vulnerability assessments and system penetration testing to identify security gaps.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST CSF calls for continuous vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, red team exercises and cyber hunt operations for identity threats and deploys countermeasures.

Security testing is integral to the Detect, Respond and Recover functions.

PCI DSS

The PCI Data Security Standard requires extensive penetration testing initially after significant changes to cardholder environments and annually to protect credit card data. Wireless, internal and external network testing along with application analysis is necessary.

HIPAA Security Rule

Covered entities must conduct periodic technical evaluations per the HIPAA Security Rule’s vulnerability analysis to quantify risks.

This demands network and database tests mimicking hacker behaviours to safeguard patient health information.

GDPR

Though not explicit, breach notification rules in GDPR imply the need for security testing to prevent the exposure of personal data that could impact the rights of EU residents. Failure jeopardizes fines of 4% of global revenue.

SOX

Testing application controls about financial data security is necessary for public firms to comply with the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Static and dynamic testing tools analyze risks as part of SOX audits.

Conclusion

Information security testing has become a crucial practice for organizations seeking the following; to manage risk in an era of heightened threats, expanding attack surfaces from new technologies, and intensifying data protection regulations.

The aim of this guide to information security testing, is actually, to allow information security leaders can make more informed decisions on evaluating exposures, selecting providers, and building testing programs to safeguard critical assets.

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