What Are the Different Types of Penetration Testing?

Roughly 83% of the businesses studied in IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022 have had more than one data breach. As the number of cybersecurity incidents continues to grow, so too does the cost required to properly address these attacks. The fact is, it’s becoming more and more critical that organizations have a way to proactively protect themselves from bad actors and cyber criminals.

One such preventative measure is penetration testing, which is a way to assess the security of your technology assets. But what kinds of penetration testing exist and how can Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) help? Keep reading to find out more.


What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, sometimes referred to as pen testing or ethical hacking, is a way for organizations to assess how secure their technology systems are and what potential vulnerabilities exist. Essentially, during a penetration test, professional ethical hackers (either employees or third-party groups) perform one or more cyber attacks against your system to evaluate how secure it is. This can be used to evaluate a number of different kinds of environments, including application protocol interfaces (APIs) as well as frontend and backend servers.

Penetration testing is typically a proactive cybersecurity measure. By exposing potential vulnerabilities, your team can understand where security issues are and develop a plan to improve them before bad actors and cyber criminals have a chance to hack your systems.


What Are the 5 Types of Penetration Testing?

The five main types of penetration testing are external, internal, physical, social engineering, and web application. Let’s briefly explore each of these.

  • External Testing: This type of penetration testing involves attempts to hack into a system using external methods. While file transfer protocols (FTPs) and internet-facing applications and assets are invaluable to the daily operations of many organizations, they also present security vulnerabilities. Identifying them—and acting accordingly to minimize potential threats—helps improve your organizations’ overall security.
  • Internal Testing: What happens when a bad actor has access to your internal networks? Likely, a lot. Internal penetration testing helps organizations assess this risk. By testing your access points, computer systems, employees, firewalls, servers, and more, you can identify various internal weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Performing these tests, and implementing changes based on the findings, can help protect against insider threats and ransomware.
  • Physical Testing: While the majority of penetration testing focuses on cloud-based systems, physical penetration testing is designed to illustrate how well an organization’s physical security—cameras, guards, fences, locks, and more—performs. This type of testing can provide insight into how difficult it is for an intruder to enter your facility and what kind of information they can access once they’re in.
  • Social Engineering: This type of testing is designed to assess how well your personnel and systems can detect email phishing and other forms of social engineering. According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, 20% of data breaches were a result of social engineering. Penetration testing can help ensure your systems and your employees are savvy enough to recognize bad actors.
  • Web Application Testing: For companies that operate web-based applications, penetration testing can provide clarity into how secure those apps and websites truly are. Web application penetration testing examples include looking for vulnerabilities in backend networks, databases, design elements, source code, and more. Identifying these flaws and vulnerabilities can help teams proactively implement necessary upgrades and improvements.


What Are the 3 Types of Penetration Testing Methods and Methodologies?

A penetration testing methodology refers to the approach an organization takes when performing the various types of penetration testing we discussed above. There are three basic approaches: white box, black box, and grey box.

  • White Box Penetration Testing: In this approach, penetration testers are granted full system information and network access, including credentials. White box pen testing is especially useful for those organizations looking to perform an in-depth, detailed analysis of their systems.
  • Black Box Penetration Testing: In this approach, testers are provided no information or credentials. This kind of test is particularly telling as it can mimic the environment that most bad actors would be operating in. Yet, for those looking to evaluate every risk possible, black box penetration testing may not allow testers to identify everything.
  • Grey Box Penetration Testing: Falling somewhere between a white box and black box approach, this type of penetration testing provides limited information to testers. For example, the testers could be provided information about user privileges or data handling, to help them identify possible vulnerabilities within a specific system.


How Do You Perform Penetration Testing?

While some organizations choose to keep all of their penetration testing services in house, the truth is that it’s getting harder and harder to keep up. IT teams are busy. Yet, with the average cost of data breaches reaching $4.35 million according to IBM, it’s imperative to stay ahead of the game. That’s where Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) can help. With PTaaS, an outside vendor continuously tests your systems for flaws and vulnerabilities.

At InterVision, our PTaaS services empower organizations to proactively protect against cyber threats. Our partnership with RedSpy365 means we’re the only PTaaS platform on the market that is able to continuously map emerging threats and calculate real financial impact within a live environment. Understand impact, find vulnerabilities, and fix liabilities with InterVision. If you’re ready to learn more about InterVision’s PTaaS services, contact us today to start a conversation.