The 4 Phases of Penetration Testing

So, you’ve done your research on penetration testing and are ready for the pentest engagement. But before you choose just any pentesting vendor, it’s vital that you understand the ins and outs of a penetration test engagement, including its four main phases.

Keep reading to learn about the four phases of penetration testing.


Why Is Penetration Testing Important?

Excluding legal obligations, pentesting is essential to protecting your company. In fact, your website could be targeted by hackers who, if successful, could begin to target your customers. Not only are the financial repercussions of cyberattacks steep — the average cost of a data breach worldwide in 2022 was $4.35 million and $9.44 million in the United States — but you could face damage to your business’s reputation and image in the public eye.

With data breaches on the rise, implementing a pentesting service that will enhance your cybersecurity is crucial. While it’s impossible to completely protect against every single attack, penetration testing can improve your cybersecurity significantly to mitigate such devastating attacks and protect your company in both the short and long term. A pentest is crucial for your business because it may show you where your cybersecurity is vulnerable before threat actors discover it.

So, let’s look at the four main phases of a pentesting engagement so you know what to expect and what you should look for in a vendor.


Explaining Each of the 4 Phases of Penetration Testing

1. The Planning Phase

As you begin the penetration testing process, a practice lead will start by defining the scope of your security assessment and the pentesting framework. There’s a lot that goes into defining this, such as the criticality of the applications being tested, whether it’s on or off-site testing, and what is in scope of the engagement.

Comprehensive planning allows the pentesting team and your organization to understand the process and guidelines as well as the time frame so that all phases are thoroughly completed in a timely manner — and lead to a 100% success rate.

2. The Pre-attack Phase

Before testing begins, the pre-attack phase is critical. To have a successful pentest, the pentesting team must work through the established plan and gather intel.

Oftentimes, bad actors begin by gathering whatever data they can on your company. They tend to look for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) or any publicly available information that they can gather to use against you.

Pentesting teams can use this information to develop a plan for the attack phase. Different teams will utilize different methods, so it’s important to choose your vendor wisely. 

3. The Attack Phase

During the attack phase, the pentesters begin to find and exploit vulnerabilities through a series of “attacks” that were determined in the previous phase.

Your pre-attack strategy may have a number of distinct starting points and tests for the attack, depending on the sort of engagement. The two most frequent methods used by a true threat actor, however, are social engineering and web application attacks.

Some assessors will go above and beyond and test your physical security, trying to enter your office or get crucial information about your company by implanting hardware or making duplicate access control cards.

Your pentesting team should document every move they make as well as the results of various tests and scans so that they can give you a detailed account of their findings during the last penetration testing phase.

4. The Post-Attack Phase

After your testing timeline is complete, the penetration tester will restore the systems and network configurations to their original states. All findings are compiled into a report that your organization will receive.

The Penetration Testing Report

You’ll receive a full report detailing what the ethical hackers discovered, including:

  • A list of vulnerabilities.
  • An analysis of those vulnerabilities.
  • A conclusion of the findings.
  • The probability of each exploit possibility.
  • The potential monetary and brand impact of these exploits.
  • Remediation measures and recommendations.
  • Log files from tools as evidence of findings.
  • An executive summary for sharing across corporate levels.


Fortify and Protect Your Organization From Cyber Threats

Protecting against cyber threats requires more advanced tools than just a vulnerability scan or using an EDR product. Threat actors are getting craftier with how they coordinate and launch their hacks, making it vital for your organization to up your cybersecurity.

At Mitnick Security, The Global Ghost Team™ specializes in mastery-level pentesting services and provides support for companies all over the nation. With a 100% success rate of breaching organizations through social engineering, we uncover the most dangerous potential exploits to your company, provide robust reporting, and give you concrete insights during all the phases of penetration testing.

View our Penetration Testing Services to see the defensive capabilities behind Mitnick Security.


Topics: penetration test, security penetration testing, pen test

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