Cyber Security Articles & News

What Are the Phases of a Pentest?

When your business is unprepared, threat actors can take advantage of vulnerabilities and compromise your systems. In some cases, vulnerability scans and assessments may help you get back on track. However, if you know you have an internal cyber security incident or have had one that you’ve been told is now “fixed,” a penetration test may be the right option to improve the security posture of your organization. 

In short, a penetration test is when ethical hackers — known as pentesters — simulate a cybersecurity attack in an attempt to compromise your systems. A pentest can help you:

  • Find vulnerabilities in identity processes and infrastructure within your systems.
  • Understand potential consequences should a data breach occur.
  • Learn from previous weaknesses and protect your organization from future cyberattacks.

There are six different types of pentests, each of which follows certain steps, called phases, that allow the tests to be performed with accuracy and efficiency. Below, we’ll cover the penetration testing phases so your organization can know what to expect.

Why Is Penetration Testing Important?

A pentest is important for your organization because it can help you find weaknesses in your cybersecurity before the threat actors do. What’s more, the penetration report can help you by offering remediation recommendations that you can carry out to further protect your organization. 

Pre-Attack Phase

The first phase of a pentest is the planning phase. This is where you get a phone call from the Kevin Mitnick, of Mitnick Security, to plan for the simulated attack.

Renowned within the cybersecurity industry, Kevin Mitnick is a reformed hacker, best-selling author, and founder of Mitnick Security. Aside from hosting webinars and live-hacking demonstrations, Kevin and his team of cybersecurity professionals, the Global Ghost Team, assist businesses in taking a close look at their systems’ weaknesses through penetration testing.

Their process starts with defining the scope of the pentest and establishing a pentest framework. This allows the team and the organization to understand the process and guidelines as well as the time frame so that all phases are thoroughly completed in a timely manner — leading to a 100% success rate. They also do their research on your company to be fully prepared to test your systems. Once all communication has taken place, the Global Ghost Team can get to work.

The Attack Phase 

During the attack phase, the pentesters begin to find and exploit vulnerabilities through a series of “attacks.” Although the exact types of vectors that pentesters use will depend on what was established in the planning phase, social engineering and web application exploits are two of the most commonly used approaches because they are the approaches frequently used by real threat actors.

In the attack phase, penetration testers will go through the following steps to infiltrate your organization, such as:

  • Reconnaissance- the process of collecting information about your systems.
  • Scanning- a hands-on process to detect and exploit weaknesses.
  • Gaining system access- the process of using methods such as social engineering to breach your system defenses.
  • Persistent access- the stage in which the pentester attempts to maintain access to your internal systems.

Oftentimes, pentesting does not interrupt the daily operations of an organization because it’s a simulated attack and not a real one. During this phase, pentesters are documenting their every move 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.

The Pentesting Report

After the attack phase is completed, you’ll receive a detailed report with the findings — and more — from the pentest.

This detailed report includes:

  • A detailed assessment of your system including found vulnerabilities.
  • Projected consequences of an actual attack.
  • Recommendations to strengthen your cyber security.

With a report from Mitnick Security, you’ll know whom the Global Ghost Team interacted with from your organization, where, when, why, and of course, how they accessed your “secure” data. Since awareness is the first step in protection, this detailed analysis will help you to prevent future cyberattacks from advanced threat actors. 

Protect Your Organization from Cyber Threats

Now that you have a high-level understanding of the testing phases, you’ll know what to expect for your organization’s next pentest. 

But you can do more. It’s time to discover additional steps to take that will protect your organization from the inside out.

With this free guide, you can learn 5 (and a half!) best practices that can help keep your users and organization safe. Download the guide today! New call-to-action


Topics: penetration test, security penetration testing, pen test

Latest Posts

Kevin offers three excellent presentations, two are based on his best-selling books. His presentations are akin to technology magic shows that educate and inform while keeping people on the edge of their seats. He offers expert commentary on issues related to information security and increases “security awareness.”

What To Expect When You Get a Vulnerability Assessment From Mitnick Security

Since threat actors are constantly developing new tools and techniques for infiltrating an organization’s defenses, effective cybersecurity can never ..

Read more ›

What's Included in a Penetration Test Report?

Penetration tests are an extremely useful exercise to mitigate risks and patch your security gaps. If you’ve been asking yourself why do penetration t..

Read more ›

What Is Pivoting in Cyber Security and What Does It Mean for Pentesters?

Data breaches in 2022 were abundant and sophisticated. Realistically, it’s expected that this year we will continue to see threat actors test their li..

Read more ›