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Penetration testing, better known as pen testing, is a critical component of ethical or white hat hacking. During a penetration test, an ethical hacker or a group of professionals will create a real life scenario where someone is trying to hack into your network by exploiting the vulnerabilities in your defense system. They will find these weaknesses in your security and attempt to break in in an effort to test the integrity of your network security.
The goal of conducting penetration testing is to identify weak spots in your security and then fix them with the appropriate solutions to ensure that no malicious hacker is able to exploit them in the future and cause you and your brand irreversible and debilitating harm. There are a plethora of open source and commercial tools that are used for the sake of pen testing by ethical hackers. Regardless, a typical penetration test consists of a number of phases of data collection, scanning, execution, and reporting. Following are some of the steps involved in the penetration testing process:


The very first step in the process is the collection of as much information as can possibly be gathered about the target network or company. This may well arguably be the most critical phase of the entire process as a good set of target information and intelligence maximizes the chances of conducting a successful hacking attempt, enabling you to best test the network security. Information about the target can be obtained from public sources or by tapping into protected accounts and resources where the hacker must conceal their identity.


The next step is to start probing and experimenting with the network and observe its response to various triggering actions. The hacker will dedicate a fair bit of time as well as resources to monitor the site activity and analyze it to optimize data collection and scanning.


Next comes the attempt to penetrate the defense system and exploit the vulnerabilities that have been identified during the previous processes. This may be done by running SQL injections and SSH attacks, cross site scripting, DoS and DDoS attacks, breaking down the firewall, social engineering, or any other hacking tool and technique that may be relevant to the case.


Once the ethical hacker has penetrated the system, their next goal is to see how long they can sustain their connection without being detected by your security system and purged out. This will be maintained over a certain period of time which can span anywhere between a few days to a couple of months.


After the testing is complete and all the resultant data has been compiled, it is time for the hacking service to analyze it and then report it back to you with some insightful details that will enable you to mount the ideal security response.
You will be made aware of any critical vulnerabilities that must be addressed immediately and your hacking service will typically assist you in improving your security system and maintaining its standard in the future as well.