What Is Penetration Testing? – A Beginner’s Guide

what is penetration testing

What is Penetration Testing?

You might wonder what on earth is Penetration testing or “pentesting”? In this article, we will explain what penetration testing is, why it’s so important, and how it works step-by-step.

Penetration testing services involve assessing the security of a computer system, network, web application, or personnel by attempting to breach them, simulating the tactics of a real hacker. It is like a practice attack conducted by an ethical hacker, that helps find weak spots so they can be fixed before a real hacker finds them


Why is Penetration Testing Important?

Imagine your networks or applications are a house. You probably want to keep your things safe inside, so you lock the doors and windows, but what if there’s a secret hole in the wall that you didn’t know about? Hackers are like sneaky thieves who can find these hidden holes and use them to get inside.

Penetration goes well beyond vulnerability testing or a vulnerability assessment. That is because there are often security holes which do not exploit a vulnerability, but rather abuse logical errors or shoddy security practices which allow them to gain access. In brief, it is like having a friend check your house for secret holes and other weak spots that you might not have noticed. Consequently, you can fix those problems and keep your house safe from sneaky thieves.

How Does Penetration Testing Work?

When a company or any other type of organization wants to test how secure their systems are, they might hire special “white hat” hackers to try and break in. These white-hat hackers are good guys who use their hacking skills to help protect people from the bad guys (called “black hat” hackers).

Here’s how penetration testing works step by step:

  1. Planning: First, the penetration testers or white hat hackers need to know what they’re testing. Then the client organization tells them which computer systems, applications, or networks need to be checked and sets some rules for the test.
  2. Reconnaissance: Next, the pentesters collect as much information as they can about the systems they’re testing. They might use tools like Google searches, social media, and other public sources to find details that could help them break in.
  3. Scanning/Enumeration: After gathering information, they use special software to scan the systems for weak spots, open ports or out-of-date software. 
  4. Trying to Break In (Exploitation): Now, they try to use the weak spots they found to break into the systems. They might use things like password guessing, brute forcing, exploiting known vulnerabilities, or social engineering (tricking people into giving them access).
  5. Assess Severity (Post-Exploitation): Once they’re in, the penetration testers see how far they can get inside the systems and what level of privileges they can acquire. They determine the severity of the finding by assessing what level of impact was had to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. This helps the company understand how much damage a real hacker could do.
  6. Reporting: Finally, the pentesters write a report telling the company what they found during the test. They explain how they broke in and advise on fixing the weak spots so real hackers can’t use them in the future.

What Happens After the Test?

After the penetration test, the company fixes the problems the white hat hackers found. Sometimes, they might even ask the hackers to try breaking in again to make sure the fixes work. This is called a “retest.” Furthermore, new vulnerabilities may arise at any time and they often do. For this reason, it is a common practice to perform penetration testing annually or even twice a year. This is the only way to ensure your organization is constantly protected from ever-evolving threats in the digital world.

In addition to actual cybersecurity assessments, we also offer Cybersecurity Training. And the importance of this can not be exaggerated since according to statistics human error contributes to 95% of data breaches. Fortunately, regular pentesting and security awareness training can help mitigate the risks associated with human error.


In conclusion, penetration testing is a bit like having a friendly spy test your computer systems to make sure they’re safe from real bad guys. By finding weak spots and fixing them, companies can help protect their organization and customer information to keep the internet safer for everyone. You can learn more about the top vulnerabilities in our free ebook. Strafe Cybersecurity offers a wide range of penetration testing services from web application penetration testing to social engineering. So don’t hesitate to contact us now and ask for a quote.

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