Choose the Right Penetration Testing: Black Box vs. White Box

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Why Do You Need to Perform Penetration Testing for Your Organization’s System?

You probably feel like you and your IT team are fighting an endless battle. The truth is that IT leaders do face a determined and resourceful collective foe in hackers around the globe. It is a practice as old as the internet itself for these infiltrators with too much time on their hands to try to breach business and personal systems.

InfoWorld takes us on a trip back to the 1990s to open the time capsule to peek in at “the Microsoft Excel macro virus that silently, randomly replaced zeros with capital O’s in spreadsheets, immediately transforming numbers into text labels with a value of zero.” More malfeasance for the sake of malfeasance, in that case, since, once the intrusion was detected, the data was discovered to be corrupted.

While the Microsoft Excel macro virus was problematic in its time, hackers have become far more innovative to keep up with—and all too often ahead of—modern technology’s rapid advancements. InfoWorld goes on to note some of the more nefarious types of stealth cyber-attacks of the modern age:

  • Fake Wireless Access Points (WAPs). An updated twist on the classic “spider and the fly” tale, fake WAPs lure users—perhaps business travelers in an airport, for example—into logging into what seems like a legitimate access point.
  • Cookie Theft. When hackers are able to steal a user’s browser cookie information, he or she can essentially “become” that user. Even though this practice has been around since time in memoriam, as far as the digital world goes, it has become easier.

There are plenty more types of modern hacking machinations that include file name tricks, redirecting files, malware, and ransomware. It is mind-boggling for busy IT managers who to keep up with this level of misguided ingenuity. However, it is possible, but your IT team needs to stay diligent and work to set up safeguards. Keep in mind that you need to keep track of those safeguards through penetration testing. With this testing, you can see an active view of your operating system in real time.

What Is Penetration Testing?

Forbes notes that a penetration test (pen-test) is often confused with a vulnerability scan, a compliance audit, or a security assessment. Penetration goes beyond those system checks and does the following:

  • Takes Vulnerability Scan Information to the Next Level. If you discover vulnerabilities during a pen-test, you can exploit those vulnerabilities to prove, or disprove, real world attack potential.
  • Focuses on the Individual or Team of Testers. It is important to try to understand possible motive over sophisticated modalities in this type of testing.
  • Seeks Information About Real-World Effectiveness of Your Security System. Again, motive is key with penetration testing. You are trying to determine whether your system, no matter how advanced your security, can stand up to a resolute, stealthy, and ruthless hacker.
  • Considers Multiple Attack Vectors Against the Same Target. Limiting your scope of threats—such as only focusing on your internet browser vector—limits your understanding of your system and your readiness to protect it.

There Is Even More to Penetration Testing: Black Box vs. White Box

To further specify the type of testing you need to do, and the ultimate understanding that your IT team needs to grasp about your system, you need to choose between performing a black box or a white box pen-test.

Black Box Penetration Testing

Basically, this type of testing gives no advanced notice to your tester, or testers, that you will be performing a pen-test. Fans of this type of testing believe that testing should be carried out without privileged knowledge of the target, or targets, per ScienceDirect.

This “blind testing” tack forces the tester to spontaneously find an open route access into the network. Ideally, the tester will not find any breaches, but if you do, this type of testing gives you the perfect opportunity to make corrections before an actual hacker finds that same route, just as haphazardly as your tester found it.

Additional features and benefits of black box testing include the following:

  • Applicable to Nearly Every Level of Software Testing. Whether your focus is on unit, integration, system, or acceptance.
  • Tester Knows What to Do but Not How to Do It. Your tester may know that providing a certain input will provide an inevitable system output, but they do not know how your organization’s software might produce such an output in the first place.
  • Promotes the Achievement of More Accurate Results. Since the tester is not privy to specifics of the test, it does simulate what a hacker has to do to achieve their task with no information.

White Box Penetration Testing

As you might suspect, white box penetration testing—also known as clear box testing, glass box testing, transparent box testing, and structural testing—features a directly opposite approach to pen-testing. With this type of pen-testing, your tester will have full-disclosure, which includes their knowledge of IP addresses, source code, network protocols, and diagrams.

Additional features and benefits associated with white box testing include the following:

  • Tests the Internal Structures of Your System vs. Functionality of Black Box Testing. With white box testing, you are working to understand your system’s needs and problems from an internal perspective to work proactively and preventively, as opposed to reactively with black box testing.
  • Extends the Test Area. With black box testing, you can often only choose one or two functions of your system to test during a pen-test session, but white box testing lets you do a more in-depth analysis of your system.

Black Box vs. White Box Penetration Testing: Can You Tell Which One You Need?

Perhaps you can easily determine what you need from the above descriptions. If not, I.S. Partners, LLC. can help. Our team of penetration testers love digging into pen-tests and can help you figure out which type of test you need to serve your needs. Contact us today by calling 215-675-1400 or sending us a message to talk about how we can help you protect your system from clever hackers and other system vulnerabilities.

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