Security testing represents a set of practices used to identify vulnerabilities in information systems to help protect them against bad actors. A variety of penetration testing methods may be used in computer applications or infrastructure environments to find and exploit real-world security risks. Regular security testing helps identify weak spots before hackers do, allowing organizations to implement upgrades and close critical gaps revealed by security assessments.
When testers use a black box model, they begin with limited knowledge of the network (for example, a host name of a public server, IP address) and no information on security policies, network structure, operating systems, software or other protections. Working with limited details, the ethical hacker seeks to penetrate as far as possible into the network to detect vulnerabilities. In an ideal case, this method typically uses the minimal accounts privileges which may be found on the application itself.
White box testing assumes that ethical hackers are provided with a network's secrets, which may include admin rights or access to configuration files. Let’s consider an example when a company requires white box testing of an online service. In this case, a team of pen testers would have access to server configurations, communication protocols and any database encryption principles. Most of the time, testers also have access to source code. These kinds of assessments are more in-depth and take more time.
Gray box testing encompasses the approaches above and assumes the tester has some limited system access. In this case, a customer may share some information on their network, such as user login details or the network’s overview. In the case of testing a web app, an engineer will seek to discover potential entry points. Some may be freely available (file download form, feedback form), some are for corporate users only (authentication form). The company may provide the tester with a corporate account to move deeper into the network.
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