Book Image

Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments: The Ultimate Security Guide

By : Lee Allen
Book Image

Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments: The Ultimate Security Guide

By: Lee Allen

Overview of this book

The internet security field has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Everyday more people around the globe gain access to the internet and not all of them with good intentions. The need for penetration testers has grown now that the security industryhas had time to mature. Simply running a vulnerability scanner is a thing of the past and is no longer an effective method of determining a business's true security posture. Learn effective penetration testing skills so that you can effectively meet and manage the rapidly changing security needs of your company. Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments will teach you how to efficiently and effectively ensure the security posture of environments that have been secured using IDS/IPS, firewalls, network segmentation, hardened system configurations and more. The stages of a penetration test are clearly defined and addressed using step-by-step instructions that you can follow on your own virtual lab.The book follows the standard penetration testing stages from start to finish with step-by-step examples. The book thoroughly covers penetration test expectations, proper scoping and planning, as well as enumeration and footprinting. You'll learn how to clean up and compile proof of concept, exploit code from the web, advanced web application testing techniques, client side attacks, post exploitation strategies, detection avoidance methods, generation of well defined reports and metrics, and setting up a penetration testing virtual lab that mimics a secured environment. The book closes by issuing a challenge to your skills and ability to perform a full penetration test against a fictional corporation; followed by a detailed walk through of the solution.Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments is packed with detailed examples that reinforce enumeration, exploitation, post-exploitation, reporting skills and more.
Table of Contents (18 chapters)
Advanced Penetration Testing for Highly-Secured Environments: The Ultimate Security Guide
About the Author
About the Reviewers

Introduction to advanced penetration testing

Penetration testing is necessary to determine the true attack footprint of your environment. It may often be confused with vulnerability assessment and thus it is important that the differences should be fully explained to your clients.

Vulnerability assessments

Vulnerability assessments are necessary for discovering potential vulnerabilities throughout the environment. There are many tools available that automate this process so that even an inexperienced security professional or administrator can effectively determine the security posture of their environment. Depending on scope, additional manual testing may also be required. Full exploitation of systems and services is not generally in scope for a normal vulnerability assessment engagement. Systems are typically enumerated and evaluated for vulnerabilities, and testing can often be done with or without authentication. Most vulnerability management and scanning solutions provide actionable reports that detail mitigation strategies such as applying missing patches, or correcting insecure system configurations.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing expands upon vulnerability assessment efforts by introducing exploitation into the mix


The risk of accidentally causing an unintentional denial of service or other outage is moderately higher when conducting a penetration test than it is when conducting vulnerability assessments. To an extent, this can be mitigated by proper planning, and a solid understanding of the technologies involved during the testing process. Thus, it is important that the penetration tester continually updates and refines the necessary skills.

Penetration testing allows the business to understand if the mitigation strategies employed are actually working as expected; it essentially takes the guesswork out of the equation. The penetration tester will be expected to emulate the actions that an attacker would attempt and will be challenged with proving that they were able to compromise the critical systems targeted. The most successful penetration tests result in the penetration tester being able to prove without a doubt that the vulnerabilities that are found will lead to a significant loss of revenue unless properly addressed. Think of the impact that you would have if you could prove to the client that practically anyone in the world has easy access to their most confidential information!

Penetration testing requires a higher skill level than is needed for vulnerability analysis. This generally means that the price of a penetration test will be much higher than that of a vulnerability analysis. If you are unable to penetrate the network you will be ensuring your clientele that their systems are secure to the best of your knowledge. If you want to be able to sleep soundly at night, I recommend that you go above and beyond in verifying the security of your clients.

Advanced penetration testing

Some environments will be more secured than others. You will be faced with environments that use:

  • Effective patch management procedures

  • Managed system configuration hardening policies

  • Multi-layered DMZ's

  • Centralized security log management

  • Host-based security controls

  • Network intrusion detection or prevention systems

  • Wireless intrusion detection or prevention systems

  • Web application intrusion detection or prevention systems

Effective use of these controls increases the difficulty level of a penetration test significantly. Clients need to have complete confidence that these security mechanisms and procedures are able to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of their systems. They also need to understand that at times the reason an attacker is able to compromise a system is due to configuration errors, or poorly designed IT architecture.

Note that there is no such thing as a panacea in security. As penetration testers, it is our duty to look at all angles of the problem and make the client aware of anything that allows an attacker to adversely affect their business.

Advanced penetration testing goes above and beyond standard penetration testing by taking advantage of the latest security research and exploitation methods available. The goal should be to prove that sensitive data and systems are protected even from a targeted attack, and if that is not the case, to ensure that the client is provided with the proper instruction on what needs to be changed to make it so.


A penetration test is a snapshot of the current security posture. Penetration testing should be performed on a continual basis.

Many exploitation methods are poorly documented, frequently hard to use, and require hands-on experience to effectively and efficiently execute. At DefCon 19 Bruce "Grymoire" Barnett provided an excellent presentation on "Deceptive Hacking". In this presentation, he discussed how hackers use many of the very same techniques used by magicians. It is my belief that this is exactly the tenacity that penetration testers must assume as well. Only through dedication, effort, practice, and the willingness to explore unknown areas will penetration testers be able to mimic the targeted attack types that a malicious hacker would attempt in the wild.

Often times you will be required to work on these penetration tests as part of a team and will need to know how to use the tools that are available to make this process more endurable and efficient. This is yet another challenge presented to today's pentesters. Working in a silo is just not an option when your scope restricts you to a very limited testing period.

In some situations, companies may use non-standard methods of securing their data, which makes your job even more difficult. The complexity of their security systems working in tandem with each other may actually be the weakest link in their security strategy.


The likelihood of finding exploitable vulnerabilities is directly proportional to the complexity of the environment being tested.