What is that one thing within an enterprise that could be considered the nerve system? I think it’s the network. Your enterprise network facilitates communication and the sharing of information, it also allows everyone in the organization to access tools they need to execute on their day to day tasks.
For such a critical and sensitive resource, your organization must ensure data integrity by making sure no one gains unauthorized access. That’s where network security; specifically network penetration testing can help. In this article, I aim to guide you through the whole network penetration testing and/or vulnerability assessment process.
What is a Network Security Assessment?
Network Security Assessment is aimed at identifying vulnerabilities in networks; hosts, servers, routers, and switches that can be exploited by hackers. This typically involves one doing what a bad actor would do; identify and exploit security flaws. After identification, one has to fix the network security flaws. Network Security should be a top priority for all organizations and security assessments should be conducted regularly.
A network security assessment will reveal existing real-world opportunities for malicious actors to be able to gain unlawful access to sensitive data or even completely take-over systems and consequently compromise systems and networks.
Some of the common system vulnerabilities include misconfigured software, firewalls, and operating systems, outdated software and operating systems, insecure protocols and unnecessarily open ports.
Types of Network Security Assessments:
Network Security Assessment Methodologies
Stages of Network Security Assessment
To get a clearer understanding of the assessment process, let us look at the six common stages that you go through on every assessment.
Step 1. Planning and Defining the Scope
The network security assessment team deliberates with the customer on the assessment objectives and the scope of work. For instance, security engineers can be tasked with performing vulnerability assessment tests on an enterprise’s internal subnetworks and help with meeting PCI DSS compliance standards.
Step 2. Intelligence Gathering
This stage is also referred to as reconnaissance. It involves the discovery of all accessible endpoints and the services or applications they are running. The endpoints include both physical and virtual components, firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection and prevention systems. The team identifies whether the network has open ports or services that shouldn’t be running. A keen look is also taken on the endpoint configurations, including any deployed SIEM products.
Step 3. Scanning and Enumeration
In this stage, the security team uses tools such as Nmap, Nessus, and Nikto to scan actively against target clients to fingerprint running services and operating systems. “Footprinting” of the network is carried out with the use of automated tools, such as Nmap, a network analysis tool.
They also perform enumeration; just looking at items and digging into them to see if we can find anything of value. Say there is a web server running on port 80, it is seen that port 80 is open and it’s running something like Apache 1.2 which will be really really outdated. The team conducts research to find out if Apache 1.2 has any exploits for it etc, that falls within the enumeration portion.
Step 4. Exploitation
After getting done with information gathering, scanning and enumeration, the team moves into the gaining access portion. They can attempt to escalate privileges, pivot and exploit the trust relationship between the compromised and other servers. They will run an exploit against the client or against a vulnerable service or whatever it may be to try and get access into a machine or into a network or environment etc. After gaining access, the team also works to maintain that access, for instance, if they are logged out due to a machine being powered off etc.
Step 5. Covering tracks
And then lastly there is the covering of tracks, the team deletes any generated logs, uploaded malware and any accounts that were created during the exploitation, this is really important.
Step 6. Reporting and Documentation
Finally, the team prepares an actionable report on discovered vulnerabilities in the enterprise network. This is backed up with evidence and a description of issues, targets affected and how exploiting those issues may affect the security posture of the enterprise. Recommendations on how to resolve and patch the vulnerabilities are also given.
How Can One Get Started?
Some of the base skills needed to get started with network penetration testing include Kali Linux, Networking; OSI Model, subnetting and common network protocols, Scripting skills; Python and Bash/Shell, Metasploit, Burp Suite, Nessus, Active Directory, Wireless network hacking and OWASP. More specifically;
To learn more about CyberSecurity career pathways, make sense of what roles lead to which paths and what skills or certifications are applicable, using an easy to use graphical visualization.
How Insoft Services can help
It’s hard to manage Cyber Security risk without having a full picture of your enterprises vulnerabilities. That’s why a network security assessment is so important. It helps you develop a map of your IT infrastructure that shows you where all your weak spots are.
It is best to have a 3rd Party to run the Network Security Assessment and help implement necessary changes. Drawing from our extensive experience in Cyber Security training, not only will we provide you with the right Network Security Assessment, but we can also consult on and implement any changes that need to be made.
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