What Is Penetration Testing In Cybersecurity?

Penetration testing or ethical hacking is an essential component of a cybersecurity program. It helps organisations identify and fix vulnerabilities that cybercriminals use to gain unauthorised access to sensitive data or cause business disruptions.

Penetration testing services involve conducting simulated attacks against systems to test for weaknesses attackers could exploit.

What Is Penetration Testing?

A penetration test, also known as ethical hacking, is a simulated cyber attack designed to find vulnerabilities in an organisation’s computer systems and network infrastructure. It can be used to evaluate an organisation’s adherence to compliance regulations, as well as determine the strength of its security defences.

During a penetration test, a certified professional mimics the strategies and actions of an attacker to assess the vulnerability of the system under review. This can include gaining access to a system’s servers, devices and networks, and performing reconnaissance to identify weaknesses. 

Types Of Penetration Testing

There are many different types of penetration testing, depending on the client’s needs and requirements. Examples include black-box penetration tests, which simulate attacks from outside the organisation; wireless network penetration tests, which evaluate vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi and rogue access points; and phishing penetration tests, which assess employees’ susceptibility to email phishing scams.

Penetration testers, also known as ethical hackers, use manual and automated technologies to systematically compromise servers, endpoints, network devices, web applications, mobile devices and more to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. They can also test ICS (industrial control systems) and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems to determine their level of vulnerability.

Performing Penetration Testing

A penetration test involves a team of IT professionals, also known as ethical hackers. They use hacking techniques to simulate a cyber-attack on an organisation’s infrastructure and gauge its strengths and weaknesses against those of real threat actors.

An important part of a penetration test is determining the motivation and goals of a potential cyber attacker. This helps the tester prioritise and focus tests on those areas that most often lead to data breaches.

Another key aspect of pen testing is ensuring the target system remains unchanged during the process. For example, if an organisation installs new software patches or hardware components during a penetration test, those changes could affect the accuracy of the results.


Performing penetration testing is an important part of an organisation’s cybersecurity strategy. These simulated attacks can help businesses identify weaknesses that attackers could exploit to gain access to sensitive information or disrupt business operations. Penetration testing can also be used to test the effectiveness of an organisation’s security controls.

Penetration testers use a variety of techniques and tools to attack a network, website, mobile app or other system and assess their ability to penetrate the targeted infrastructure. This includes attempting to evade next-generation intrusion prevention systems, bypassing external firewalls and other common attacks.