The Five Stages of Penetration Testing

by Tashina

Penetration testing is a technique in which an ethical hacker exploits a company’s systems to check its level of security. The company can deploy relative measures after an evaluation of their system’s security by figuring out how to defend it better.
A penetration test goes through five essential stages to complete its goal:

In-depth Company Research

The foremost step to start penetration testing is to have in-depth research of the company. The more information you have about the company, the better you can run the test. You can discover the technologies that the company uses and map out their entire network. Thus, you can then help detect weak spots and flaws in the system. You do not perform any test at this stage of penetration testing. However, it holds the most vital information from the perspective of an outsider without using any special tools.


In this phase of penetration testing, you start the actual procedure of the test. You can now start messing with the system of your target and send data packets. These data packets interpret the response by which they will gather important information like:

  • Open ports
  • IP addresses
  • Operating system information
  • Services installed

There are many tools to assist you in this stage of the penetration test. Some examples include: Nmap, Nessus, and OpenVAS. All these can help in providing detailed information about a target system.

System Penetration and Exploitation

All the information which you gathered before will now be helpful to penetrate the system of the target. In this phase you aim to get access and maintain this access to different points in the system. The indication of successful exploitation is if you get at least a user-level access. From there, you build up the pace and perform privilege escalation. One of the favourite tools of testers is the Metasploit which is an open-source tool. The best thing about this tool is that it is open-source even at a commercial level that makes it easy to use. Furthermore, it gets regular updates which ensures it contains the latest exploits.

Maintaining Access

It is not easy to gain access to a system. Thus, it is essential that once you gain access, you should maintain it at all times during the assessment.

Presenting the Penetration Testing Report

The penetration testing company will present a report after completing the assessment which will highlight all the vulnerable areas discovered and explain why these areas are a risk, finally the report will provide recommendations on how to fix the aforementioned issues.
If you need help with cyber security assessment of your organization, reach out to Aardwolf Security’s team of penetration testing experts.

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