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What are the types of penetration testing you need to know?

By Hacken

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Big Idea Definition:
Penetration Testing is a proactive cybersecurity measure aimed at identifying internal and external vulnerabilities of a software application by trying to breach existing security controls.

What’s so special about Penetration Testing?
Penetration Testing follows the steps of a potential attacker but does not deal any harm.

Main benefit:
Penetration Testing is proactive rather than reactive

In the real world, physical penetration testing is used to assess the rigidity of physical barriers, such as doors and looks. The goal is to check if criminals can get in and steal money or sensitive information.

The principle behind penetration testing is largely the same in web applications. Only the focus shifts to cyber security. Software development projects use penetration testing to see if malicious actors can access source code and network infrastructure.

Types of penetration testing

Black box and white box are the two major types of penetration testing in crypto. Other types include blind, double-blind, and lights-on.

Black box penetration testing

Black box sounds mysterious, right? That’s the point. Try imagining a black box of any size. Now, think about what’s inside the box? It could be anything and you cannot know for sure because it is dark inside. This is basically how black box penetration testing works. You test a system without knowing the internals.

In app development, black box refers to external penetration testing. The simulated attack targets publicly available app components. These include external web servers and apps, API endpoints, email clients, domain name servers (DNS), firewalls, and third-party vendors. The purpose of external testing is to estimate external security vulnerabilities, i.e. how far the attacker can penetrate the system remotely.

White box penetration testing

Now let’s continue our thought experiment. Imagine a white box of any size. The box is transparent and you can see what’s inside. You test a system with a full understanding of the internals.

White box pen testing happens from the inside. The attacker is authorized in the system. How can an attacker be authorized in the system? There are many options. For example, the attacker can be one of the employees with malicious intentions. In another case, the attacker may have received access to the account of a team member who became a victim of a phishing scam. Either way, the goal is to see what kind of damage an authorized malicious actor can do before the security systems kick in.

Closed-box (blind) penetration testing

Now the box is closed. Closed-box, also referred to as blind pen testing, is similar to external testing, but the attacker is only given the name of the organization. It follows the steps of a real attacker.

Double-blind penetration testing

Similar to a closed-box for the attacker but the organization does not know about the attack. This type is used to test the system’s security monitoring, preparedness, and incident identification. Indeed, many hacks and exploits may go unnoticed for months. 

Gray box penetration testing

Gray box pen testing is a security measure that employs a mix of black box and white box. The knowledge about the internals is limited. Also, the attacker may be granted some rights.

Cloud penetration testing

Cloud penetration testing is the same as traditional pen testing, but with an increased scope of software components under simulated attack. The scope of cloud pen tests includes cloud-specific configurations; cloud passwords, databases and storage access; cloud applications, and APIs.


There is no right type of pen testing. Different types of penetration testing serve different security and organizational needs. Hacken employs all types of penetration testing to improve cybersecurity, damage control, and incident identification of our clients.

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