Although there are different types of penetration testing, the two most general approaches that are widely accepted by the industry are the black box and white box.
These approaches will be discussed in the following sections.
Black box testing
While applying this approach, the security auditor will be assessing the network infrastructure and will not be aware of any internal technologies deployed by the targeted organization. By employing a number of real-world hacker techniques and going through organized test phases, vulnerabilities may be revealed and potentially exploited. It is important for a pentester to understand, classify, and prioritize these vulnerabilities according to their level of risk (low, medium, or high). The risk can be measured according to the threat imposed by the vulnerability in general. An ideal penetration tester would determine all attack vectors that could cause the target to be compromised. Once the testing process has been completed, a report that contains all the necessary information regarding the targets’ real-world security posture, categorizing, and translating the identified risks into a business context, is generated. Black box testing can be a more expensive service than white box testing.
White box testing
An auditor involved in this kind of penetration testing process should be aware of all the internal and underlying technologies used by the target environment. Hence, it opens a wide gate for a penetration tester to view and critically evaluate the security vulnerabilities with minimum possible efforts and utmost accuracy. It does bring more value to the organization in comparison to the black box approach in the sense that it will eliminate any internal security issues lying at the target infrastructure’s environment, thus making it more difficult for a malicious adversary to infiltrate from the outside. The number of steps involved in white box testing is similar to that of black box testing. Moreover, the white box approach can easily be integrated into a regular development life cycle to eradicate any possible security issues at an early stage before they get disclosed and exploited by intruders. The time, cost, and knowledge level required to find and resolve the security vulnerabilities is comparably less than with the black box approach.