The Different Types of Security Penetration Testing

4 min readAug 18, 2020


types of security penetration testing

The different types of Security Penetration Testing (also known as Penetration Testing/ Pen-testing/ Pen-Test) are critical weapons in the cybersecurity arsenal as proactiveness insecurity is made possible by them. Given that the threat landscape is fast evolving and that even the best applications and cybersecurity measures may have gaps, the effectiveness and strength of the security measures are tested through Penetration Testing.

It must be noted that the varied types of Security Penetration Testing are not equal, and each has its own benefits and scope. In this article, these different types of Pen-Tests will be explored in detail.

What is Security Penetration Testing?

security penetration testing

Penetration Testing is the process where a real-time cyber-attack is simulated against a targeted system/ application/ network/ infrastructure under secure conditions. Pen-tests cannot be automated and must be conducted by a trusted pen-tester. At the end of the Pen-Test, a detailed report with the status of the targeted system’s security and countermeasures to minimize security risks is provided by the pen-tester.

Pen-Tests are more rigorous and deeper than vulnerability scans. In vulnerability scans, automated is leveraged to identify known vulnerability signatures and security weaknesses. It is through Pen-Testing that the exploitability and lethality of such vulnerabilities are assessed. Additionally, security misconfigurations, business logic flaws, and unknown vulnerabilities, among others are identified and their exploitability is assessed using the different types of Security Penetration Testing.

What are the Types of Security Penetration Testing?

Vulnerabilities, gaps, and loopholes in the network infrastructure — networks, systems, hosts, network devices (routers, switches, etc.) — are identified through Network Pen-Testing. It is the most common type of Pen-Test. Both internal and external access points are covered by combining local and remote tests.

Exploitable entry points for attackers, internal and external, are identified, and security risks facing critical internet-facing assets and network infrastructure assessed through this Pen-testing type.

Commonly targeted areas:

  • Firewall Configuration
  • Firewall Bypass
  • Stateful Analysis
  • SQL Server
  • IPS/IDS evasion
  • SMTP mail servers
  • DNS
  • Open ports
  • Proxy servers, etc.

Application Pen-Testing is a complex, detailed, and targeted type of testing where strategic planning is necessary for greater effectiveness. Here, globally-accepted and industry frameworks are used to simulate real-time attacks against applications to expose security lapses caused by insecure coding, development, and design practices.

Commonly targeted areas:

  • Web applications and websites
  • Software
  • Mobile Apps
  • Internally/ externally developed programs
  • APIs
  • Applets and Scriptlets
  • Plug-ins
  • Frameworks
  • Browsers
  • Languages
  • Systems like CRM, HR systems, SAP, etc.

Physical Penetration Testing

Physical Penetration Testing, also known as Physical Intrusion Testing, is where physical security controls/barriers are attempted to be breached by the pen-tester to gain access to critical assets/ sensitive areas. An in-depth insight into security flaws, security unknowns, and real-life risks facing physical assets is offered by this form of Pen-Testing.

Common targets:

  • Perimeter security
  • RFID and door entry systems
  • Intrusion alarms
  • Locks at physical locations
  • Cameras
  • Sensors and motion detectors
  • Mantraps
  • Human network at the organization

Social Engineering Pen-Testing

Through Social Engineering Pen-Testing, the human network at the organization is targeted through manipulation, trickery, phishing, scams, threats, tailgating, and dumpster diving by the tester to gain access to proprietary/ confidential information or physical access to assets.

Human beings are the weakest link in cybersecurity and their lack of awareness is often exploited by malicious actors. Given that 90% of all cyber-attacks are initiated through social engineering (phishing in particular), Social Engineering Pen-Testing is indispensable.

Client-Side Pen-Testing

Client-side Pen-Testing/ Internal Testing is where the potential security threats emerging internally from the organization and exploitable from the client end are identified by the tester.

Common targets:

  • Client-side Software
  • Web Browser
  • Content Creation software (MS Office Suite, Photoshop, Adobe Page Maker)
  • Media players, etc.

Wireless Network Pen-Testing

Vulnerabilities in the wireless devices used on the client-side are identified and analyzed to detect rogue/ weak devices and unsecured access points by testers through Wireless Network Penetration Testing.

Aside from including wireless devices like tablets, smartphones, notebooks, etc., wireless protocols, wireless access points, and admin credentials are also included.


Regular Pen-Testing can save millions of dollars for organizations, making it critical to a robust and proactive cybersecurity strategy, and a strong security posture. However, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for conducting Penetration Testing. Given the vast differences in the security needs and contexts across industries and individual business needs, the choice of the type of Security Penetration Testing must be highly tailored and contextual. To custom-design and implement pen-testing based on the needs and context of your business, the services of security specialists like Indusface can be leveraged.

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Originally published at on August 18, 2020.




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