Netizen Penetration Testing Guide

Cyberattacks have become an increasingly tricky issue plaguing small and medium-sized businesses in recent years. Hackers as far as halfway across the world or two states over are leveraging unpatched vulnerabilities to steal data, damage reputation, or extort a small business for as much money as possible. In 2021, The United States FBI disclosed that their Cyber Crime Division received as many as 4,000 complaints a day. Outside threat actors target new organizations every day to digitally exploit, so how do businesses look to protect themselves? Why not start with mirroring their methods and see how easy it would be to break into your environment?

What is Penetration Testing?

A penetration test is a significant first step in any organization’s commitment to advancing its information security practices. Penetration Testing is the manual discovery and exploitation of uncovered vulnerabilities in a computer system or environment, usually conducted by a cybersecurity professional. The test is first authorized by management to ensure everyone is on the same footing with how the test will be completed and what steps the tester will take when performing the exercise. The cybersecurity professional then conducts the test, trying to break into the target organization’s network/systems, and provides a comprehensive report of their methodology and findings to management.

Basically, penetration testing is similar to a bank going out and hiring an experienced bank robber to test their security practices. The bank gains valuable information from the exercise, learns where their security weak points are, and understands how someone would look to break in.

How do you get started?

Following the role of an actual assailant, a penetration test typically begins with the hunt for information. Network mapping, service discovery, and vulnerability scanning can all be expected at the beginning of a penetration test. Determining operating systems, service versions, employee information, if in scope, etc., is critical to a successful penetration test. To exhaust all security threats, penetration testers must have a thorough and complete picture of the scope of the target. Utilizing experience and industry-standard tools, this process is hand-crafted for precision and automated for redundancy.

Continuing into exploitation, testers will either confirm or deny their findings from the previous phase. Exploits are tested against systems in a real-world scenario producing invaluable information for the client. At this phase, it is common to attempt to gain access to employee and administrator accounts, attempt social engineering campaigns, and evaluate all angles of an actual attack. However, when an exploit is found to be authentic and vulnerable, the test does not stop there. Further efforts are made to persist exploits against systems and push further into the network utilizing newly compromised systems and accounts. The testing continues until the entire scope has been recursed. Where a vulnerability scan can report predefined suspicions, this is the true value of a professional penetration test.

What do you do after the test?

All this work means nothing without proper documentation and education. A penetration test is more than the cyber aspect of attacking a target. The value to a client is in the reporting phase. Clear, concise documentation of how attacks and campaigns were discovered, tested, and executed brings a penetration test full circle. Paired with professional education sessions afterward to discuss solutions, best practices, and continuity, clients can now review, patch, and prepare for future attacks with confidence.   


In review, a Penetration Test is a great exercise any organization can utilize to enhance their cybersecurity posture. The information gained throughout the test can be used to make informed decisions to upgrade security parameters and IT infrastructure and communicate what is going on in the environment to senior management. At the end of the day, what better way to figure out your security gaps than having a trusted expert try to exploit them safely?  

How Can Netizen Help?

Netizen ensures that security gets built-in and not bolted-on. Providing advanced solutions to protect critical IT infrastructure such as the popular “CISO-as-a-Service” wherein companies can leverage the expertise of executive-level cybersecurity professionals without having to bear the cost of employing them full time. 

We also offer compliance support, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and more security-related services for businesses of any size and type. 

Additionally, Netizen offers an automated and affordable assessment tool that continuously scans systems, websites, applications, and networks to uncover issues. Vulnerability data is then securely analyzed and presented through an easy-to-interpret dashboard to yield actionable risk and compliance information for audiences ranging from IT professionals to executive managers.

Netizen is an ISO 27001:2013 (Information Security Management), ISO 9001:2015, and CMMI V 2.0 Level 3 certified company. We are a proud Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor for hiring and retention of military veterans. 

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