What Is Black-Box Penetration Testing and Why Should You Choose It?

Penetration testing is an integral part of every organization’s security exercise. You might think a penetration test is a simple, straightforward process without any other subgroups, but this is not the case. There are actually three types of penetration tests, one of which is the black-box penetration test.

So, what exactly is a black box penetration test, and what does it entail? And is a black-box penetration test the best testing method for your business? Find out below.

What Is a Penetration Test?

A penetration test is a form of ethical hacking that involves organizing authorized and simulated cybersecurity attacks on websites, mobile applications, networks, and systems to discover vulnerabilities using penetration testing tools and cybersecurity strategies.

Penetration testers or ethical hackers try to hack into your system before a real cybercriminal does. This way, you prevent cyberattacks by finding vulnerabilities before hackers can exploit them; it’s all about staying ahead. There are three types of penetration tests: white-box, grey-box, and black-box penetration.

What Is a Black-Box Penetration Test?

A black-box penetration test is one where no information whatsoever is given about the system to the penetration tester. The penetration tester has no knowledge about the blueprints of the systems and has no access to the codes, implementation processes, applications, and network used by the organization. The only privileges available to the penetration tester are user privileges.

The tester literally goes in blind and tries to find vulnerabilities independently using both automated and manual penetration tests, vulnerability scans, social engineering attacks, and trial by error basis. The black box penetration test is also known as an external or closed-box penetration test.

The black box penetration test is the most accurate representation of a real cyberattack because, just like the hacker, the penetration tester has no knowledge about the systems running in the organization and has to carry out the surveillance and information gathering phase independently.

What Are the Advantages of a Black-Box Penetration Test?

The greatest advantage of the black-box penetration test is that it is realistic and unbiased. This is the closest you would get to an actual cyberattack. Hackers who target your system do not possess any special knowledge or privileges. And just like the hacker, the penetration tester looks around and tests all the possible vulnerabilities for positive outcomes.

Since no knowledge or special access is disclosed beforehand, the penetration tester has an open and unbiased mind to the scan. The pentester can approach the penetration test neutrally and find vulnerabilities the organization might have missed. In penetration tests where prior access to the system blueprints and processes are provided, the chances of the penetration tester focusing on a specific set of vulnerabilities and missing out on others are greater.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Black-Box Penetration Test?

The main disadvantage of the black-box penetration test is that it is not as efficient as the gray-box and white-box penetration tests. And this is caused by the lack of information provided. Without special insight and only basic privileges, a penetration tester might be unable to dive into the sensitive parts of an organization’s systems and networks that might be vulnerable.

Cybercriminals might spend months crawling an organization’s system looking for vulnerabilities, but the penetration tester does not have that luxury of time and therefore needs a head start.

Is a Black Box Penetration Test the Right Choice for Your Organization?

The answer to this question depends on the scope of the test in question and the resources available to you. If you are trying to save cost or are only testing a new addition to your system—say, an app or a new web service—a black-box penetration test is your best pick since it only covers a limited scope.

However, if you want a deep and detailed scan of the vulnerabilities in your system and can afford it, you should consider other penetration testing types too.

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