Everything You Need to Know About External Penetration Testing

Jen Smith
Published 03/01/2022
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Why companies should deploy penetration testingExternal penetration testing is a process used to identify the vulnerabilities of a company’s computer systems and networks. An external security consultant can perform this type of testing or be conducted in-house by the company’s own IT staff. External penetration testing is a type of security testing that involves taking advantage of vulnerabilities on a computer system or network without being physically present on it. It is critical to understand what external penetration testing is, why it’s essential, and how to perform it. This article will focus on the elucidated details of what external penetration testing is, its importance, features, how-to, and the steps for it, along with the tips to perfect your pen-testing journey.



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External Penetration Testing – In Detail

When most people hear “penetration testing,” they think of internal penetration testing. However, there is another type of penetration testing called external penetration testing. External penetration testing is performed on systems and networks outside of the organization’s firewall.

Penetration testing, sometimes known as software penetration testing, is the practice of assessing a firm’s computer systems and networks for security flaws. The goal of external penetration testing is to identify weaknesses that could be exploited by malicious actors so that they can be fixed.

The tester will attempt to access systems and databases using stolen credentials, brute-forcing passwords, and exploiting known vulnerabilities. The tester will also install malware and ransomware on the target systems to gain further access. By identifying vulnerabilities in these systems before an attacker does, the organization can fix them so they don’t become a security problem.


Why Is External Penetration Testing Important?

Penetration testing is essential for a variety of reasons:

  1. It aids firms in detecting and correcting flaws before they are taken advantage of by others.
  2. It allows companies to test their security controls and see how they work against real-world attacks.
  3. External penetration testing can help organizations meet compliance requirements like PCI DSS and HIPAA.

External penetration testing is also essential because it shows how healthy organizations protect their data from external threats like hackers and nation-states. This knowledge might assist businesses in making better cybersecurity investment decisions.


Features Of External Penetration Testing

External penetration testing differs from internal penetration testing in several ways. The first is that external penetration testing is done on systems and networks outside the organization’s firewall. Testers have much more limited access to the target systems, complicating the process.

The second distinguishing feature is identifying vulnerabilities that malicious actors can exploit. While internal penetration testing also looks for vulnerabilities, it focuses mainly on those that insiders could use, such as disgruntled employees or malicious hackers.

Third, external penetration testing typically involves scanning for and exploiting known vulnerabilities rather than finding new ones. This is because there are far more known vulnerabilities in external systems than internal systems.

Fourth, external penetration testing usually involves using tools such as Nessus and Metasploit to automate some of the processes. While these tools are used for internal penetration testing, they are much more commonly used in external penetration testing because they save time and effort on testers (and companies).

Fifth, external penetration tests often include social engineering attacks that target employees with phishing emails containing malicious links or attachments. These attacks are much easier to conduct outside the organization’s network than inside it. There is less chance that someone will notice something amiss when an email comes from an unknown source than someone known within their company.


How to Conduct External Penetration Testing

It would be best if you considered several things when conducting an external penetration test:

  • The tester must understand how the target systems work and what vulnerabilities may be present.
  • The testing must be completed in a controlled environment not to impact production systems or data.
  • The testers should only use authorized tools and techniques to avoid causing damage or disrupting operations.
  • The tester must document all findings in a report and provide recommendations for fixing each vulnerability.
  • Finally, the company should coordinate the entire process with its IT staff to be aware and respond accordingly.


What Are The Steps For External Penetration Testing?

There are several stages to performing an external penetration test. The tester must first acquire information about the target system. It includes studying the network diagram, gathering information about the hosts on the network, and collecting any passwords or other sensitive data that may be available.

Once the tester has gathered all this information, they will begin attacking the target systems and networks. This involves attempting to gain access to systems and databases using stolen credentials, brute-forcing passwords, and exploiting known vulnerabilities. The tester will also try to install malware and ransomware on the target systems to gain control of them.

Finally, once the attacker has gained access to as many systems as possible, they will document all the findings in a report. This report will include detailed information about each vulnerability found and suggestions for fixing them.


Must-Know Tips For External Penetration Testing

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when conducting an external penetration test:

  • Be sure to gather as much information about the target system as possible, including network diagrams, host information, and passwords.
  • Use authorized tools and techniques only not to cause damage or disrupt operations.
  • Document all findings in a report, and provide recommendations for fixing each vulnerability.
  • Coordinate with the company’s IT staff to ensure that they are aware of what is happening and respond accordingly.


Tools For External Penetration Testing

Here are some of the tools that you may use during an external penetration test:

  • Astra’s Pentest – A tool for performing black-box, gray-box, and white-box penetration tests against web applications and networks.
  • Nmap – A tool for scanning networks and identifying hosts and services.
  • Metasploit Framework – The program develops and executes code on a target system.
  • Wireshark – A network analysis tool that can capture packets and decode them into readable formats.
  • Burp Suite – An online testing system used to find security flaws in web applications.
  • Nessus – A tool that can discover known weaknesses on a target computer.
  • John the Ripper – A password cracker that can crack passwords to access systems or data.
  • Maltego – A data mining tool that can map relationships between entities.
  • Kali Linux – A Debian-based Linux distribution specifically designed for penetration testing.


Who Needs External Penetration Testing The Most?

External penetration testing is critical for companies with a public-facing website or web application. These systems are often the most vulnerable to attack, as they’re exposed directly to the internet and can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

For example, if you have a website that allows users to log in and make purchases – such as an e-commerce site – attackers will likely try to gain access through this interface to steal passwords or other sensitive data. Similarly, if you have an internal portal for your employees to access corporate resources remotely over the internet – such as a VPN server – then attackers may try to gain access through this interface to infiltrate your network and steal information from inside.

These systems must be tested regularly with external penetration testing, especially after any significant updates or changes have been made. This will help ensure they’re not vulnerable to attack and continue serving customers without interruption.


How To Select The Best External Penetration Testing Service Provider?

External penetration testing is one of the most important things you can do for your business, but it’s also one of the hardest things because there are so many service providers to choose from. So how do you determine which is the most acceptable option for you?

You’ll want to ensure that the provider has a good reputation and is certified by an organization such as EC-Council. You’ll also want to ensure that they have experience performing external penetration tests against systems like yours.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that the provider can provide all of the services you need, including vulnerability scanning, security assessment, and consulting. In addition, ask them for references and case studies so that you can see how they’ve helped other businesses in similar situations.



External penetration testing is a necessary process that helps organizations identify and fix vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Understanding the steps involved in external penetration testing can ensure that your organization is prepared for any potential attacks.

Regular penetration testing is the most significant way to safeguard your company from external dangers. These tests can help identify vulnerabilities that might otherwise go unnoticed, allowing you to fix them before they become a problem.

Such tests also allow hackers and other attackers to access your systems without causing any damage or disruption – at least not until after the test has been completed successfully.