Cybersecurity and coding go together in many ways, yet they are also very separate in some. Often, a question that many people have when first starting out in cybersecurity is whether or not it is worth putting in the time to learn how to code. This can be a complex question since it can take time to decide where it is best to focus when approaching such a vast field as cybersecurity. Penetration testing alone is such a complex topic with so much to learn, so it is very important to allocate effort where it fits best.
Application of Coding in Penetration Testing
Penetration testing encompasses many different things, but the first one that comes to mind for most is exploiting software vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities often come from poorly written code that the attacker can then manipulate to get unintended results. Knowing how the vulnerabilities work and what is actually happening behind the scenes allows for a more complete understanding of what is happening. This can often be the difference between less skilled hackers and more skilled hackers. This does not mean that knowledge of coding is needed to be a good hacker, but it can certainly be helpful.
Understanding how a vulnerability works can often allow a penetration tester to find more bugs as well. For example, understanding fully how SQL Injection works will make it a lot easier to find. These vulnerabilities arise when user input is not properly checked and is passed into the back end as it was received. Knowing what areas in an application will be passing user input will make a penetration tester much better at identifying SQL Injection vulnerabilities.
Aside from just finding more vulnerabilities, this can also save the tester a lot of time. With so many different attacks and more being found each day, it can be just as important to know what not to try. Understanding how the application operates and what language and technologies are being used can rule out certain attacks that would otherwise be a time-consuming process to test. This knowledge makes for more efficient testing with faster results.
White Box Testing
White Box Tests are typically going to be the most comprehensive level of testing. This is when the tester goes in and analyzes the code base to identify any potential vulnerabilities. This type of testing will be able to uncover vulnerabilities that often will be difficult or impossible to find from less invasive testing. At Blue Goat, our team will usually be able to uncover all sorts of vulnerabilities that slipped through the cracks during development. We have experience identifying many different problems with code that can result in weaknesses being exposed to the internet.
White Box Testing requires a solid understanding of coding. Since this involves going in and reading through the code, it will have little benefit if the tester is not familiar with what they are reading. When we are performing White Box Tests at Blue Goat, we often like to go in and create proof-of-concept exploits for identified vulnerabilities. This can accurately show the impact of the bug while making replication easy. Doing this requires knowing how to write custom exploits based on what we find.
While not necessarily required during a penetration test, scripting is a very valuable skill set that will save a tester immense amounts of time. This can be various small things, such as automating various tools, chaining together output in custom scripts, creating lists, or simply creating lists and target files. This can also get to a more complex level where the tester is developing custom exploits based on the unique environment encountered during the test.
In order to be as efficient as possible, we will often want to set up custom workflows for tests. This can allow us to kick off our tools and have them run in the background while we go in and perform more intensive manual testing. Knowing how to build a custom workflow and adapting it based on each client’s unique needs can save lots of time and allow for more comprehensive coverage of the network.
Meet Your Cybersecurity Needs with Blue Goat Cyber
Our team is experienced in many different types of penetration tests and is ready to help you find the right security solution for your organization. We understand that each client is unique and has specific needs to ensure that they remain hardened against cyber-attacks while still maintaining peak functionality. Contact us to schedule a meeting.