The complete 6 steps of the penetration testing process (How do your devices get Hacked?)

 The 6 Steps of penetration testing

(How do hackers Hack things)

How Hackers Hack


Hacking isn't about sending a link to someone who has absolute zero clue on how things work online so they click on it and boom, a RAT is installed on their device, in other words they got Hacked..

Hacking or penetration testing process goes far beyond that, it doesn't rely on the trust of the victim to click on links and install things trusting the Hacker, but it goes by specific steps that are known and conducted by every professional pen-tester and Cyber Security specialist!

So is the process of Hacking just like as it's shown in movies?! Let's find out the answer, and get to know how the Hackers Hack things..

What's Penetration Testing?

To know the steps of Penetration testing "Hacking", we have to know what Pen-Testing actually is..

Penetration testing or "Pen-Testing" is a security practice & technique that aims to gain access to a system to figure out its weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
It's a security assessment methodology that helps organizations identify the security vulnerabilities in the systems and spot the weak area that requires security attention.

Pen-Testing simulates real-world Cyber-Attacks from Hackers against the organization, to spot out which security aspect needs improvements in order to prevent a real Cyber threat.

Why Pen-Testing Is Important?

It's essential for organizations to figure out the flaws in their system, find out about the vulnerabilities in the network, and get a hand on the threats existing in the network.

That gives the organization a deep insight about its system's and network's security, and the possible risks existing, so they come up with solutions to eliminate these risks and cover the flaws in the system & the network, in order to keep the data safe from any Cyberthreat that the organization may face in the real world.

Who Conducts The Penetration Test?

The pen-Tests are conducted either by a security consultant, f.e. a White-Hat Hacker hired by the organization to conduct the Pen-Test in the network, or by an in-house team member, who's a part of the Cyber-Security team of this organization.

The Steps Of Penetration Testing:

After we got a good insight about the concept of Pen-Testing, now it's time to know about how the pen-test is conducted, in other words, what are the steps of Hacking that are taken care of and followed by every professional Hacker & Pen-Tester!! 

Steps of penetration testing

1- Footprinting (Information Gathering):

Footrptining is one of the pre-exploitation phases, in which the Hacker or the Pen-Tester gathers as much information as possible about the target either online or in person, to get his hand on any information as a simple one could be the road to break into the whole system.

After getting some clue on the target, it's now the time for the deeper & complete information-gathering phase, the Scanning phase.

2- Scanning:

This is the first practical phase, in which the Hacker uses tools and techniques to dig deeper and scan the target's network, to gain valuable information which will allow him to determine whether it's easy to break into this system or not.

Hackers scan the network using packages & command lines such as the notorious tool Nmap, to scan the whole network helping the Hacker g a clue on the following information:

- Operating systems the organization runs on.

- Applications installed on the network and the devices in that network.

- Range of IP addresses existing.

- Firewalls 

- The existence of anti-virus software.

- Open ports 

- Vulnerabilities in the network 

- Domain Names 

- Network blocks 

and many other valuable information about the network and the devices running on that network.

- Tools used in vulnerability scanning:

- Nmap:

One of the most powerful and notorious network and vulnerability scanning tools, it used to gain huge insight on the targeted network as it provides information about the IP addresses, open ports, what services each host is operating, any device connected to the network, and a lot more of valuable information that helps to form a view on what the network is vulnerable in.  

Nmap (Network mapper) tool

- Nikto2:

It's an open-source web application scanning tool that scans the web servers and finds the vulnerabilities in them, gets files that can corrupt the server, gives reports on the outdated servers, and figure out the configuration issues in them.

- OpenVAS:

A powerful scanning tool that performs wide-scale scans and catches vulnerabilities in web servers, networks, operating systems, databases, and virtual machines.
It's dedicated more to organizations that require big scans on their system and network security.

- Aircrack:

It's also known as Aircrack-NG, and it's a set of tools used for WIFI security scanning and network auditing, it focuses on various areas of the network, allows the Hacker to get the lost keys by capturing the network data packets.

- Nexpose:

It's an open-source web vulnerability scanning tool that can be used with the Metasploit framework and provides detailed reports on the flaws & vulnerabilities in the web application, with a continuously updated database with the newest vulnerabilities.

3- Enumeration:

After the Hacker got a full insight on the network and the devices connected to it and their vulnerabilities and security flaws, he starts exploiting these security issues and breaking into devices on the network one by one.

The purpose of this phase isn't damaging the system & devices nor stealing the data, but discovering the system & devices more, looking for usernames and passwords, planting Trojans on those devices, though still without them being activated for now but later...

4- Penetration:

In this step the Hacker tries to break into the main devices in the system, the servers that give the other devices on the network their IP addresses, updates and that checks the usernames & passwords, to ensure that he stays in the network in case something happened while working on the targeted device.

After he ensures the stability of his connection and the existence on the network by gaining the access to the main servers, he heads directly to the targeted device, not caring for a way blocking preventing from reaching the targeted system, because he got the whole network under control, though still, a professional Hacker will keep undercover trying to gain as much time as possible unaware of.

Information gathering

5- Advance:

The Hacker is already on the targeted device, browsing the data, files, pics, usernames, passwords, and anything he wan, as well taking copies of the data he needs, by downloading it to his device or most likely by copying it to other devices on the same network to avoid driving attention to the activities he's doing in the background, as transferring the data to his device will take big bandwidth especially if the network is already slow, and at the end resulting in driving the attention to the security break happened on the network.

6- Covering The Tracks:

The most important and time-consuming step in Penetration-Testing in which the Hacker deletes the evidence of his activities on the networks by checking each device, switch, server, router, and firewall in the network he broke into, deleting the Trojans he planted and the log file activities.

The log file is the place where all of the activities on the device are written and stored.

Therefore after taking care well of the deletion process, we can say that the Hacker did a clean Pen-Test and covered his tracks, and it's what we call "The Complete Crime".


Any professional Hacker sets a map including steps of the Hack he's going to launch against a system or a device before he kicks off with any of the above-mentioned steps, knowing well how to break in, where to go and how to leave without keeping any evidence of existence, starting by gathering information about the target, going through the penetration process and ending with covering the tracks.
If the Hacker managed to complete all of the steps, then he has done a complete Hack that no one can catch him on.

Reaching this level of proficiency requires hard work, dedication, and years of studying and experience, therefore if your goal is standing out in the cyber security field as a skilled Pen-Tester, you need to devote time and effort to study & experience as much as possible, starting from the zero point aiming for the main target "The CISSP".

Thanks For Reading!


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