Gray Box Penetration Testing

The domain of cybercrimes is getting more atrocious with the amelioration of information technology. We need armors like penetration testing to reinforce our efforts of defending our sensitive data and critical systems. As per a recent Cybersecurity ventures study, the expenses resulting from cybercrimes globally shall reach an astonishing sum of $10.5 trillion by 2025. Every type and scale of organization is mainly prone to become prey to the monsters of the dark web. Thus, we must stay well prepared and employ all possible aids such as pentesting to remain secure. Entities everywhere are rapidly investing in developing an apt cybersecurity structure. Penetration testing supports many ventures in ensuring that their heavy investments in data security remain worthwhile. The world of pentesting has various shades of tests to offer. Gray box pentests are one of such pentesting variants.

Gray box penetration testing now ranks among the most reliable types of penetration tests across various businesses. In our attempt to discover the realm of penetration testing further, with this blog, we shall penetrate the ABCs of the gray box pentesting domain.

What is gray box penetration testing?

A cross between the two major species of penetration testing, gray box pentesting also holds recognition as translucent box testing. It connotes a penetration testing variety where the testing team has limited details regarding the target system to conduct the tests. Just like the gray color comes into being with the mixture of the black and white shades, the gray box testing tries to bring out the best of what both black box and white box penetration testing offer.

Black box(Zero system knowledge) + White box(Complete system knowledge) = Gray box(Some system knowledge)

Unlike black-box penetration tests, where the pentesters have no prior understanding of the client’s application and security structure, gray box pentesting enables the testing squad to gain a certain degree of knowledge related to the client’s system before the test. However, in contrast to white box pentesting, the testers shall only have partial access to the application’s internal workings. They are not aware of the complete functionalities of the inner components of the client’s system.

Gray box testing allows pentesters to work in a more regulatable and practical environment to stimulate their attacks. It gives the testers the capability to imitate the psychology and experience of an actual adversary. This testing technique can prove helpful in application tests, integration tests, physical security testing, business domain tests, and periodic security assessments.

What are the eminent gray box penetration testing techniques?

Testing professionals can conduct gray box penetration tests using multiple testing techniques. These techniques allow one to examine the system for external threats like exploiters attempting to misuse vulnerabilities and insider adversaries such as hostile workers. Such gray box testing techniques include:

  1. Regression gray box testing

    Proper maintenance is critical for the long-term well-being of your application system. These include enhancements, error rectification, deletion of obsolete features, and performance optimization. But, there are chances that such alterations can lead to improper working of the system. Regression tests are a great way to ensure that the system changes meet their objective of enhancing the system and do not cause relocation of previous errors. These kinds of tests enable organizations to ratify that any attempts to improve or modify the application have not resulted in any adversities or errors in the prevailing system.

  2. Matrix gray box testing

    It is a comprehensive gray box testing tactic that involves the assessment of all existent application system variables. Matrix test allows the identification of unoptimized or unutilized variables of the system.
    System variables represent critical elements that transport value throughout any given application. The initial phase of matrix testing entails determining both technical and business risks corresponding to each system variable. Later, the testers evaluate the variables based on the dangers defined.

  3. Orthogonal array gray box testing

    This technique is a statistical way of performing systematic tests in complicated application systems. Orthogonal array testing enables testers to achieve maximum code coverage with minimum test cases. Thus, this gray box testing technique can support proper testing in situations where the number of inputs is low, but each of the inputs is sizeably large.

  4. Pattern gray box testing

    Testers under this testing technique assess the prior version of the software system to observe any pattern triggering the occurrence of errors or defects. The detailed analysis allows pentesters to know the causes of any deficiency, how these faults came to light, and the corrective actions’ effectiveness. This assessment also contributes to upscaling the design of test cases. It permits testing teams to take necessary measures to thwart issues that arose in the past software editions or similarly structured applications. Thus, the new version of the software systems will less likely struggle with past troubles during the conduct of the gray box test.

Why should you go for a gray box penetration test?

There are ample reasons for the popularity of gray box penetration tests among various forms of business organizations across diverse regions. Some most promising plus points of gray box tests are enlisted below:

  • The Gray box penetration testing method can prove more pocket-friendly

    This pentest type can cost relatively lower than testing methods like black box pentests and integration tests as they do not require as many extensive resources.

  • This testing method is less time-intensive

    Due to access to insider details up to a given level, pentesters take less time and effort to strategize their testing program than conducting pentests without prior knowledge about the system.

  • Gray box proves as an unbiased and unobtrusive pentesting method.

    The testing team tends to be better positioned to carry out bias-free testing with gray box penetration testing. While using gray-box tests, the testers do not have in-depth data about the application functions and operations, which helps lower prejudiced testing. This testing method can act as a great way to evaluate a system without accessing the source code.

  • Conducting gray box tests does not need extensive programming expertise.

    While doing pentests such as white-box tests, the testing personnel may need profound programming proficiency to work out the detailed analysis of the inner functioning of the system. However, the testers have to work with more concise data with gray box tests. Thus, there is less pressure to understand the programming details elaborately.

  • This test is an ideal combination of both black and white box tests.

    Many view gray box tests as the ultimate pentesting method as it merges the merits of two significant penetration tests- black and white box pentests. It tends to improve the scope of performing a more fruitful penetration test.

  • What is the methodology commonly followed to perform a gray box pentest?

    The pentesters can use the following steps to execute a gray box penetration test appropriately.

  • Perform planning and requirement analysis

    The formulation of a proper action plan is indispensable for any project. Testers should embark on their gray box test mission by first apprehending the software’s scope and the related techno stack. They also draft a plan document laying out the modus operandi. The client team should also provide the testing squad with the necessary dummy credentials to work with the system during this stage.

  • Reconnaissance

    Further, the testing squad gathers data about the application system and security posture, such as the hidden endpoints, IP addresses, and API end nodes. It helps to gather the required information to carry out a suitable attack.

  • Go for initial exploitation

    This step involves deciding the beginning course of the assault. Testers notice the misconfiguration issues in the cloud infrastructure and client servers. As per the issues found, the attacking trajectory is finalized.

  • Proceed with the advanced penetration testing process

    The testing squad moves on with the execution of all planned attacks on the endpoints found along with the implementation of social engineering schemes. They leverage the vulnerable areas discovered to strike like real-world hackers.

  • Perform post exploitation tests

    While undertaking the post exploitation tests, the pentesters take note of the valuable findings about the client’s system. They analyze the level of risk involved with a compromised system. It is a critical phase in any pentesting project as the testing team has access to many sensitive details such as passwords or credit card specifications.

  • End with documentation and reporting

    In the end, the testers articulate their discoveries and the attacking strategies used in the form of a report for the client’s perusal. They also report the areas tested and the improvement measures as needed.

What challenges might come forth while undertaking gray box penetration testing?

Undeniably, gray box testing is a remarkable pentesting method for numerous types of entities. However, there can be some cons that testing teams might have to address sometimes.

  • Designing test cases during the gray box testing process can be tricky
  • Gray box may not prove suitable for Algorithm testing
  • May limit the accessibility of system information for testers when actually needed

Avail of multiple forms of penetration testing services delivered with utmost dexterity!

NaviSec commands an exceptional mastery in proffering various cybersecurity services. We have helped countless companies with their penetration testing needs in the past. Our team specializes in black box penetration testing, white box penetration testing, gray box testing, compliance operations like CMMC, and much more. Join hands with NaviSec to create a world-class data defense structure for your organization! Call now!

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