Physical Penetration Testing

The threats to your crucial data and computer systems may not always be through virtual means. That being said, one needs to realize the relevance that physical penetration testing retains for their entities. Physical exploitation of your critical assets remains a big concern. Thus, your entity’s physical periphery cannot be deprived of enduring security measures.

Many entities struggle to keep their information assets’ physical safety up to the mark. In situations like these, physical penetration testing can be a rescuer. There is an urge for proper physical pentests with the increasing risks of theft and physical damage worldwide. A Pro-Vigil survey report outlines that in 2021, the number of physical security failure incidents has spiked by 28 percent. Many also attribute such a sharp rise in physical security problems to the business disturbances induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, there is a prediction that these instances shall multiply even further in 2022.

Physical penetration testing is another genre from the penetration testing domain that many organizations can implement. It stands among one of the salient types of pentests apart from the mobile, wireless, application, and IoT penetration testing. Team NaviSec is here to help you conceive some fundamental elements related to this category of pen-testing.


What is the meaning of physical penetration testing?

A physical penetration test refers to scrutinizing the physical security controls implemented in a given organization. It helps to understand the probability related to the risk of an unwanted adversary breaking in within an entity’s physical premises. Testers also call it physical intrusion testing and use this process to check the effectiveness of controls like surveillance cameras, fences, door locks, and security personnel.

While performing a physical penetration test, the testing team tries to outmaneuver the physical safety controls with simulated attacks. It helps to understand the level of assurance available with existing physical security tactics and the level of damage a bad actor can create during actual exploitation.

Why should business organizations go for physical penetration testing?

  • It helps ensure appropriate compliance with recognized regulations and standards.
    Many cybersecurity regulations and standards that numerous cybersecurity specialists uphold worldwide require different organizations to conduct periodic physical penetration tests. GLBA, PCI DSS, SOC2, and ISO-27001 are among the noted regulations and certifications that recommend different types of pen testing, including physical penetration testing, for organizations everywhere. If you want to stay compliant and not lose your credentials, your entity should consider adequate physical penetration tests.
  • Enables better detection of root causes of physical security risks
    The need for proper physical controls holds the same weightage as virtual cybersecurity controls. You cannot undermine the need to get into the crux of any form of vulnerability or risk that prevails in your physical safeguarding system. With physical penetration tests, you can dig into the weaknesses of your tangible safety measures and take rectification steps for the same.
  • Allows adequate prevention of your organization’s assets against infiltrators
    Physical penetration testing involves the simulation of real-life hacking and infiltration attempts. It acts as a mirror that showcases what damages you might have to face if you do fail to execute necessary physical safety tactics. The results of physical penetration tests can act as a wake-up call for many organizations that might be lagging behind in their physical security posture.
  • Supports your business in gaining customer confidence
    The presence of relevant security strategies related to both physical and virtual defense is vital to retaining your clientele’s trust. In the current period, frequent cyberattacks have made many feel insecure about which seller they can trust. A business organization can magnify its cybersecurity and physical safety preparedness with methods like physical penetration testing. Thus, your business can better sustain its client’s faith and remain competent in its operation with regular security assessments like pentesting.


What is the methodology pentesters employ for physical penetration tests?

The physical pentesting teams usually follow the following set of phases to conclude the testing process.

  • Phase-1 Gathering information

    In the commencement stage, the pen testing team starts with collecting essential security details from the client organization. They find all possible data regarding the vulnerable locations, like the size of the premises, the restricted zones, or the alarm details. Testers also rely on the OSINT (open-source intelligence) process to find further publicly available information regarding the target area. There are both passive and active methods of reconnaissance or information collection. The strategies used to assimilate the info shall depend on the particular client’s engagement terms.

  • Phase-2 Covert observation

    The physical penetration testing team shall now go for the covert observation process. The testers shall uncover critical information to plan their exploitation by assessing the premises. They shall observe staff uniforms, noticing the staff’s break tenure, possible entry and exit points that are easily accessible, the vigilance of the security guards, clicking photographs of vulnerable regions, and positioning of different physical security controls. All such details shall lay the base for the simulated attack.

  • Phase- 3 Attacking plan and pretexting

    Now arrives the stage where the pentesters model their attacking strategy. They utilize all the details gathered in the preceding phases to prepare their plan. After the attack plan is finalized, the pentesters enter a pretexting approach to ensure that their testing personnel and equipment are all set for the attack.

  • Phase-4 Exploitation and post-exploitation

    This phase is perhaps the most interesting one in the physical penetration testing process. It is where the testers begin executing their attacking plan using the resources gathered. The team can utilize various techniques for their exploit. Circumventing door locks, bypassing cameras or security alarms, tailgating, and copying user IDs are some of the popular ways that testers employ to gain initial access. Once they have concluded the planned exploitation activities and entered the desired location, they move on with the post-exploitation phase. The testers try to penetrate further into the environment. They carry out more attacks and embezzle critical assets and data while collecting necessary evidence.

  • Phase-5 Reporting

    After the attacking mode ends, the testing team pursues the reporting mission. The team writes down its findings from the test while mentioning the techniques it used and the corrective recommendations needed. This report also covers all discovered vulnerabilities. Once they draft the report, they present the same for client review. They submit the final report after any required updates.


What are the most frequent attacking vectors to carry out physical pentesting?

  • Lock picking
    Lockpicking has been an age-old practice that intruders continue using to gain unauthorized access to any premises. Many business organizations continue using conventional locks and key systems. These locks are generally easy to break with just simple tricks and training. Thus, hackers can easily take advantage of these systems for their malicious intent.
  • Social engineering client’s employees
    Social engineering represents the process of extracting essential details from an entity’s workers. It involves deceptive tactics to make use of modest employees. Testers might include social engineer workers to extract details about physical security, like the location of alarms and surveillance cameras.
  • Interception of electromagnetic waves
    Many entities transmit their data via EM (electromagnetic) waves. Attackers can easily find means like antenna and receiver to intercept these waves and garner sensitive information. It is hence important to encrypt the data transferred to prevent further damage.
  • Tailgating
    This term denotes the technique of gaining entry in sensitive areas of any organization by passing through secure entrances accessible to only authorized members. Adversaries achieve this feat by following authorized persons. They usually employ this trick in combination with social engineering strategies to entrap the worker.
  • Shoulder surfing
    Shoulder surfing represents the methodology of keenly observing devices or computer systems of authorized workers of an organization to find critical details like passwords or trade secrets. Intruders can pretend to be trustable personnel to uncover such information from the target.
  • Dodging sensors and security cameras
    Security cameras and sensors are among the most common elements to monitor the physical periphery of any entity. They give a clear view of all occurrences in any required region of your premises. Many thus try the circumvention of such installations will allow easier access to the sensitive locations of an organization and embezzle critical data or systems.


Overcome your company’s cybersecurity and physical protection challenges with NaviSec!

NaviSec has a strong foothold in the cybersecurity industry with its time-tested penetration testing methodologies. Our team is equipped with the apt knowledge and toolset to deal with the most challenging data security issues. We have served countless clients from diverse niches. Entities can bank upon us to shield their indispensable data and systems. Please reach out to our experts to learn more about our physical penetration testing services!

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