A penetration test is an important offensive security exercise or operation. When carried out properly, it increases the security of your organization immensely. There are three types of penetration tests, classified according to the amount of information available to the penetration tester or ethical hacker, one of which is the white-box penetration test.
What is a white-box penetration test, and how does it work? Should you choose a white-box penetration test for your business?
What Is a Penetration Test?
A penetration test is a simulated cyberattack carried out by testers or ethical hackers to find vulnerabilities in a system, website, mobile application, or network. Basically, a penetration test is a method of hacking into a system before cybercriminals get into it and exploit it.
This way, the pentester finds weaknesses in the system beforehand, makes a report, and sends it to the blue team to fix and patch. It is a proactive and offensive security operation. There are three types of penetration tests: white-box, gray-box, and black-box penetration tests.
What Is a White-Box Penetration Test?
A white-box penetration test is a type of test whereby the ethical hackers have full privileges and knowledge about the system or application they are carrying the simulated attack on. In a white-box penetration test, the pentester has complete information about the target, the system, the network architecture, the source codes, and login credentials. They have root or administrative privileges of the system. They carry this out using penetration testing tools and various cybersecurity strategies.
White-box penetration tests are also known as crystal or clear penetration tests, and they are best carried out during the beginning stages of a product as the developers and engineers build. This way, the penetration tester finds vulnerabilities and bugs before the product is made public, and the developers can work on it in real time. In this stage, the white-box penetration test is used to discover poor coding practices and issues in the supply chain.
White-box penetration tests can further be carried out during the integration of the product. You can choose to carry out a white-box penetration test after the product has been released to the public, and even during a cyberattack or threat.
What Are the Advantages of a White-box Penetration Test?
The white-box penetration test has numerous benefits when compared to gray-box and black-box penetration tests. It is efficient, provides a comprehensive approach, and allows for early detection of vulnerabilities.
White-Box Penetration Tests Are Comprehensive
In a white-box penetration test, the penetration tester has open access to all information regarding the system and its architecture. This allows the tester to go through all the possible areas and methods to find vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
This approach is essential for complex and critical systems that need a high level of security; for example, financial organizations and the government. With these types of organizations, every area of the system must be tested to ensure top-notch security.
Early Detection of Vulnerabilities
As mentioned earlier, the white-box penetration tests are best carried out as an application is being created, and this allows for the early detection of bugs and vulnerabilities. Not only is this an offensive approach, but it is also preventive because it eradicates all weaknesses before a hacker can access the application.
What Are the Disadvantages of a White-box Penetration Test?
Although white-box penetration tests come with a lot of advantages, they also have some drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages of white-box penetration testing.
Too Much Data
The amount of information provided during white-box penetration can cause an overload on the part of the penetration tester. This can affect the accuracy of the testers and can lead to them missing or overlooking certain bugs. The abundance of information also makes the test very time-consuming and in turn very expensive.
White-Box Penetration Tests Are Not Ideal
A white-box penetration test is not always realistic. Having access to all information means that you would not necessarily approach the penetration test like a hacker. This means that you might miss out on weaknesses that only a black-box penetration test would be able to detect.
Should You Choose White-Box Penetration Testing?
This depends on the aim of your test and of course the resources available to you. If you want to test for weaknesses in security at the development stage of your application, you should definitely choose a white-box penetration test.
However, if your product is already in existence, and you want a deep and detailed scan of the vulnerabilities in your system, you should consider gray-box or black-box penetration testing.