1. Planning and scoping

The first step in any penetration test is to properly scope the engagement. This means understanding the goals and objectives of the test, as well as what systems and data are in scope. Without a clear scope, it’s impossible to know what needs to be tested and how.

2. Information gathering

The next step is to gather information about the systems and data in scope. This can be done through active reconnaissance, such as port scanning and banner grabbing, or passive reconnaissance, such as Google dorking. The goal is to gain as much information as possible about the target without actually interacting with it.

3. Vulnerability assessment

Once information has been gathered, it’s time to start looking for vulnerabilities. This can be done through automated scanning tools, such as Nessus, or manual testing. Either way, the goal is to identify any weaknesses that could be exploited by an attacker.

4. Exploitation

If vulnerabilities are found, the next step is to attempt to exploit them. This can be done manually or with automated tools, depending on the nature of the vulnerabilities. The goal is to gain access to the systems and data in scope, without being detected.

5. Post-exploitation

Once an attacker has gained access to a system, they will often want to maintain that access for future use. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as installing backdoors or adding users to administrator groups. The goal is to create a persistent presence on the target system.

6. Reporting

The final step in any penetration test is reporting. This includes documenting all findings, both positive and negative, and presenting them to the client. The goal is to provide a clear and concise report that can be used to improve the security of the systems and data in scope.

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