Maximizing Your Security with an Internal Network Pen Test

John Price
Chief Executive Officer
January 6, 2023
6 minutes

In today’s digital age, data breaches and cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly common, and businesses must take proactive measures to ensure the security of their internal networks. One of the most effective ways to improve your online security posture is through internal network pen testing. In this article, we will discuss how this process can help protect your sensitive data and assets, comply with industry standards, and identify vulnerabilities within your network.

Understanding the Importance of Internal Network Pen Testing

Internal network pen testing is a simulated cyber-attack conducted by a skilled professional in a controlled environment. This process is designed to identify potential vulnerabilities and security weaknesses in your network before actual hackers can exploit them. By proactively identifying these vulnerabilities, you can take steps to secure and strengthen your internal network defenses.

Identifying Vulnerabilities within Your Network

The first step in any internal network pen test is to identify potential vulnerabilities within your network infrastructure. This can include misconfigured network devices, outdated software versions, unpatched vulnerabilities, and weak passwords. These vulnerabilities can provide easy access for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to your network, your sensitive data, and your company's assets.

One example of a potential vulnerability in your network infrastructure is outdated software versions. If you have not updated your software in a while, you may be using versions that have known security weaknesses. These weaknesses can be easily exploited by hackers, resulting in data breaches or other security incidents. By conducting regular internal network pen tests, you can identify outdated software versions and take steps to update them, strengthening your network defenses.

Ensuring Compliance with Industry Standards

Internal network pen testing is essential for businesses of all sizes and industries to ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations. Many regulatory requirements, such as PCI DSS or HIPAA, mandate that businesses conduct regular pen tests to identify and mitigate any security risk to sensitive data. Regular testing also ensures that you maintain compliance with current industry standards, which is crucial for maintaining a good reputation and avoiding costly legal penalties.

For example, if your business handles credit card data, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This standard requires regular pen testing to identify any vulnerabilities in your network that could lead to a data breach. By conducting regular internal network pen tests, you can ensure that you are meeting these compliance requirements and protecting your customers' sensitive data.

Protecting Sensitive Data and Assets

Protecting sensitive data and company assets is a top priority for any business. Internal network pen testing allows you to identify high-risk areas within your network, such as confidential financial data or intellectual property, and enhance their security. By proactively addressing these risks, you can minimize the likelihood of a data breach, protect sensitive data, and safeguard your company's assets.

For example, if your business handles confidential financial data, you may have specific areas of your network that are more vulnerable to attack. By conducting regular internal network pen tests, you can identify these high-risk areas and take steps to enhance their security. This could include implementing additional security measures, such as multi-factor authentication or encryption, to protect sensitive data and assets.

Overall, internal network pen testing is an essential component of any comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. By identifying potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your network, ensuring compliance with industry standards, and protecting sensitive data and assets, you can strengthen your internal network defenses and minimize the risk of a cyber attack.

Preparing for an Internal Network Pen Test

Before conducting an internal network pen test, it is crucial to prepare adequately. This includes defining the scope of the test, assembling the penetration testing team, and establishing communication and reporting procedures.

Defining the Scope of the Test

The scope of the pen test should be discussed with your pen testing team and should consider your business operations and critical systems. This ensures that the testing process does not interfere with your day-to-day operations, and that critical systems remain intact throughout the testing process.

It is also important to consider the time frame for the test. A longer testing period may be necessary for larger networks or more complex systems. Additionally, the scope should include any specific areas of concern, such as recent security incidents or compliance requirements.

Defining the scope of the test can help ensure that the testing process is efficient and effective, and that the results accurately reflect the security posture of your internal network.

Assembling the Penetration Testing Team

Choosing the right pen testing team is critical to a successful penetration test. Penetration testing requires highly technical skills and experience, and the team should consist of qualified professionals who possess both.

When assembling the team, consider the size and complexity of your network, as well as any specific areas of expertise that may be required. For example, if your network includes a significant amount of web applications, it may be beneficial to include a team member with expertise in web application testing.

It is also important to ensure that the team has access to the necessary tools and resources to conduct a thorough testing process. This may include specialized software or hardware, as well as access to network diagrams and other relevant documentation.

By assembling the right team, you can ensure that the testing process is comprehensive and that potential vulnerabilities are identified and addressed.

Establishing Communication and Reporting Procedures

Throughout the entire testing process, open communication and clear reporting procedures are necessary to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of what is expected.

This includes establishing regular meetings or check-ins to discuss progress and any issues that may arise. It is also important to establish a clear reporting structure, including who will receive reports and how frequently they will be provided.

Reports should include a detailed summary of the testing process, including the vulnerabilities that were identified, their priority rating, and concrete steps that can be taken to mitigate them. It is also important to include a timeline for addressing the identified vulnerabilities and any recommendations for improving the overall security posture of the network.

By establishing clear communication and reporting procedures, you can ensure that the testing process is transparent and that everyone involved is aware of the status of the testing process and any potential security risks.

Conducting the Internal Network Pen Test

Conducting an internal network pen test is a critical step in ensuring the security of your business's systems and network infrastructure. It is a multi-step process that involves a series of technical procedures aimed at identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses within your network.

During the pen test, a team of skilled professionals is tasked with simulating a cyber attack on your network to identify potential entry points and system weaknesses. The ultimate goal is to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors and recommend remedial measures to mitigate the risks.

Reconnaissance and Information Gathering

The first stage of the pen test involves conducting research on your business, systems, and network infrastructure. This stage is critical in identifying entry points, system weaknesses, and gathering valuable information that facilitates access to your network.

The team may use various techniques, including social engineering, to gather information about your network. This may involve sending phishing emails to employees to test their awareness of potential cyber threats.

Scanning and Identifying Vulnerabilities

In this stage, the team uses scanning tools to search for vulnerabilities and weaknesses within your network. The scanning process involves identifying open ports, detecting out-of-date security protocols, and detecting network misconfigurations.

Once the team has identified potential vulnerabilities, they will prioritize them based on their severity and potential impact on your business operations.

Exploiting Vulnerabilities and Gaining Access

Once vulnerabilities have been identified, the team's job is to exploit them and gain access to your network. This stage involves testing and exploiting identified vulnerabilities to demonstrate the extent of the penetration that could have occurred without remedial measures.

The team may use various techniques, including brute force attacks and SQL injection attacks, to gain access to your network. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate the potential impact of a successful cyber attack on your business.

Maintaining Access and Escalating Privileges

Having gained limited access, the pen testers test several simulated scenarios to escalate their privileges within the network. This helps to identify critical vulnerabilities that require remediation.

The team may attempt to gain access to sensitive data or systems that require elevated privileges. This helps to identify potential weaknesses in your network's access control mechanisms.

Documenting and Reporting Findings

Finally, the team documents and reports all the vulnerabilities discovered during the testing process. It is crucial to provide detailed reports summarizing each vulnerability, outlining the associated risks, and including appropriate recommendations for their remediation.

The report should include a detailed analysis of the vulnerabilities identified, their potential impact on your business operations, and the recommended remedial measures. The report should also include a summary of the testing process and any challenges encountered during the testing process.

The report should be presented to senior management, and appropriate action should be taken to address the identified vulnerabilities. This may include implementing new security protocols, updating software and hardware, and providing training to employees to improve their awareness of potential cyber threats.

Analyzing and Addressing Pen Test Results

The goal of the internal network pen test is to identify vulnerabilities and security weaknesses that need to be addressed. The testing process provides an opportunity for businesses to evaluate their security posture, address identified vulnerabilities, and take proactive measures to improve their overall security.

Prioritizing Vulnerabilities for Remediation

Once the vulnerabilities have been identified and reported, it is essential to prioritize remedial measures. The team will help prioritize the vulnerabilities and recommend remedial action based on the severity and likelihood of occurrence.

Implementing Security Measures and Fixes

Based on the priority of findings, remedial action should be implemented to strengthen your network. This may involve installing software patches, updating firewalls, reconfiguring access controls, and implementing multi-factor authentication mechanisms. Remedial measures must also address the root cause of vulnerabilities and eliminate the possibility of their reoccurrence.

Re-testing and Verifying Security Improvements

After addressing the identified vulnerabilities, retesting is recommended to verify the effectiveness of the remedial measures implemented. Re-testing ensures that all vulnerabilities have been fixed and that the security of your network has been improved.


Internal network pen testing plays a critical role in improving your network's security and overall online posture. This article has highlighted the importance of internal network pen testing, the preparation required for a successful testing process, and the importance of addressing the vulnerabilities highlighted in a timely and efficient manner. It is advisable to engage experts to conduct your testing and guide remedial actions to ensure that your internal network is well-secured.

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