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RE: What is being a pen tester really like?
From: "Omar A. Herrera" <omar.herrera () oissg org>
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006 09:47:13 +0100

Hi Diarmaid,

-----Original Message-----
From: Diarmaid McManus [mailto:diarmaidmcmanus () gmail com]

Apologies, I was under the impression from my quick read that Kluge
meant "Its a pen test if you don't _attempt_ a penetration" rather
than "Its a pen test if you _fail_ to penetrate".

However, no penetration test should fail. You should always be able to
get access if your client allows you to cover all areas, such as
Physical testing, Social Engineering, etc.

I agree that any pentester, given enough resources, skills, attack vectors
and time should be able to get in (same as with any attacker). The problem
is that I doubt that there are many contracts with such a scope (all which
I've seen at least include a restriction in time).

I don't believe that saying that "no penetration should fail" provided only
that "all areas are covered" (i.e. without caring about any other kind of
restrictions) can be proved to be true in all cases. Besides, that would
seem to imply that pentesters are experts in all areas (or that pentest
companies have experts in all areas).

Now, if we accept as a fact that pentest requires penetration or at least
proof that you can penetrate (in any case), we also are getting ourselves
into trouble. If:

a) We are always able to get in, then what is the benefit then for companies
to pay big bucks to perform these tests if everyone already knows the
results? Only to satisfy themselves that this is true? Wouldn't they be
better spending this money in reducing the risk rather than proving again
what we are considering an axiom?

b) We can't always get in or provide proof that we can get in, then we have
called ourselves incompetent in front of the client, even if the assessment
was found useful for the client as an indication that they were doing
something in the right direction to increase security.

I strongly believe that being able to get in does not always reflect the
competence of the assessor (big mistakes by the client can make things
extremely easy, even for the most inexperienced and unskilled of the
pentesters). Likewise, not being able to get in shouldn't be a single good
reason to consider a pentester as incompetent :-). There are many other ways
(imperfect but still more accurate) to assess how competent an assessor was
during a pentest (i.e. through measurable QA requirements).

Cheers,

Omar Herrera

 
On 08/08/06, Dotzero <dotzero () gmail com> wrote:
On 8/8/06, Diarmaid McManus <diarmaidmcmanus () gmail com> wrote:
Actually kluge, i think you'll find that that would be 'Its not
nuclear weapons testing if there are no nuclear weapons', which, you
will find, is actually not nuclear weapons testing.

Penetration testing, by defenition, (and to keep many happy ill throw
in IMO here) requires penetration of the systems you are testing, or
at least proof that you _can_ penetrate them if you so wish.

Yours,
~Diarmaid.


I have to agree with Kluge. Penetration testing is testing the ability
to penetrate. That is different than saying that penetration is a
prerequisite for testing.

You might have a very short report if you find no way of actually
penetrating but you still performed the test.

Dotzero




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