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Delimiting an Ethical Hacking

How to define the scope of your objectives
When security flaws are found through an ethical hacking it is important to delimit the scope of the objectives. An ethical hacking can be centered on three aspects: Application, Infrastructure and Source Code. Knowing this, it is possible to establish the target of evaluation for the test.

The main problem encountered by an organization when they need to perform security testing is establishing the boundaries of the test.

Delimiting the scope of a Pentest by time is a common mistake since it is not possible to know when a test, that is measured solely by effort, has ended nor whether the results were satisfactory or if it was just a big waste of time and resources that left no valuable knowledge to the organization.

There are two objectives to evaluate in an Ethical Hacking, infrastructure and application. These two can be evaluated in an already deployed environment or in a development one, analyzing the source code.

If what the organization wants is to identify vulnerabilities in their applications(web/mobile) and web services based on the needs and context of the business, in order to generate the biggest business impact possible, an Ethical Hacking of Applications should be done.

If what the organization wants is to detect security flaws directly in the development, identifying bad programming practices and intentional errors in the source code that can affect the proper functioning of the system, a Source Code Analysis should be done.

Finally, if what is needed are tests on the underlying infrastructure of the systems (Network services/OS), looking to exploit specific vulnerabilities of the implemented technology, an Ethical Hacking of the Infrastructure should be done.

Once the type of test to be performed is decided, the Target of Evaluation or ToE has to be determined based on three items.

  • Number of Ports, If what is going to be evaluated is Infrastructure.

  • Number of Input Fields, If the target of the test is the application.

  • Lines of Code, If the risks associated to the development wished to be determined.

Once these scopes are set and clear, one can be assured that everything related to that technology will be tested, as opposed to delimitations that are set based on execution time with automated tools that only exploit a small percentage of the reported vulnerabilities.

In FLUID, our value proposition goes hand in hand with meeting the promised scope, never based on time. Our tests are said to be finished when we have evaluated the complete target of evaluation.

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Felipe Gómez Arango

FLUID Account Manager, Bachelor of Business Management

Passionate about technology and security

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