Close this search box.

What Are The Different Types Of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing or pentesting is a method of testing the security of a system by intentionally exposing it to a situation where a real-life hacker attack is simulated. This “ethical attack” serves the purpose of locating vulnerabilities in a system and finding solutions to secure them before an authentic black hat manages to infiltrate and cause damage.

With the rise of generative AI, threats are becoming more sophisticated, and staying vigilant is more important than ever. Penetration testing is an excellent strategy that can prepare an organization to defend its systems against the latest cyber threat trends. The different types of penetration testing require different procedures, and it’s important to assess which method best meets the strategies and goals of your business.

This article will break down the main types of penetration testing and look into why it’s crucial to map out potential flaws that make malicious infiltration easier. Identifying system weaknesses in time can help prepare to efficiently manage a potential attack or even prevent one from happening. Read this article to learn the details about the different types of penetration testing!

What is penetration testing or pentesting?

Penetration testing involves carrying out a simulated cyber attack on a system, application, or network. The purpose is to identify vulnerabilities and assess the overall state of security systems. Mimicking an attack is essential for enforcing a cybersecurity strategy, but it can also offer valuable insight into the potential scenarios if a system should become the victim of a real attack.

penetration testing

Different Types of Penetration Testing

Black Box Penetration Testing

Also known as “external penetration testing,” the Black Box method involves searching for a point of access without knowing anything about the target system. When performing black box penetration testing, the pentester takes up the role of an uninformed intruder (doesn’t have any knowledge about the system or access to the source code) and deploys a series of common, known-to-work attacks. It’s like trying to get into a secured building with guards, which you’re seeing for the first time in your life.

This method can be put into practice by adopting the perspective of a hacker and trying to mimic criminal logic. This can be an excellent way of testing an e-commerce site for example. Attempting to crack passwords and cause bugs can be some of the basic methods a pentester tries. Those can serve in identifying flaws and vulnerabilities that are present but invisible from the inside.

Black box penetration testing is characterized by the “hit or miss” approach, and it can take as long as 6 weeks to complete, depending on the complexity.

White Box Penetration Testing

White box penetration testing is also referred to as “clear box testing” or “glass box testing” and is even more commonly known as “internal penetration testing.” In this case, the role played is that of an attacker who has knowledge and access to the environments of the “building.” This mimicked attacker has access to all system information, from its source code and structure to all of its configurations. The pentester has access to information about the data flows, websites, applications, and administrator access. This method allows for a thorough, detailed verification of all assets in a system. The pentester can simulate internal attacks as well.

This is the best method to conduct a comprehensive audit of a business’s security system by allowing access to a level of detail, which is not permitted in the case of the black box penetration testing method. Given the vast amount of available detail, it is necessary to decide the areas of focus. This method requires the use of special tools like debuggers and code analyzers, which make it possible to identify flaws before a real attacker does.

So, while the Black Box penetration testing method focuses on a realistic attack scenario where the attacker from the outside doesn’t have a lot of previous information about the system, the White Box penetration testing approach is doing systematic research from the inside with all data available for the pentester.

Grey Box Penetration Testing

During Grey Box penetration testing, the pentester has partial knowledge/access to an internal network or a web application. This method, also known as “the translucent box test”, combines the fundamental principles of Black Box and White Box testing. The pentester is provided with a limited amount of information, for example, they are given login info but no access to the source code. Grey box testing is an in-between solution providing a focused understanding of the kind of damage an intruder can cause if they get partial access to a system.

This approach allows for testing situations more similar to real-life attacks by providing both depth of investigation and the authenticity of a real attack. It can provide balanced insight into the security posture of a network or application and is often the preferred method of customers for skipping the more time-consuming parts of penetration testing.

penetration testing

Types of Penetration Testing

Network penetration testing

Network penetration testing is performed by assessing all network infrastructures, be it on-premise or cloud. Security testing is a procedure for verifying how vulnerable a system is to unauthorized access. By targeting either internal or external internet-based infrastructures, network penetration testing focuses on all the assets in an organization’s network: IPs, number of webpages, and network subnet size. Its purpose is to locate holes that could become access points for malicious actors.

Wireless penetration testing

This test targets a company’s WLAN and other forms of wireless networks, like Bluetooth or Z-Wave. The procedure helps identify encryption vulnerabilities and WPA weaknesses. It also provides valuable insight into the security posture of the wireless networks.

To frame the boundaries of the engagement, the pentester has to have access to all the wireless and guest networks, locations, and service set identifiers (SSID) to run the tests.

Web application penetration testing

Web application penetration testing is focused on e-commerce sites and customer portals. It is typically run with the purpose of evaluating the chances of cybercriminals getting access to web applications. Running this kind of test is crucial for preventing data breaches and identity theft. The web application tester is looking for pages that can expose sensitive information, links that can be manipulated, or forms dealing with user data processing. During the test, the pentester takes up the role of the hacker and experiments with distorted URLs, cookies, or anything that can grant him a glimpse into information that should normally stay hidden.

Physical penetration testing

Penetration testing can start with physical security. The testing consists of checking if all physical security measures are in place in an office space or corporate building. This involves verifying all entrances and exits, locks, alarms, access cards, and security guards in order to ensure that no intruder can get in without being noticed. Additionally, the test involves checking if the security systems are running up-to-date and looking for eventual vulnerabilities that can allow them to be disabled or avoided.

Cloud pentesting

Addressing cloud security and undertaking targeted security strategies can be crucial for organizations because if those environments are compromised, important information can be exposed. A cloud pentest can be executed by a human pentester or an automated tool. It serves the purpose of recognizing weaknesses in the cloud infrastructure and verifying if the security measures are running effectively to provide the necessary security.

Social engineering penetration testing

Social engineering penetration testing focuses on the human element in the security of an organization. Basically, it tests how well-informed and prepared employees are for eventual attacks like phishing. Cybercriminals have sophisticated tactics for tricking people into giving out passwords, personal information, and access codes. They can even mislead them into installing malware. The new generation of AI tools for creating deepfakes makes mitigating these risks a lot more challenging. Criminals can easily pose as managers or other employees of the company.

The scope of social engineering penetration testing is to see how aware employees are of the lurking threats. It aims to assess the weaknesses that can lead to data breaches. Being up-to-date and keeping employees informed can tackle the security concerns associated with the human element and protect the company against cybercrime.

Client side pentesting

Client-side pentesting focuses on the possible vulnerabilities on the user side of a system or application. These can be email apps, messaging applications, plugins, or any other software that handles incoming data from the client’s side. The pentester verifies, for example, if email bombs can compromise applications or if a web browser can become the victim of script attacks. The purpose of client-side pentesting is to ensure that the clients and the company are secured against threats. Even if the company’s side is secure, holes can still appear on the client’s side, putting confidential data and systems at risk.


To sum it all up, penetration testing is a method for making sure that there are no weak points in an organization’s security. It is a method to ensure that it’s well-protected against cybercrime. The pentester assumes the role of the hacker or malicious organization and attempts different types of attacks on the system in order to reveal vulnerabilities. There are different approaches used, like the Black Box, the White Box, and the Grey Box method. Many types of specialized, targeted tests serve the purpose of a thorough and focused assessment of a company’s overall security posture.

Got questions? Want to talk specifics? That’s what we’re here for!

Discover how Volico Data Centers can help your company with protection against the growing number of cyber threats. Learn how Volico Managed Security Services can help prevent disasters.

•  Call (305) 735-8098
 Chat with a member of our team to discuss which solution best fits your needs


penetration testing

Share this blog

About cookies on

Volico Data Centers use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage. This site uses essential cookies which are required for functionality.  More detail is available in our privacy policy. Learn more

Skip to content