Home > Articles > Security > General Security and Privacy

Security Through Penetration Testing: Wrap Up

📄 Contents

  1. 1 Countermeasures
  2. 2 Keeping Current
This sample chapter describes some ways to keep current on the latest tools and techniques in security. The people attacking your networks will be using the latest tools and techniques, so if you are not aware of such tools and have not tested your environment against them, you may be exposed.
This chapter is from the book

Throughout this book we have outlined and described many of the techniques we have found to be successful during penetration testing. As you perform penetration testing, you will develop new techniques and your own favorite tools. One of the most important points for performing adequate penetration testing is keeping your skills and tool kit current. The tools and techniques you use during testing need to be the latest and most up-to-date ones available. The people attacking your networks will be using the latest tools and techniques, so if you are not aware of such tools and have not tested your environment against them, you may be exposed. In this chapter we describe some ways to keep current on the latest tools and techniques in the industry.

Another important key to keeping your systems safe is the use of countermeasures. Throughout the book we have described countermeasures to specific tools or exploits. These countermeasures are on a more micro-scale; they address specific issues. While these types of countermeasures are important, there are larger, more broad-based countermeasures that can help prevent the smaller issues from occurring in the first place. A proper security architecture is a key element for keeping an organization secure. A security architecture includes policies and procedures, baseline standards, data classification, compliance and monitoring programs, and security awareness training.

22.1 Countermeasures

Throughout the book, we have identified countermeasures for many specific vulnerabilities. Closing specific holes, such as applying a patch to a Web server, addresses a real threat to security but does nothing to prevent a similar vulnerability from arising again in the near future. Often we perform penetration tests for clients and provide them with a long list of recommendations for fixing the issues we discover during testing. Frequently, the clients take action on the short-term, quick-fix issues but do little to address long-term problems. In these scenarios, the client's systems are relatively secure shortly after the testing was performed, but if we returned six months later, we would find many issues similar to those we discovered during the first test. Countermeasures must address both long- and short-term problems. Looking at the long-range picture, there are many tools for avoiding and preventing vulnerabilities, such as developing a security architecture as described above. We do not cover security architecture in depth since it is outside the scope of this book. However, we do highlight the importance of security architecture elements as countermeasures to computer security attacks.

Policies are important because they instruct personnel on proper procedures and acceptable use. Hopefully, the policies standardize procedures so that there is consistency in the environment. In addition, policies provide a basis for holding personnel accountable when they do not follow the standard set by the policy. You cannot expect personnel to act in a secure manner unless you define what you mean by "secure manner." One system administrator may think a "secure manner" includes writing passwords on sticky notes and keeping them on his or her desk. Another system administrator may think "secure manner" means users cannot connect to the Internet. Therefore, as much as possible, policies should define normal computer operations, acceptable uses, monitoring procedures, incident response procedures to follow in case of an actual incident, and other procedures. In addition, policies should be specific to groups. A system administrator and a normal user should not be governed by the same policies. Policies intended for system administrators should not be made available to the general population because they may reveal information that could be useful to an attacker. Finally, policies need to be updated regularly. Many times clients show us policies and procedures that are years out of date and the systems for which they were written no longer exist.

Minimum baseline standards are similar to policies. Baseline standards are specific configuration documents that delineate minimum configuration requirements that need to be in place on a specific type of system. Baseline standards should be developed for each system within the environment. For instance, an organization should have a minimum baseline standard for NT servers. Each NT server should be configured with a minimum account policy enforcing account lockouts, minimum password lengths, and other security settings. Each server should be built in accordance with these baseline standards or should have a waiver excusing the server from meeting the standard for a specific reason. Each type of system should have a baseline standard. Standards should exist for NT servers, NT workstations, UNIX systems, Web servers, and any other type of system. Different parameters with each standard should pertain to different classification levels. For instance, a high-risk asset may have an account lockout threshold of three attempts, whereas a low-risk asset's account lockout may be configured for ten attempts. Baseline standards start to bring consistency to an environment and help ensure security procedures are in place to prevent attack.

It is unrealistic to expect a company to protect a document containing a job-posting announcement as it would a directory containing the company's trade secrets. Organizations still need to operate effectively. If the security measures in place to protect an unimportant asset are too stringent and hamper productivity, the security measures are ineffective. Conversely, if the organization decreases security on the server containing the trade secrets to reduce the inconvenience to users, the measures are also ineffective. Data classification is important to determine which assets are critical and cannot afford to be compromised and which assets are less important and do not need to be guarded as closely. There are many means of data classification, but one common method includes classifying assets as high, medium, or low risk. The security procedures in place to protect each category of asset are different. This way the organization can concentrate on protecting critical assets and can loosen security requirements on less critical assets to help improve efficiency. Different policies and baseline standards should be tailored to correspond to each different level.

The use of data classification, policies, and procedures becomes less effective if the organization has no way to verify that the procedures are actually being followed. Compliance and monitoring programs involve verification through manual or automated means that standards and policies are being followed. The systems being tested should be compared against standards developed from the organization's policies, procedures, and baseline standards. Traditional methods of compliance and monitoring involve the use of an audit department. Many organizations' audit departments have neither the resources nor the expertise to conduct the highly technical audits necessary to ensure compliance with standards. Many automated tools are available to help with compliance and monitoring. Host-based assessment tools can help compare system configurations to standards and report deviations from standards. Many host-based assessment tools use an agent to review file permissions, open services, network settings, system policies, and other configuration settings that could affect the configuration of the systems. If, for example, a system administrator opens FTP on a critical server, the tool would report this change to the party responsible for compliance monitoring. Automated assessment tools can greatly decrease the personnel resources needed for a proper compliance program. However, automated tools can be costly and difficult to implement without proper expertise. Whether the methods used are automated or manual, a proper compliance and monitoring program is essential to an organization's security posture.

Security awareness training is another key element of a security architecture. Users and systems personnel need to be trained in proper procedures and the reasons for those procedures. Training should be tailored to the audience. Users should not receive the same security awareness training as system administrators. User training should focus on the key measures users need to take to increase the security of the organization, for example, areas such as password management, incident reporting, physical security measures, viruses and malicious code, and other security threats. Training for system administrators should concentrate on areas that they can influence: topics such as system standards, recognizing and reporting incidents, compliance and monitoring, and proper system procedures (for example, adding users, opening services, and applying patches). There are many other topics that should be included in training for users and administrators, but they are beyond the scope of this book. Without proper security awareness training, personnel may unknowingly create situations that harm the security of the organization. In addition, security awareness training helps the organization hold personnel accountable for violating security policies. Perpetrators will have trouble using a defense that they did not know the proper procedure or were not aware of a policy since the organization will have documentation that the person attended security awareness training.

However, security awareness training goes only so far. If an organization's security procedures are difficult to follow and significantly inconvenience the user, they will not be followed. For example, organizations that require users to remember ten different passwords for multiple systems are the ones that lead users to write their passwords on sticky notes and leave them on their desks. A single sign-on solution or other means of centralized authentication could make password management easier for users and thereby decrease the number of exposures created by users deviating from security procedures. Therefore, when an organization is designing a security solution, it should seek to implement procedures that are easy to follow and enforce. Such procedures will decrease user and administrator security exposures more than the greatest security awareness training for difficult security procedures.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020