The Most Common Vulnerabilities Found in Penetration Testing

What are some of the most common vulnerabilities found in penetration testing.

Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, is the process of simulating an attack on a computer system to identify its weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Penetration testing is a crucial step in improving the security of a system, and it's essential for any organisation that handles sensitive data to conduct regular penetration testing to stay one step ahead of the hackers. 

In this article, we will discuss the most common vulnerabilities found in penetration testing.

Weak Passwords

Weak passwords are one of the most common vulnerabilities found in penetration testing. Many users tend to use easy-to-guess passwords or reuse passwords across different accounts, which makes them vulnerable to attacks such as brute force attacks.

  • In 2016, a hacker gained access to the email account of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, by tricking him into clicking on a phishing link and then guessing his password (which was "password").
  • In 2018, a hacker gained access to the personal information of 30 million Facebook users by exploiting a vulnerability that allowed them to steal access tokens. Many of the affected users had weak passwords that were easily guessed.
  • In 2020, a hacker gained access to the Twitter accounts of several high-profile individuals, including Elon Musk and Barack Obama, by using a phishing attack to obtain employee credentials. The hacker was able to gain access to the accounts because the employees had weak passwords that were easily guessed.

To mitigate this vulnerability, organisations should enforce strong password policies, which require users to create complex passwords and change them regularly.

Unpatched Software

Unpatched software refers to software that has not been updated with the latest security patches. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in unpatched software to gain access to a system.

  • SolarWinds breach: In December 2020, it was revealed that a group of hackers had gained access to the computer networks of several U.S. government agencies and major corporations, including Microsoft, by exploiting a vulnerability in SolarWinds' Orion software. The vulnerability had been present in the software for months before it was discovered and patched.
  • Colonial Pipeline cyber attack: In May 2021, a ransomware attack targeted Colonial Pipeline, a major U.S. fuel pipeline operator, and resulted in the company shutting down its pipeline for several days. The hackers gained access to Colonial Pipeline's computer networks through a vulnerability in an unpatched version of the company's VPN software.
  • Accellion data breach: In December 2020, the IT service provider Accellion suffered a data breach that affected several of its clients, including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and the law firm Jones Day. The hackers exploited a vulnerability in Accellion's File Transfer Appliance (FTA) software, which had not been patched by all customers, to gain unauthorised access to sensitive data.

Organisations should regularly update their software and apply the latest security patches to mitigate this vulnerability. 

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are social engineering attacks that trick users into revealing sensitive information or installing malware on their systems. Phishing attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and they often use legitimate-looking emails or websites to deceive users.

  • Google Drive phishing attack: In September 2021, a phishing campaign targeting Google Drive users was discovered. The attackers sent emails to users claiming that a document had been shared with them and provided a link to access it. The link led to a fake Google sign-in page, where users were asked to enter their credentials. The attackers then used the stolen credentials to access the victims' Google Drive accounts.
  • COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams: In early 2021, as COVID-19 vaccines became available, phishing scams targeting people looking to schedule vaccine appointments began to emerge. The attackers sent emails and text messages claiming to be from legitimate healthcare providers or government agencies, and asked recipients to click on a link to schedule a vaccine appointment. The link led to a fake website where users were asked to enter personal and financial information.
  • Microsoft Exchange Server attack: In March 2021, a hacking group believed to be based in China exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange Server software to gain access to email accounts and other sensitive data. The attackers sent phishing emails to targeted organisations that appeared to be from a trusted source, such as the organisation's IT department. The emails contained a link that, when clicked, would download malware onto the victim's system and provide the attackers with access to the Exchange Server.

Organisations should train their employees to recognise and report phishing attacks and implement security measures such as email filters to block phishing emails.

SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks are a type of attack where an attacker injects malicious SQL code into a vulnerable application. The attacker can then manipulate the application's database to steal data or gain access to the system.

  • Target data breach: In 2013, hackers used a SQL injection attack to steal data from Target, a major US retailer. The attack compromised the personal and financial information of over 70 million customers, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit card details.
  • Ashley Madison data breach: In 2015, a group of hackers used a SQL injection attack to steal data from Ashley Madison, a dating website for people seeking extramarital affairs. The attack resulted in the release of sensitive user data, including names, email addresses, and payment information.
  • Yahoo data breaches: Between 2013 and 2014, Yahoo suffered a series of data breaches that exposed the personal data of all its users, including names, email addresses, birthdates, and security questions and answers. The breaches were the result of SQL injection attacks and other vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to gain unauthorised access to Yahoo's systems.

Penetration testing is a crucial step in improving the cyber security of any company. By identifying vulnerabilities, organisations can take proactive measures to mitigate them and prevent potential attacks. Pretect by Magix offers continuous cyber security prevention & detection through an innovative platform at a fraction of the cost, including access to world-class penetration testing. 

In Conclusion

Penetration testing is an indispensable tool for identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in today's digital landscape. With the growing sophistication of cyber threats, it has become increasingly crucial for organisations to prioritise cybersecurity and conduct regular penetration tests. By addressing common vulnerabilities such as weak passwords, unpatched software, phishing attacks, and SQL injection attacks, organisations can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to a breach. 

To bolster their cybersecurity posture, businesses should implement strong password policies, regularly update software, educate employees about phishing threats, and develop secure coding practices to prevent SQL injection attacks. By staying vigilant and proactive, organisations can effectively safeguard their sensitive data and stay one step ahead of cybercriminals in an ever-evolving digital world.

Related Articles

Enhance your overall cybersecurity posture with a Cybersecurity Gap Assessment

The role of Cybersecurity gap assessments in organisations of all sizes
Read More

How to incorporate PCI DSS Testing into your devops cycle

A concise guide on how to better incorporate PCI DSS into your devlops cycle.
Read More

When is it Time for a PCI DSS Test? A Guide for E-commerce Businesses

We help explain to businesses when they need to become PCI compliant and the aspects they should watch out for in the process.
Read More