Reconnaissance is the first phase of a penetration testing engagement. It involves gathering information about the target system or network that is going to be tested. The goal of reconnaissance is to gather as much information as possible about the target so that the penetration tester can understand the target system’s architecture, identify potential vulnerabilities, and develop an attack strategy. The reconnaissance phase is crucial because it helps the tester to understand the target better and to plan their attack accordingly.
There are two types of reconnaissance: passive and active. Passive reconnaissance is performed without the target’s knowledge, while active reconnaissance is conducted with the target’s knowledge.
Passive reconnaissance is the process of gathering information about the target without directly interacting with it. This can be done by collecting publicly available information from various sources such as search engines, social media, job postings, news articles, and other websites that might provide information about the target. This information can be used to gain insight into the target’s business operations, infrastructure, and personnel. Passive reconnaissance can be useful for identifying potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors that can be exploited in later stages of the penetration testing process.
Active reconnaissance is the process of actively probing the target to gather information about its network and systems. This is done by using tools and techniques such as port scanning, vulnerability scanning, and enumeration. Port scanning involves scanning the target’s network to identify open ports and services. Vulnerability scanning involves using automated tools to scan the target’s systems for known vulnerabilities. Enumeration involves gathering information about the target’s users, groups, and shares.
Active reconnaissance can be dangerous because it can trigger security alarms and alerts on the target’s network, and it can also lead to a loss of availability. Therefore, it is important to obtain permission from the target before conducting active reconnaissance.
Tools used in Reconnaissance:
Several tools can be used in the reconnaissance phase of a penetration testing engagement. Some of the commonly used tools are:
- Nmap: Nmap is a popular tool used for port scanning, network mapping, and vulnerability scanning. It can be used to identify open ports, services, and operating systems on the target’s network.
- Recon-ng: Recon-ng is a powerful tool for conducting open-source intelligence (OSINT) gathering. It can be used to gather information from social media, search engines, and other websites.
- Maltego: Maltego is a popular tool for conducting OSINT gathering. It can be used to visualize and analyze the relationships between different entities such as people, organisations, and websites.
- Metasploit: Metasploit is a powerful framework for developing and executing exploits. It can be used to test the target’s systems for known vulnerabilities.
- Shodan: Shodan is a search engine that can be used to find internet-connected devices such as servers, routers, and cameras. It can be used to identify potential targets for reconnaissance.
Reconnaissance is a critical phase in the penetration testing process. It helps the penetration tester to understand the target better and to plan their attack accordingly. However, it is important to obtain permission from the target before conducting active reconnaissance. It is also essential to use the right tools and techniques to minimise the risk of triggering security alarms and alerts on the target’s network. By conducting thorough reconnaissance, penetration testers can identify potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors that can be exploited in later stages of the penetration testing process.
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