Which Type of Penetration Test is Right For Your Business?

Anthony Goodier
March 26, 2024


While your business may have the most advanced security systems and processes, the only way to truly test them is when they come under attack. However, instead of waiting for cybercriminals to strike, you can employ penetration testing to simulate real-world attacks, see how your defences hold up and identify potential weaknesses. However, if you're considering performing a penetration test on your business, you must understand which one is right for you. Several types of tests are available, some that test networks, applications and systems, others that test people, processes, and procedures. Understanding the different types of penetration tests and when they are appropriate is a fundamental first step towards engaging the right expertise and achieving your security objectives.


Penetration testing, or pen testing, is a cyber security practice that aims to identify and assess vulnerabilities in your systems, networks, and applications. Unlike other security tests, penetration testing simulates real-world attacks, using various tools, techniques, and procedures to expose weaknesses and gain unauthorised access to sensitive data. By uncovering these vulnerabilities before malicious actors do, you can prioritise and implement additional security measures to mitigate potential risks and strengthen your overall cybersecurity posture.


Choosing the most suitable type of penetration test for your organisation depends on various factors, including which industry you're in, the size of your business, the type of data you handle, your compliance requirements, your risk appetite, and what exactly you would like to test. Here are the types of penetration tests we offer at InfoTrust and when they might be suitable:

  • Internal Network Testing - mimicking the actions of an attacker with legitimate access to your internal network, infrastructure, applications, and systems, such as malicious insiders or external attackers who have gained entry. Internal testing should be an integral part of your cybersecurity strategy and conducted periodically as well as part of post-breach assessments and to ensure adherence with compliance requirements.
  • External Network Testing - a proactive test of your external-facing network infrastructure systems and applications, mimicking the tools and techniques of cybercriminals. As hacking techniques and network vulnerabilities are constantly changing, it's advised to conduct external network testing annually as a proactive measure to stay ahead of the ever-changing threat landscape.
  • Web Application Testing - instead of focusing on the perimeter, web application testing tests the application layer itself and identifies vulnerabilities caused during design, coding and deployment. Web application testing is fundamental for any web application but specifically those storing sensitive customer information such as credit card details. It's advisable to run web application tests during application development, before deployment and then periodically afterwards to account for new vulnerabilities.
  • Wireless Network Testing - testing network architecture, encryption protocols, access controls, device configurations and more to assess how well a wireless network could withstand a real-world attack and whether it complies with security best practices. Wireless network testing should be used before initial deployment, after significant changes, in response to an incident and at regular intervals thereafter to keep ahead of emerging vulnerabilities.
  • Cloud Penetration Testing - simulating cyber-attacks on cloud-based systems, infrastructures or applications to identify vulnerabilities and improve cloud security posture. Cloud penetration testing should form a fundamental part of your cloud security strategy and should be considered during initial cloud migration, when partnering with new cloud vendors, after a security incident and regularly after that to test against new and emerging threats.  
  • Mobile Application Testing - simulating real-world attacks on mobile applications to assess their resilience against potential threats, including authentication testing, authorisation testing, data encryption testing and more. Mobile application testing is vital at several stages of the development process and should be employed pre and post-launch as well as before releasing any major updates or integrating third-party services or APIs.
  • Operational Technology (OT), Industrial Control Systems (ICS), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Testing - a specialised test to identify and address vulnerabilities and weaknesses in OT, ICS and SCADA systems. As industrial control systems are at risk from constantly evolving threats if not secured, regular testing is fundamental. As such, this type of testing should be employed before system deployment, after major system changes, at regular intervals and upon system retirement.
  • Red Teaming - a broader approach that tests not only systems or applications but also plans, policies and assumptions. Red teaming is carried out without the wider business having any knowledge in order to assess real-world response to an attack. Red teaming is incredibly useful as a security assessment before launching a new product or service, for assessing the efficacy of your incident response plan and for assessing adherence to stringent compliance requirements.
  • Social Engineering - an assessment that focuses on evaluating your business's susceptibility to human manipulation and deception, focusing on human psychology and behaviour rather than technology. Social engineering tests should be included as part of your routine security audits, within employee training programs, as a valuable part of incident response planning and before implementing new technologies or systems.
  • Phishing Simulation - mimicking techniques such as deceptive email subject lines and embedded malicious links, phishing simulations enable you to assess how your employees recognise and respond to phishing tactics. Phishing simulation should be implemented regularly as part of employee onboarding and training and awareness as well as after security incidents.


Penetration security testing isn't just valuable; it's essential. By simulating real-world attacks, you can test your defences, identify weaknesses, mitigate the risk of attacks and improve your overall security posture. However, different penetration tests assess specific parts of your security systems and expose particular vulnerabilities. Selecting the correct type of penetration test at specific stages of system development or operational phases ensures a comprehensive evaluation of security controls.

If you'd like to learn more about penetration testing and which security assurance services are right for your business, contact the experts at Infotrust today.