White Box vs. Black Box Penetration Testing
When it comes to hacking, there are many technical aspects that can be difficult to grasp without an extensive background in the field. One of the most common sources of confusion is the comparison between black box penetration testing and white box penetration testing.
White Box Penetration Testing
White box penetration testing can also be called glass box penetration testing or clear box penetration testing. In any case, it's an approach to penetration testing that relies on the knowledge of the target system's internal configuration. It uses this information for the test cases.
For applications, the source code of the application will usually be provided for white box penetration testing. Design information and even interviews with the developers may also be included. For infrastructure penetration tests using the white box method, the test cases will use infrastructure details and network maps.
Regardless of the test case, the goal of a white box penetration test is to get as much info as can be had. The penetration tester is trying to collect as much feedback as they can so that they can gain further insight and, ultimately, understand the system so that they can further elaborate their penetration tests.
Black Box Penetration Testing
A black box penetration test does not require any up-front information to be given to the penetration tester. Instead, the penetration tester will approach the test case like a real hacker would. This means they have little to no background information about the system and they don't have internal maps or other information either.
This allows testing to get started with very little prep work, and it allows the penetration tester to identify weak spots based on what a real-world hacker is most likely to target. However, that can leave some spots of the infrastructure untested.
Making a Decision
Each method has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.
For white box tests, the advantages include:
- White box penetration tests are deep and thorough
- These tests maximize the use of time spent testing
- The testing area tests even areas that black box testing can't reach, like the quality of the code
For black box tests, the advantages include:
- A black box test is a more realistic attack because it takes the stance of a non-informed potential attacker.
- It simulates a very realistic scenario, helping a business be on their highest guard.
The biggest disadvantage to a black box penetration test, of course, is that some scenarios can't maximize testing time. Some areas of the infrastructure may also remain unreached and, therefore, untested in a black box scenario. But, the testing of a black box penetration will focus on the areas hackers are most realistically likely to target.
Keeping all of this in mind, there is no right or wrong decision when it comes to choosing a type of penetration testing. It really depends on the scenarios you are looking to test and what you feel will make the most of your resources.
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