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What is White Box Penetration Testing and Why is it Important?

Updated on: December 1, 2021

What is White Box Penetration Testing and Why is it Important?

Today, one of the concerning facts in the cybersecurity industry is that the number of data breaches are growing at an alarming rate. Companies of all sizes are falling victim to data breaches every single day. This is a huge problem, and the only way to combat it is to understand the problem better and secure the data that gets exposed in the data breaches. 

In 2021 only, more than 281.5 million people have been affected by data breach in some or the other way and the number is increasing every day. The first major lesson to be learned is that there is no 100 percent security. If you are dealing with sensitive data, you need to assume that you are vulnerable to attacks. And this is why every organization should have a proper penetration testing plan in place to prevent data breaches by fixing loopholes in their systems.

Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking or pen-testing, is the act of hacking your system. This may sound like a dangerous idea, but it’s a very smart way to identify vulnerabilities that may be present in your system. 

Penetration testing encompasses security measures like firewall software and physical safeguards like door locks and window security. These measures are implemented to prevent unauthorized access to your system, but it’s not always possible to protect against every possible threat. 

Penetration testing is performed via three different approaches: White Box Penetration Testing, Gray Box Penetration Testing, and Black Box Penetration testing. In this blog post, we will discuss White-box penetration testing in detail.

Reading Guide: What, Why, and How of Penetration Testing

What is White Box Penetration Testing?

White Box Penetration Testing is a type of security testing in which the internal structure of a system or network is known to the penetration tester. White Box testing is often used to pentest  internal networks and systems of a company. 

White Box Testing is a testing technique where a tester is given access to all internal codebases of the system. In this type of testing, the tester knows what the code is supposed to do. It is a method to test the security of a system by examining how well it can resist all kind of real-time attacks.

White box penetration testing is also known as structural testing. This is the most used testing technique by the security testers because they get a clear picture of the application. The idea behind this testing is to simulate the attackers’ actions to try to find the security holes in the application to reduce security risks.

How is White Box different from Black Box and Gray Box?

Penetration testing is the practice of testing a computer system, network, or web application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit. The main difference between a black box test and a white box test is the tester’s level of knowledge about the target. 

In a white box test, the tester has significant knowledge about the target, including aspects of the application’s architecture and implementation that may not be known to the software’s developers. 

In a black box test, the tester has no prior knowledge of the target and must find and exploit vulnerabilities without any guidance.

A gray box test is a compromise between a white box and a black box test. The tester has some knowledge about the target, including the application’s architecture, design, or implementation. However, the tester has a limited amount of information, which may be inaccurate or outdated. 

Learn more about: Gray Box Penetration Testing

Types of Penetration Testing
Image: Types of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is an important component of a comprehensive security strategy. Penetration testing should be one of the techniques used to test a secure application. Other techniques include static analysis and dynamic analysis.

S No.Black Box Penetration TestingGray Box Penetration TestingWhite Box Penetration Testing
1Little or No knowledge of network and infrastructure is required.Somewhat knowledge of the Infrastructure, internal codebase and architecture.Complete access to organization infrastructure, network and codebase.
2Black box testing is also known as closed box testing.Gray box testing is also known as translucent testing.White box testing is known as clear box testing.
3No syntactic knowledge of the programming language is required.Requires partial understanding of the programming language.Requires high understanding of programming language.
4Black box testing techniques are executed by developers, user groups and testers.Performed by third party services or by testers and developers.The internal Development team of the organization can perform white box testing.
5Some standard black box testing techniques are: Boundary value analysis, Equivalence partitioning, Graph-Based testing etc.Some standard gray box testing techniques are Matrix testing, Regression testing, Orthogonal array testing, Pattern testing.Some standard white box testing techniques are Branch testing, Decision coverage, Path testing, Statement coverage.

Benefits of White Box Penetration Testing

A successful white box penetration test will help your company avoid the mistakes and oversights that can leave your company vulnerable to hackers. White box penetration testing is a valuable part of your overall security strategy, as it helps you avoid the mistakes and oversights that can leave your company vulnerable to hackers. 

White box penetration testing is an enhancement of the more conventional black-box testing. It is also called structural testing, clear box testing. White-box testing is performed on the source code after it has been compiled. It examines the program’s internal structure or logical design. 

This is in contrast to black-box testing, which tests the program’s functionality, not its internal structure. 

Some benefits of white-box penetration testing are:

1. Less Time Consuming

To test a system, a tester has to have a pretty good understanding of the system like how it works internally, and what it is supposed to do. In white-box testing, having all this information can help you write the test cases more quickly. 

2. Extensive Testing

White box testing is based on an analysis of the code of the software which enables the tester to determine the entry and exit points of each function. It makes use of information about the code structure which can be found in the design documents, programming language specifications,  source code, programmer’s comments, UML diagrams, object model, or the high-level language model making white box penetration testing more extensive.

3. Early Detection

SDLC is an acronym for Software Development Life Cycle and SDLC has been evolving from the past to the present helping companies develop softwares in a better way. White Box penetration testing is integrated in the early SDLC, even before the application is available to customers or users making the vulnerabilities detectable at a very early stage.

Benefits of White Box Penetration Testing
Image: Benefits of White Box Penetration Testing

Disadvantages of White Box Testing

1. Limited Mindset while testing

White-box testing is not efficient because when the tester knows the application’s internal structure, he tends to test the application in a way that is not efficient and will do things that do not cover the application properly.

2. Requires More Programming Knowledge

When performing a white-box penetration test, the tester needs to be familiar with critical programming tasks because this type of penetration test involves testing the internal network. The tester should at least be familiar with performing port scanning, SQL injection, and other common attacks to understand the potential access points better.

White Box Testing Techniques

White box testing technique verifies the internal structure of the software product (source code). White box testing techniques include Statement Coverage, Branch Coverage, Path Coverage, Decision Coverage, Time and State Coverage, etc.

Let’s understand some of them in detail.

1. Statement Coverage

Statements are the program’s building blocks, and they make the program run. By testing the program’s structure, you can ensure that the program is built logically and the logic is correct. 

2. Decision Coverage

The program is a set of decisions, and a decision is a condition that a certain condition is true or false. To be more specific, a decision can compare a variable against a constant or a variable against another variable. By testing the decisions in a program, you can ensure that the decisions are correct. 

3. Path Coverage

A path is a way to reach a particular location in a program. In path coverage, the program is tested from start to finish on all possible paths. In other words, if a program has five decisions and five paths, the program is tested from start to finish using all possible paths.

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Common Tools used in White Box Penetration Testing

Penetration testers often use many tools for performing a penetration test. The toolset used by a penetration tester is often referred to as the “Toolbox.” 

Some common tools/libraries used to perform white-box penetration testing are:

1. Metasploit: Penetration testers use Metasploit to develop and validate the exploit code before using it in the real world. It can be used to test the security of a network or to hack into a remote computer. 

2. Nmap: Nmap is an open-source network administration tool for monitoring network connections. It is used to scan large networks and helps for auditing hosts and services and intrusion detection. It is used for both packet-level and scan-level analysis of network hosts. Nmap is free of cost and available to download.

3. PyTest: pytest is a mature full-featured Python testing tool that helps you write better programs. It is a simple yet powerful testing framework that supports test-driven development (TDD) and behavior-driven development (BDD).

4. NUnit: NUnit is an open-source unit testing framework for the .NET Framework and Mono. It is a tool that helps you write better code by reducing the amount of bugs in your application.

5. John the Ripper: John the Ripper is a fast password cracker, currently available for numerous flavors of Unix, Windows, DOS, BeOS, and OpenVMS. Its primary purpose is to detect weak Unix passwords. Besides several crypt(3) password hash types most commonly found on various Unix flavors, supported out of the box are Kerberos AFS and Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 LM hashes, plus several more with contributed patches.

6. Wireshark: Wireshark is a network traffic analyzer, monitoring software that allows you to see what traffic flows through your system network. It is open-source and is the most popular network analyzer in the world. Network administrators and professionals mainly use it to troubleshoot network and system performance issues and monitor and filter different network protocols. 

The tools used in a White-box Penetration Test are not much different from those used in other penetration tests, but the methodology used to use these tools differs greatly.

White Box Penetration Testing by Astra

One of the best ways to avoid a cyber attack is to hire a specialized security firm to assess your business’s vulnerabilities and provide a detailed report with recommended solutions. 

Astra Security is a leading IT security firm that offers a full suite of penetration testing services to help businesses increase their security and prevent data loss. In addition to white box penetration testing, we offer white box, gray box, and web application, API, blockchain, and cloud penetration testing.

Astra Security: The Top VAPT Service Provider That You’re Looking For

Astra's Pentest Suite
Image: Astra’s Pentest Suite

At Astra, we continuously update our skills, abilities, and knowledge of the latest threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities. We use various industry-leading tools, including our proprietary tools, to perform penetration tests.

Key Features of Astra’s Pentest Solution:

  1. Hacker style penetration testing methodology
  2. User-Friendly Dashboard
  3. Pentest Certificate to showcase security status
  4. More than 2500 tests to keep your assets secure
  5. Monetary loss value associated with a vulnerability
  6. Detailed steps-to-fix and fixing advice from security engineers
  7. Consultation call post penetration test

Get in touch with an Astra-naut and keep your data and assets secure from hackers.

Checkout how Astra’s Automated Scanner looks like:

Astra's Automated Scanner
Image: Astra’s Automated Scanner

Conclusion

White Box Penetration Testing can be an interesting and exciting challenge for a security tester. White Box Penetration Testing is a penetration test that employs the same techniques as a black-box penetration test, but at the same time, leaves the tester with the information of the internal structure of the target.

White box penetration testing is a valuable part of your overall security strategy, as it helps you to avoid the mistakes and oversights that can leave your company vulnerable to hackers. At Astra, our security engineers make sure that not only yours but your customers data is not at risk. What are you waiting for? Get in touch with us today.

Have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to talk to us anytime! 🙂

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Ananda Krishna

Ananda Krishna is the co-founder & CTO of Astra Security, a SaaS suite that secures businesses from cyber threats. He has been acknowledged by the Indian Navy, Microsoft, United Airlines, etc. for finding critical security vulnerabilities in their systems. Winner of the Best Security Product at Global Conference on Cyberspace 2017 (awarded by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India) & French Tech Ticket, Paris (awarded by François Hollande, former President of France). At Astra he's building an intelligent security ecosystem - web application firewall (WAF), malware detection & analysis, large scale SaaS applications, APIs & more. He's actively involved in the cybersecurity community and shared his knowledge at various forums & invited talks.
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