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External VS Internal Penetration Test: All The Differences

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External VS Internal Penetration Test

Penetration testing is a preventative method that employs a set of legitimate tools to find and exploit vulnerabilities within the security setup of a company. The technique is similar to the one that a malignant hacker would use to turn a security vulnerability into an expensive exploit; the difference lies in the fact that pentesting is done to make the businesses aware of the loopholes so that they can fix their security controls and not fall prey to the hackers.

The analyses showcase how easy it is for the hackers to breach the organization’s security controls and get access to all the sensitive and confidential information of the company. Therefore, conducting penetration testing is vital for every business organization as a measure to combat security

In this blog, we will talk about the two different pentesting, and learn more about the internal and external penetration testing methodology to understand how they are carried out. Additionally, you will also get to know some examples of both the pentesting, as well as a little more about the tools that are used to conduct these tests.

So, let us get started.

What Is External Penetration Test?

A limited, simulated hacking technique, the external pentesting is a method in which a cybersecurity professional tries to violate a system with the help of an external network.

This way, you can easily get an idea of the magnitude of the security vulnerabilities that are present in your project.

The primary aim of external network pentest is to simulate an attack on the internal network by imitating an actual malicious hacker.

This sort of penetration testing seeks to identify and exploit system vulnerabilities in order to steal or breach the organization’s data. As a consequence, the test will determine whether the security measures in place are sufficient to safeguard a business and assess its capacity to fight against any external assault.

An external penetration test will typically take 2-3 weeks to complete. However, this is dependent on the system’s complexity, network size, and the test’s objectives.

External Penetration Test Examples

These are the examples of external penetration tests.

  • Configuration and deployment management testing
  • Testing for error handling
  • Identity management testing
  • Client side testing
  • Authentication testing
  • Business logic testing
  • Authorization testing
  • Testing for weak cryptography
  • Session management testing
  • Input validation testing

External Penetration Testing Methodologies

These are the methodologies that are used in conducting external pentest.

  • Footprinting
  • Password strength testing
  • Checking for different types of leakages
  • IDS/IPS testing
  • System scanning/ service scanning for vulnerabilities/port scanning
  • Manual testing identified vulnerabilities

Tools Used In External Penentration Tests

These are the tools that are used to conduct external penetration tests.

These are:

  • Nessus
  • theHarvester
  • Metasploit
  • GHDB
  • Burp Suite Pro
  • Hydra
  • Dirbuster/Dirb/GoBuster
  • Nmap
  • Nikto
  • Recon-ng
  • Sqlmap

What Is Internal Penetration Test?

An internal penetration test, which follows the completion of an exterior penetration test, employs a different approach to dealing with threats. The main goal of this test is to determine what an attacker with inside access to your network may do.

This might be a threat actor who breached the organization’s external defensive systems or an employee, contractor, or other staff member with internal access.

Internal penetration testing is a process in which an organization’s employees are examined for their knowledge of how to exploit vulnerabilities within the organization. The goal of internal penetration testing is to make sure that employees are aware of any vulnerabilities and take steps to make them secure.

Here’s what an internal penetration test looks like:

1) You try to log in as a system administrator on your own computer—and if you can’t, you get access to the system administrator’s account and try again. This is called “the walk-in attack.” It gives you a chance to see how easy it is for someone else to gain access without any help from you.

2) You create a new account and try to log in with it. This is called “the account creation attack.” It lets us see what kind of security measures are in place for creating accounts so we can determine whether they’re strong enough or not.

3) You create an account that’s similar in name and password as one used by another employee inside the company—but not exactly the same! That gives us insight into how easy it would be for someone at work (and not just outside hackers) to hack their own accounts by guessing passwords from colleagues’ accounts that are similar but not identical

Internal Penetration Test Example

Internal pentesting involves trigeering these points of internal errors.

  • Computers, workstations, and portable devices
  • Firewalls
  • Points of entry
  • Intrusion revention systems (IPS)
  • Servers
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS)
  • HVAC systems with internet access
  • Wireless networks

Internal Penetration Testing Methodologies

Internal penetration testing methodologies involve:

  • Internal network scan
  • Privileges escalation testing
  • Port scan and fingerprinting
  • Internal network scan
  • Manual vulnerability testing and verification
  • Trojan test
  • Firewall and ACL testing
  • Database security control test
  • Password strength test
  • Network security controls test

Tools Used In Internal Penetration Tests

These are the tools used for carrying out internal pentesting.

  • Burp Suite Pro
  • Nmap
  • Custom scripts
  • Wireshark
  • hashcat/John the Ripper
  • Nikto
  • bettercap/ettercap
  • Sqlmap
  • Hydra
  • Nessus
  • Metasploit framework
  • Responder

To make it simpler for you, we will now enlist the differences between External and Internal penetration tests.

External Penetration TestInternal Penetration Test
Identify security vulnerabilities from the perspective of an external hacker.Identify security vulnerabilities from the perspective of an internal attacker.
Saves money, as outsourcing the test is cheaper than maintaining a security professional team.It is expensive, as maintaining an in-house team of security professionals is much more costlier. 
Requires planning before conducting the test.Regular way of ensuring security.
Less comprehensive as it is done to prevent an external attack.More comprehensive as an authorized user can hack the information system of an organization.


To protect the security of their IT system and establish what information can be exposed to attackers, every firm should conduct an external and internal penetration test, as well as regular security audits. It is also required due to IT Security Rules, Regulations, and Guidelines such as GLBA, FFIEC, NCUA, HIPAA, and others. Security audits help in underlying the smart contract vulnerability that the developers can fix then and there before deploying it on the blockchain. If it is done properly beforehand, the later expensive hacking exploits can be saved.

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