Penetration testing is the most helpful form of security testing for discovering and plugging holes in a system’s or application’s structure and defence.

At Packetlabs, we emphasize the need for penetration testing and its many aspects through several blogs in the past. In this blog, we are putting the focus on grey box penetration testing. Grey box testing refers to a software testing technique that tests a system or application with only partial knowledge about its internal structure to identify defects caused by improper code structure or improper use. 

Grey box testing is an ethical hacking technique where the hacker uses limited information to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a target’s security network. This form of “ethical hacking” allows software developers to create fixes and patches to prevent malicious attackers from utilizing these exploits.

Grey box testing is a combination of black and white testing (black being when the system or applications code or configuration is unknown while in white it is known). Its main testing techniques include matrix testing, regression testing, and pattern testing. 

There are several ways grey box penetration testing can be beneficial, here are the top 5 benefits :

1. It is non-Intrusive

 In grey box penetration testing, the tester doesn’t have access to a system’s internal code; this means the tester will remain unbiased and unintrusive. This kind of testing is considered semi-transparent. The testers may be aware of how the different components work and require access to documentation but lack knowledge of the application’s or system’s structure and functions. Not needing source codes or binaries helps keep it safe from any disruptive changes; this removes the need for the tester and developer to be in constant communication. The handoff is only around interface definitions and documentation, not code. The test can be conducted with a more basic knowledge of the system.

2. It considers the user perspective

Since the tester has a basic idea of how the system operates but not a thorough knowledge of its code, the testing reflects users and potential attackers accurately. Adopting a different perspective also helps the tester identify any issues the developer might have missed during other kinds of testing. It also gives developers time to develop products and fix defects. The developers and testers work in unison with combined inputs to provide the best results. Also, the testers need not be highly skilled programmers when it comes to grey box testing. This increases the scope of the testing and would improve the quality of the software. Greater knowledge of the target system can also uncover more significant vulnerabilities with less effort. 

3. Grey box testing combines the benefits of black box and white box testing

Grey box penetration testing takes the relatively straightforward black-box testing technique and combines it with the code-targeted systems in white-box testing. Because there is a combination of black box and white box testing, grey box testing offers the benefits of both testing techniques and keeps a balance. It simulates infiltration by a hacker that has some understanding of the system but a limited one. It is more comprehensive and time-consuming than black-box testing but less so than white box testing.

4. It is specifically suitable for specific web applications

Using the correct type of testing is essential for accurate results. Web apps have distributed systems. The absence of a source code means white box testing is impossible (while grey box testing relies on the definition and functional specifications, not code), as is black box testing. Grey box penetration testing is also useful in functional and business domain testing, helping confirm that the software meets the requirements for the system. It’s particularly efficient for integration testing.

5. Grey box testing produces simple results

Grey box penetration testing conducts detailed studies on the internal system structure with a list of parameters that makes building technique easy and allows for good quality results that arrive relatively quickly. At the same time, the testing is done based on high-level database diagrams and flow charts, and a grey box tester can design excellent test scenarios, especially around communication protocols and data type handling.

Conclusion

Whether it is a web application on-premise software or an entire network system, a responsive and reliable product or system is what the customers expect. Penetration testing plays an important role in maximizing cybersecurity and addressing the shortcomings and weaknesses before becoming full-blown cyber attacks. Packetlabs has been a trusted partner for many organizations addressing the unique needs of the business with its various offerings, including infrastructure penetration testing, web and mobile application testing, social engineering, red team exercises, source-code reviews, and exploit development, all to help you protect your most valuable assets – your data and your customers.