Penetration Testing, Social Engineering, and White Hat Hackers

Black Box, White Box, and Gray Box. Red Team, Blue Team, and Purple Team.

You can't judge a book by its cover, but you can be battle tested against phishing and social engineering. These things may sound more like nursery rhymes than penetration testing routines, but organizations that build them into their standard operating procedures gain a tactical advantage over their adversaries.


Simulating the techniques adversaries could take to reach your most valuable assets while simultaneously building up your defenses.

Our society has seen a proliferation of sensitive data. This data is an integral part of every business and industry. Healthcare providers hold patient records. Software-as-a-service providers hold customer billing information. Government organizations hold classified data and Social Security numbers. Nonprofit organizations hold their list of donors. Every type of organization needs to identify its security assets and potential control weaknesses to avoid them being exploited. Organizations may have had a cybersecurity audit that has deemed them compliant. They may have created an incident response plan to prepare for the unthinkable. Plans are great, but action is better. That’s why a comprehensive and ongoing approach to penetration testing is critical. Penetration testing involves the placement of specialists who focus on different areas in an organization that may be prone to vulnerability.

Cybersecurity threats shift all the time. Even if there are no substantive changes to an organization's core systems or data management processes, cybersecurity criminals are constantly learning new techniques to expand their offerings and exploit the vulnerable. A company's underlying infrastructure is made up of software and hardware that requires constant patching, changes, and updates. People, process, and technology – what are the weak links for each? People click on phishing emails. Imposters trick support personnel into resetting a network admin's password. Firewalls are configured poorly. Hackers look for any of these and pounce when they identify weakness.


Do you have the right controls in place to stop the advances of rogue threats and adversarial hackers?

Leverage the talents of firms who employ white hat hackers, an ethical version of the adversaries, to help you shore up your defenses.

Cybersecurity risk often occurs at the intersection of different data touch points. Even if an organization has taken their security seriously, it can never be certain that its infrastructure is completely secure. Infrastructure is the underlying foundation of a company's technology operations and is constantly changing, as are the potential security threats. Hardware, software, and network services work together to facilitate the movement of an organization's data to various parties who need it, usually employees, customers, and partners. The touch points between the different infrastructure components require seamless integration and constant attention. Employee roles change, processes are revamped, hardware is swapped out, and software gets patched (or fails to get patched). At each of these integration points, the cybersecurity risk increases. This is why many organizations look to white hat hackers to infiltrate their infrastructure, report back any identified vulnerabilities, and help map out the appropriate remediation activity.


The psychological manipulation of people to perform a certain action or divulge sensitive information.

Social Engineering goes after the weakest link in an organization - its people. Unlike computers, devices, and certain processes that companies use to run their business, people have feelings and emotions and are not hard-coded to behave according to very structured rules and algorithms. They are trained to follow standard operating procedures and most have the right intentions when performing their duties.  Despite best intentions, Hackers work methodically to take advantage of basic human nature factors at play.

Whether a hacker executes social engineering through phishing emails or making calls to an administrative assistant or financial resource, their goal is clear - to manipulate their victim to provide the critical information they seek, or a "stepping stone" to that critical information.

The best social engineers are master manipulators who lie so naturally that it's hard not to believe what they are saying or conveying in digital form. Their plots are well thought out and they can effectively influence even the most skeptical people to do their bidding.  New techniques are constantly being drummed up.  Even phishing emails have come a long way since the early days, where obvious scams from an African prince were littered with typos, poor grammar, and clear indicators that something is amiss. Today's phishing, spear phishing, and whaling emails are so realistic that top executives have transferred large amounts of money into the bank accounts of these con artists.

Training is an obvious first step that organizations must take, but real-world drills where employees do not know that they are being tested are also critical. Phishing email drills, tailgating drills, and test calls to personnel responsible for support and various admin functions allow organizations to see the most vulnerable pieces of their employee pool and make the right adjustments.


Whether you are looking to do people-oriented penetration testing for social engineering and phishing readiness or something more technical, Elite's profiles and service provider agencies can offer many options and arm you with information to help make your decision easier. Becoming a chess master takes practice. Leverage resources that can help you define your strategy and give you the practice to make it count when the real game begins.