Best Physical Penetration Testing Technique (That Actually Work)

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While the majority of cyber security initiatives are focused on securing networks and systems, it’s crucial to recognize that physical security plays a vital part in any cyber security plan. It is where the physical penetration test plays a role.

Physical penetration testing is a simulation of an actual threat scenario in which an intruder attempts to break through a business’ physical security to gain access to the infrastructure, buildings or systems as well as employees.

The purpose of testing for physical penetration is to reveal the weaknesses of a company’s overall physical security. By identifying the weaknesses, appropriate measures can be set into place to improve the security of physical assets.

In this post, I’ll discuss the 13 best methods of physical penetration testers employed to escape million-dollar physical security measures within a matter of seconds. At the end of this article, you’ll have a greater knowledge of how you can protect your company from physical breaches of your system.

What Is The Benefits Of Testing For Physical Penetration?

The most important reason for physical penetration tests is to reveal weaknesses and security holes that exist in the physical security of your controls (locks or barriers, cameras, locks, sensors, etc.) to ensure that any flaws are addressed quickly. Furthermore, physical penetration tests are a way to simulate real-world scenarios to illustrate the impact malicious actors could have on your system.

Security penetration tests, if done correctly, can strengthen your security measures and enable you to concentrate on the digital aspect of security. It is not logical to spend millions on security equipment in the event that an attacker could enter your corporate buildings and then leave unnoticed.

What Techniques Exist In Physical Penetration Testing?

It is impossible for a business to maintain a strong cyber security plan in place without making sure that criminals are unable to break through its security physically. It is the reason why conducting physical penetration tests is crucial, and having a strategy and framework to conduct them is crucial to ensure you aren’t missing any crucial aspects that are part of physical security.

Following is a list of steps and techniques that you can use to carry out the physical penetration test:

Map The Perimeter and Entrances 

Begin by mapping all possible ways to enter the company to locate vulnerable entry points. Attackers often seek out insecure or unguarded entryways for access to the buildings. By mapping windows, doors, and fire escapes, You can begin to identify the areas you must protect and are vulnerable to attack.

The process of mapping your perimeter involves an exhaustive investigation of your surroundings as well as structures. It is equivalent to the reconnaissance phase that is carried out in any other kind of penetration testing.

Simply put, the perimeter of your property will help determine the direction of the whole physical penetration testing process. It involves identifying windows, doors, roof-type basement access, a security policy for access and the types of locks.

Lock Selection

Today, among the most efficient methods of getting through exits and doors is through lockpicking techniques. The primary reason behind this is the fact that locks made of mechanical materials are only advancing a little over time and are easily picked by a few hours of instruction.

It’s a method that is so popular that SANS Institue offers a physical penetration test course, which includes lockpicking tools.

The majority of businesses today utilize electromagnetic locks to reduce the possibility of picking locks. However, scanning or duplicate ID cards for electromagnetic locks requires a similar amount of work. To avoid unauthorized access, you should consider using electromagnetic locks that have PIN authorization access.

It can be an alternative method of authentication. A thing you have (a credit card) and something you’re familiar with (a PIN).

Access Susceptible Details

Telephotography is the process of taking pictures within a structure through windows from a considerable distance to be able to see sensitive information stored on employee computers.

Even though it sounds like a far-fetched idea, there are numerous commercial buildings constructed entirely of glass windows, which increases the chance of this kind of attack.

The simple act of taking photos of the employee’s computers outside of the office is enough to determine if this attack succeeds against your business.

Examine Server Rooms, Cables And Wires 

Servers are the most important element of any network and, therefore, are usually treated with greater care when it comes to security. If an attacker is able to gain access to your server room, then your entire network could be at risk. Through this access, an attacker could attack your system, totally shut it down, or even steal the most sensitive information.

A majority of companies host their systems and data in cloud environments or manage their infrastructure, which is generally located at the data centre.

Data centres host important information, and websites typically require multiple layers of authentication that include fingerprint scans, identification badges and PINs to gain access. Furthermore, servers are kept in rack cages, which require a PIN or key for physical access.

If the network equipment is kept in the company’s premises, Consider adding layers of authentication or transferring your equipment to a data centre or with a third-party hosting service.

Suppose you want to protect the physical protection of your servers from attack and damage. In that case, You should concentrate on three primary points regarding the possibility of booting your servers via a USB drive, the type of RAID systems that are in place, as well as surveillance cameras within server rooms.

Access to your servers should be recorded and monitored to ensure that you are aware and make employees accountable for their actions by providing you with information about who has accessed what and when.

Examine Cooling Systems And Fire  

Examining your cooling and fire systems is essential in order to guarantee the physical security that your equipment provides should an overheat or fire occur within the room where servers are located.

If you don’t have such systems, you are at the risk of your servers becoming unavailable or even being the victim of a massive attack of DDoS (distributed denial of services attacks).

Making sure these systems function efficiently will enable you to be safe in the event of physical danger.

Block EM Signal

Electromagnetic waves are frequently employed to transmit information and are usually susceptible to being intercepted. An attacker could use wiretapping bugs to break the wire and then pick up the frequency later with the aid of an antenna as well as a receiver.

It could cause major damage to the business due to being able to steal sensitive data if an attacker gets access to the encrypted traffic and then attempts to access the data offline in order to try brute-force attacks to break those passwords. If they can take the passwords off the internet, an attacker is capable of evading any policy regarding account lockouts.

The most effective defence against this kind of attack could be the use of sophisticated encryption algorithms that secure communications.

Dumpster Diving

As the name implies, Dumpster is the process of scouring the employee’s or business’s garbage in search of information that could be utilized to compromise the security of the company further.

Books, documents, manuals, invoices, or bank accounts are just a few examples of what an attacker will be looking for to find useful information.

Therefore, it is important to make use of paper shredders on any document that is being removed. In certain situations, you might want to think about burning sensitive documents, as software can be used to reassemble the documents that have been shredded.

Break RFID Labels’ Encryption

RFID labels are typically employed to protect portable assets and are tracked via radio waves. Most often, in the event of loss, RFID tags can be recognized, and the information they contain can be retrieved using RFID tools.

To prevent this threat, encryption is often employed to protect the RFID label; however, it could be vulnerable to attack. If an attacker could breach an encryption key, then the RFID label may be altered.

Acquire Physical Key (Tailgating)

Tailgating is a method used to gain access to secure areas where only authorized persons can access the area. The attackers do that by simply following the one who passes through the entrance and entering the premises without authorization.

In this type of attack that is carried out, the perpetrator usually employs techniques to social engineer pressure on the worker and allow him to get into the office without asking questions. 

For instance, who would let someone with a plethora of doughnuts in the office? If you appear to be a part of the team, then you’re. From then on, attackers can attempt or gain entry into areas that are restricted by claiming to be authorized users.

To prevent this kind of attack, companies install man traps or checkpoints in the structure, which block further access for unauthorized personnel. One type of authentication could be required at the initial checkpoint, such as an access card. 

However, additional authentication, such as biometric scanners, might need to be provided at a subsequent checkpoint.

Security guards and turnstiles are also effective in deterring the habit of tailgating. Furthermore, employees must be taught and ready to inquire about the identity of any person if they need to be more easily evident.

Examine Network Jacks

Another crucial aspect of the methodology of physical penetration testing is to test the active network jacks that are in meeting rooms and your company lobby. Many times, unoccupied active network jacks could be utilized by connecting an access point wireless.

To ensure that this does not occur, you must identify any active network outlets in lobby areas, meeting room areas, or other local meeting rooms and be sure to monitor the devices.

In the ideal scenario, the network jacks will not be accessible because of the controls for access to networks implemented that hinder the operation of devices that are rogue in the environment. A port, for instance, can be set only to permit access for devices with a specific MAC address.

Inspect Meeting Hall 

Employees frequently leave sensitive documents, computers that are not locked or passwords written on notepads at the end of meetings, which can pose a significant security danger.

To minimize the risk, companies should create and enforce policies for employees to monitor for lost sensitive or electronic media that employees are left behind in conference rooms. It’s also essential to check for any notes employees leave behind, as they could provide attackers with a summary of crucial business decisions made by the business.

Shoulder Surfing

As the name implies, it is an attack that involves simply observing the employee’s computer to detect their passwords, usernames, intellectual property information, confidential information and much more. To test the vulnerability, penetration testers need to simply look at if they discern the login credentials of employees.

Attackers aren’t so obvious as they hover on your desk. It could draw excessive attention. Instead, they could appear as a handyman, delivery person, or even a friendly “co-worker.” If successful screen protection is successful, it can be used to greatly reduce the ability of an observer to discern the typing of employees.

Social Engineer Employees

Social engineering refers to the act of obtaining sensitive data from employees of a particular company by employing misleading practices that an employee is not aware of.

These types of attacks need the ability to communicate effectively to be successful and are usually very effective if done properly. In fact, it has been discovered that 98 % of cyberattacks depend on social engineering to gain entry into the business’s systems.

Attackers typically employ a variety of strategies to achieve success in influencing the targets. One of the primary methods employed is the use of authority and urgency.

For instance, an attacker might pose as a supervisor asking for $10,000 to be wired as”an emergency “expense.” At which the employees will most likely ask what the reason is for that amount of money to be transferred in a hurry.

The attacker could then attempt to pressure the employee to comply by stating that they’re running out of time and Vice President Trump isn’t thrilled. They could even threaten the employee’s job if their request isn’t met.

Attackers often also exploit an individual’s desire to assist by forcing the employee to abandon their best practices and complete an activity they are not permitted to complete. People who are victims often do not realize their deceit, and the attacker is able to achieve their primary purpose.

For a test of your staff, you can try hiring a social engineer professional with the intention of gaining access to your premises by using a variety of techniques that include disguises, fake calls to reception and also by manipulating security guards wearing fake identification cards.

The most effective way to defend against cyber-attacks using social engineering is the implementation of Security awareness policies and programs for training.

Platforms such as KnowBe4 offer businesses the ability to conduct simulated tests of email phishing. When employees get caught in an attack that is simulated, their actions are documented, and they’re encouraged to undergo remediation courses.

Document All Findings

The final stage of the physical security penetration testing process is to record the findings. The security professional who conducted the penetration test creates an extensive technical report describing every vulnerability and weakness discovered during the steps above.

The report should contain results regarding the types of locks utilized on the gates and doors, specifications for server rooms as well as fire and cooling system specifications, vital documents discovered on employees’ access to the facilities, Social engineering results and other crucial findings.

The information will be used to develop an action plan to reduce the risk of future security vulnerabilities in physical security.

What Instruments Are Utilized In Physical Penetration Testing?

There are many tools that penetration testers employ in conducting physically-based security penetration testing. They are mostly utilized to improve the perception of the tester, but other more sophisticated tools are used to perform locking picking and interception of communications.

The following is the most commonly used list of tools that are used for the physical penetration testing:

  • Quality Cameras: A must in every physical security penetration test is a good camera. Cameras assist the tester by providing more accurate images of the building’s perimeter and entry points and also provide a better view of the inside of the structure. The information gathering and reconnaissance process is essential to plan an effective test.
  • Binoculars:  Easy but efficient penetration testers typically employ binoculars to assist in the process of gathering data from a distance that can later be utilized to aid in social engineering. Penetration testers are able to observe employees’ actions as well as other activities to devise a strategy of attack.
  • Night Vision Glasses: Penetration testers may attempt to collect information at night. It can be because of the decreased activities around the premises of the business as well as the nature of penetration testing. They need to be more visible.
  • Radio Equipment: It is often the case that multiple penetration testers are employed to break into a company’s security perimeters. That is why communicating with colleagues is crucial for coordination. Radio devices are utilized for this purpose.
  • Tension wrench: The choice for testers of penetration for lockpicking is the wrench. It can be used to lockpick the majority of mechanical locks and keep any pins that are picked in the.
  • Wireless Access Point– If the penetration tester intends to gain access to a building, testing a network jack that is not secure might be one of the most important objectives. Wireless access points can be connected to network jacks and verify whether they’re operational. Once it is functional, attack strategies can be designed to gain access.
  • An antenna and receiver – If a penetration tester wishes to tap a wire inside the workplace to listen in on employee conversations, the antenna will be employed to capture signals from EM waves and then transmit the signal to the receiving. After the signal has been passed to the receiver, it will be able to extract the information needed.

How Much Time To Taken To Complete The Physical Penetration Test?

The majority of physical penetration tests require approximately two to six weeks to finish, from the first discovery call until the delivery of an official report.

However, the effort required to break physical barriers, as well as the number of locations and the distance between these locations, are all factors in the length of time required to complete the physical penetration test.

What Is the Price Of Physical Penetration Test

The physical test for penetration could cost anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on the number of locations, the distance between locations as well as the size of facilities, as well as the size of the scope of the project.

Costs vary based on the type of penetration test being carried out. For instance, what degree of knowledge or access will the penetration tester have about the network environment? What goals or results do you hope this test will accomplish?

In the end, physical penetration testing is different to every business. Usually, calls are required to establish the precise requirements of the project prior to preparing the proper proposal.

Although fixed price plans are common, it’s not unusual for security firms to charge the set amount for testing that is active (the stage that the physical test occurs) and, of course, providing a written report and remediation plans.


Many businesses are pleased to justify the expenditure of money or allocate resources to defend their network from cyberattacks. However, physical security can be ignored as a gateway to malicious actors.

When conducting penetration tests on physical security, companies can discover security weaknesses within their environment while also demonstrating how easy it is for a criminal to get physical access to the systems.

Attention should be paid to social engineering as it is the most commonly used and effective method of attacks, as it tests your employee’s capacity to adhere to standard operating procedures.

Additionally, the documentation of findings will reveal weaknesses that can be exploited. It also provides the foundation for developing the corrective plan, whether it is through implementing physical security measures or by implementing training to increase awareness of employees.

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