Gray-box testing represents a step up from black-box testing. While black-box testers are restricted to the external view of a system, gray-box testers have the privileges and access levels of an insider or a user with elevated privileges.
Gray-box penetration testers have a partial understanding of the inner workings of a network, which could involve access to design and architecture documents and an internal account on the network.
This type of testing provides a more focused and efficient evaluation of network security compared to a black-box assessment.
Armed with design documentation, pentesters can prioritize their efforts on the most critical and valuable systems right away, rather than wasting time trying to figure it out. Furthermore, having an internal account allows for the testing of security within the protected perimeter and mimics the actions of an attacker with prolonged access to the network.
Gray-box testing is a combination of both white-box and black-box testing. It aims to strike a balance between the depth of information provided in white-box testing and the scope of the penetration testing performed in black-box testing. The term “gray-box” refers to the fact that some internal information is provided to the tester, but not the entire code base or architecture diagram. This information could include IP addresses, user accounts, or limited access to the target system.
Gray-box testing is particularly useful when the target system is large and complex, and a full white-box testing is too time-consuming. By providing the tester with some internal information, the scope of the penetration testing can be reduced, but the results can still be more comprehensive than those of a black-box test.
Gray-box testing provides a good balance between the speed of black-box testing and the thoroughness of white-box testing. It is typically used to test a specific component of the target system, and can provide a more targeted and focused assessment of the security of that component.
Gray-box testing relies on dynamic analysis, just like black-box testing, but with a smaller scope. The tester will be able to perform more targeted scans and tests, and focus their efforts on the areas that are most likely to be vulnerable. This allows the tester to achieve a higher level of coverage in a shorter amount of time, while still providing a comprehensive assessment of the security of the target system.
Like black-box testing, gray-box testing requires the tester to have a good understanding of the target system, including its protocols, technologies, and vulnerabilities. Testers must also be familiar with automated scanning tools and methodologies for manual penetration testing.
In conclusion, gray-box testing is a valuable tool for organizations that want to perform a thorough security assessment of their systems, but do not have the time or resources for a full white-box testing. It provides a good balance between speed and depth, and can be a cost-effective alternative to full white-box testing. By providing the tester with some internal information, the scope of the penetration testing can be reduced, but the results can still be more comprehensive than those of a black-box test.