Physical Penetration Testing

Physical penetration tests are one of the four main types of penetration testing, along with network, application, and IoT/Mobile tests. The objective of this test is to identify vulnerability exploits in your physical properties that could lead to vulnerable vectors for an attacker to exploit for some nefarious purpose.


In the world of cyber security, physical penetration tests point out some of the most common physical vulnerabilities for a company. Physical penetration tests are also referred to as “physical intrusion testing”. This is because these type of penetration tests identify opportunities to compromise the physical barriers of your company, including sensors, camera, and locks. The goal of this test is to identify weaknesses in your physical security controls. This is often done at important locations such as data centers, substations, or offices. Identifying these weaknesses and taking appropriate actions to remedy them will prevent unauthorized individuals from entering your premises and compromising assets.

Why Pentest Your Physical Assets?

The purpose of physical penetration testing is to identify real-world vulnerabilities that attackers could possibly use to exploit and infiltrate your physical properties and data. These vulnerabilities are further analyzed and then remedied to avoid an actual application compromise. Holes in your physical systems may seem like a lesser issue when compared to other penetration tests, but some of your most valuable data is stored at the physical location your company operates at.


Even one successful attack on a physical vector could mean certain doom for your company. As physical security technology has evolved, compromising the system has proven to be more difficult. However, this doesn’t stop motivated and intelligent individuals from trying and often succeeding in their quest for information. A breach in physical security is devastating for your company, and the importance of strong security controls cannot be understated.

Common Attack Vectors for Physical Penetration Tests

These are some of the most common attack vectors that individuals try to exploit when attempting to break into your company physical properties:


Lock Picking Attack – Lock picking is one of the most common ways that an attack can make its way into your physical area. Even today, one of the most effective ways to pass through doors and exits is by utilizing lock picking techniques. This is because the technology behind mechanical doors has not evolved much as time has gone on, leaving the opportunity open for easy picking. However, the majority of businesses nowadays use electromagnetic locks to reduce the opportunity for lock picking, but the opportunity to breach these doors through ID cloning is still present. ID cloning is the process of obtaining a company ID badge and cloning it for your own later use. This has revolutionized physical lock picking and has been a large problem for security teams to counter. For maximum physical security use electromagnetic doors with PIN authorization access.


Bypassing Cameras and Sensors – Another attack vector common to physical penetration tests are the cameras and sensors. Cameras and sensors are used to detect individuals in restricted areas of your physical operations, and to identify those who have compromised primary security installations like doors. Making sure you have working, and up-to-date cameras and sensors installed in your physical settings is vital to catching an attacker and bringing them to justice once they have penetration your physical environment. Cameras and sensors will also be able to help identify the route an attacker took to gain access to your property, providing a useful (and often costly) learning experience for your physical security team.


Social Engineering Attack – One of the biggest threats to the physical security of your company are the employees you hire. It is human nature to want to help other humans out, and attackers use this against your security controls. Tactics like impersonating an employee, family of an employee, or another authorized visitor of a physical place are extremely common in our day and age. Every organization, no matter the size, is prone to social engineering attacks. It only takes one empathetic employee to compromise your entire security network and leave your company vulnerable. Therefore, it is crucial to install strict physical security policies and emphasize the importance of following said policies in order to maximize the safety and data your company and all of the employees working for you.

Tips to Further Protect Your Company From Attacks

While performing penetration tests is both necessary and important for your applications, there are more ways to maximize your security defenses. Here are some of the most important tips to protect your company applications from an attack:


Install anti-virus and anti-malware software and make sure it is up to date

Having a strong and up to date anti-virus software should protect you from many of the large vulnerabilities your network has. This will create a “backbone” for your network and make sure no device is exposed to an attacker.


Establish network use standards

Making sure employees know how they should operate on the network, and more importantly, how they shouldn’t be is key for maximizing your security. Social engineering and user error are some of the most common ways attackers infiltrate a system, so educating your employees on network use standards is crucial.


Disable network connections when they are not in use

This step is all about limiting the number of attack vectors hackers have to target. Disabling network connections from dormant connections makes sure you only use what you need and don’t stretch your network thin. This way your cyber security team can focus on keeping active connections safe.


Encrypt data that is at rest

Encrypting data is done to ensure important and confidential data stored “at rest” is safe from compromise. Encrypting this data should mean that even if an attacker gets their hands on your data, they won’t be able to decrypt it for personal gain.


Limit the number users with network access and admin privileges

The more users that have elevated administrative privileges on your network, the more likely a successful attack is. Limiting the number of total users on your network and the number of individuals with admin privileges will limit the vulnerability of your network against a targeted attack and the number of attack vectors for a hacker.




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