Network Penetration Testing checklist determines vulnerabilities in the network posture by discovering open ports, troubleshooting live systems, and services, and grabbing system banners.

The pen-testing helps the administrator close unused ports, add additional services, hide or customize banners, troubleshoot services, and calibrate firewall rules.

You should test in all ways to guarantee there is no security loophole.

Network penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking or white-hat hacking, is a systematic process of evaluating the security of a computer network infrastructure.

The goal of a network penetration test is to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the network’s defenses that malicious actors could potentially exploit.

Network penetration testing is a critical process for evaluating the security of a computer network by simulating an attack from malicious outsiders or insiders. Here is a comprehensive checklist for conducting network penetration testing:

Pre-Engagement Activities

  1. Define Scope: Clearly define the scope of the test, including which networks, systems, and applications will be assessed.
  2. Get Authorization: Obtain written permission from the organization’s management to conduct the test.
  3. Legal Considerations: Ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.
  4. Set Objectives: Establish what the penetration test aims to achieve (e.g., identifying vulnerabilities, testing incident response capabilities).
  5. Plan and Schedule: Develop a testing schedule that minimizes impact on normal operations.


  1. Gather Intelligence: Collect publicly available information about the target network (e.g., via WHOIS, DNS records).
  2. Network Mapping: Identify the network structure, IP ranges, domain names, and accessible systems.
  3. Identify Targets: Pinpoint specific devices, services, and applications to target during the test.

Threat Modeling

  1. Identify Potential Threats: Consider possible threat actors and their capabilities, objectives, and methods.
  2. Assess Vulnerabilities: Evaluate which parts of the network might be vulnerable to attack.

Vulnerability Analysis

  1. Automated Scanning: Use tools to scan for known vulnerabilities (e.g., Nessus, OpenVAS).
  2. Manual Testing Techniques: Perform manual checks to complement automated tools.
  3. Document Findings: Keep detailed records of identified vulnerabilities.


  1. Attempt Exploits: Safely attempt to exploit identified vulnerabilities to gauge their impact.
  2. Privilege Escalation: Test if higher levels of access can be achieved.
  3. Lateral Movement: Assess the ability to move across the network from the initial foothold.


  1. Data Access and Exfiltration: Evaluate what data can be accessed or extracted.
  2. Persistence: Check if long-term access to the network can be maintained.
  3. Cleanup: Remove any tools or scripts installed during the testing.

Analysis and Reporting

  1. Compile Findings: Gather all data, logs, and evidence.
  2. Risk Assessment: Analyze the risks associated with the identified vulnerabilities.
  3. Develop Recommendations: Propose measures to mitigate or eliminate vulnerabilities.
  4. Prepare Report: Create a detailed report outlining findings, risks, and recommendations.

Review and Feedback

  1. Present Findings: Share the report with relevant stakeholders.
  2. Discuss Remediation Strategies: Work with the IT team to discuss ways to address vulnerabilities.
  3. Plan for Re-Testing: Schedule follow-up tests to ensure vulnerabilities are effectively addressed.

Continuous Improvement

  1. Update Security Measures: Implement the recommended security enhancements.
  2. Monitor for New Vulnerabilities: Regularly scan and test the network as new threats emerge.
  3. Educate Staff: Train staff on new threats

and security best practices.

Tools and Techniques

  1. Select Tools: Choose appropriate tools for scanning, exploitation, and analysis (e.g., Metasploit, Wireshark, Burp Suite).
  2. Custom Scripts and Tools: Sometimes custom scripts or tools are required for specific environments or systems.

Ethical and Professional Conduct

  1. Maintain Confidentiality: All findings should be kept confidential and shared only with authorized personnel.
  2. Professionalism: Conduct all testing with professionalism, ensuring no unnecessary harm is done to the systems.

Post-Engagement Activities

  1. Debrief Meeting: Conduct a meeting with the stakeholders to discuss the findings and next steps.
  2. Follow-Up Support: Provide support to the organization in addressing the vulnerabilities.

Documentation and Reporting

  1. Detailed Documentation: Ensure that every step of the penetration test is well-documented.
  2. Clear and Actionable Reporting: The final report should be understandable to both technical and non-technical stakeholders and provide actionable recommendations.

Compliance and Standards

  1. Adhere to Standards: Follow industry standards and best practices (e.g., OWASP, NIST).
  2. Regulatory Compliance: Ensure the testing process complies with relevant industry regulations (e.g., HIPAA, PCI-DSS).

Final Steps

  1. Validation of Fixes: Re-test to ensure vulnerabilities have been properly addressed.
  2. Lessons Learned: Analyze the process for any lessons that can be learned and applied to future tests.

Awareness and Training

  1. Organizational Awareness: Increase awareness about network security within the organization.
  2. Training: Provide training to staff on recognizing and preventing security threats.

By following this checklist, organizations can conduct thorough and effective network penetration tests, identifying vulnerabilities and strengthening their network security posture.

Let’s see how we conduct step-by-step Network penetration testing using famous network scanners.

1. Host Discovery

Footprinting is the first and most important phase where one gathers information about their target system.

DNS footprinting helps to enumerate DNS records like (A, MX, NS, SRV, PTR, SOA, and CNAME) resolving to the target domain.

  • A – A record is used to point the domain name such as to the IP address of its hosting server.
  •  MX – Records responsible for Email exchange.
  • NS – NS records are to identify DNS servers responsible for the domain.
  • SRV – Records to distinguish the service hosted on specific servers.
  • PTR – Reverse DNS lookup, with the help of IP you can get domains associated with it.
  • SOA – Start of record, it is nothing but the information in the DNS system about DNS Zone and other DNS records.
  • CNAME – Cname record maps a domain name to another domain name.

We can detect live hosts, and accessible hosts in the target network by using network scanning tools such as Advanced IP scanner, NMAP, HPING3, and NESSUS.

Ping&Ping Sweep:

  • root@kali:~# nmap -sn
  • root@kali:~# nmap -sn To ScanRange of IP
  • root@kali:~# nmap -sn 192.168.169.* Wildcard
  • root@kali:~# nmap -sn Entire Subnet

Whois Information 

To obtain Whois information and the name server of a website

root@kali:~# whois



Network Diagonastic tool that displays route path and transit delay in packets

root@kali:~# traceroute

Online Tools


2. Port Scanning

Perform port scanning using Nmap, Hping3, Netscan tools, and Network monitor. These tools help us probe a server or host on the target network for open ports.

Open ports allow attackers to enter and install malicious backdoor applications.

  • root@kali:~# nmap –open            
  • To find all open ports root@kali:~# nmap -p 80          
  • Specific Portroot@kali:~# nmap -p 80-200  
  • Range of ports root@kali:~# nmap -p “*”          

Online Tools


3. Banner Grabbing/OS Fingerprinting

Perform banner grabbing or OS fingerprinting using tools such as Telnet, IDServe, and NMAP to determine the operating system of the target host.

Once you know the version and operating system of the target, you need to find the vulnerabilities and exploit them. Try to gain control over the system.

root@kali:~# nmap -A
root@kali:~# nmap -v -A with high verbosity level

IDserve is another good tool for banner grabbing.

Online Tools


4. Scan For Vulnerabilities

Scan the network using vulnerabilities using GIFLanguard, Nessus, Ratina CS, SAINT.

These tools help us find vulnerabilities in the target system and operating systems. With these steps, you can find loopholes in the target network system.


It acts as a security consultant and offers patch management, vulnerability assessment, and network auditing services.


Nessus is a vulnerability scanner tool that searches for bugs in the software and finds a specific way to violate the security of a software product.

  • Data gathering.
  • Host identification.
  • Port scan.
  • Plug-in selection.
  • Reporting of data.

5. Draw Network Diagrams

Draw a network diagram about the organization that helps you to understand the logical connection path to the target host in the network.

The network diagram can be drawn by LANmanager, LANstate, Friendly pinger, and Network View.

6. Prepare Proxies

Proxies act as an intermediary between two networking devices. A proxy can protect the local network from outside access.

With proxy servers, we can anonymize web browsing and filter unwanted content, such as ads.

Proxies such as Proxifier, SSL Proxy, Proxy Finder, etc., are used to hide from being caught.

6. Document All Findings

The last and very important step is to document all the findings from penetration testing.

This document will help you find potential vulnerabilities in your network. Once you determine the vulnerabilities, you can plan counteractions accordingly.

You can download the rules and scope Worksheet here – Rules and Scope sheet 

Thus, penetration testing helps assess your network before it gets into real trouble that may cause severe loss in value and finance.

Important Tools Used For Network Pentesting


Kali Linux, Backtrack5 R3, Security Onion


Smartwhois, MxToolbox, CentralOps, dnsstuff, nslookup, DIG, netcraft


Angry IP scanner, Colasoft ping tool, nmap, Maltego, NetResident,LanSurveyor, OpManager

Port Scanning

Nmap, Megaping, Hping3, Netscan tools pro, Advanced port scannerService Fingerprinting Xprobe, nmap, zenmap


Superscan, Netbios enumerator, Snmpcheck, onesixtyone, Jxplorer, Hyena, DumpSec, WinFingerprint, Ps Tools, NsAuditor, Enum4Linux, nslookup, Netscan


Nessus, GFI Languard, Retina, SAINT, Nexpose

Password Cracking

Ncrack, Cain & Abel, LC5, Ophcrack, pwdump7, fgdump, John The Ripper,Rainbow Crack


Wireshark, Ettercap, Capsa Network Analyzer

MiTM Attacks

Cain & Abel, Ettercap


 Metasploit, Core Impact

You should concentrate on These most important checklists with Network Penetration Testing.

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  1. You can also do vulnerability scanning with nmap…you don’t really need to use other vulnerability scanners as they generate noise in the network and this can result in you IPO being blocked by a firewall or IPS…nmap contains scripts that can be run stealthily in a network without being detected most times.

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