How useful and relevant are virtual practice environments in real time security testing

How useful and relevant are virtual practice environments in real time security testing

As the name suggests a virtual practice environment is none other than a set of all important needed environmental variables that together form an illusion of a real-time setup of any application. So the security professionals can learn, practice and enhance their knowledge as it is not a good practice to perform any operation on a live web application without the permission of the owner. 

For the person who has just step in into infosec profession, virtual practice environment can be very useful to understand the basic concepts and working of a web application, what are the possible weakest links in any web application, how to mitigate risk.

Some advantages of Using Virtual practice environment-
1] Easy to implement, and cost-effective way for practical learning methods.
2] You do not need to take permission from the web application owner.
3] As you already know which module of the web application is associated with which vulnerability so it will be very beneficial for a beginner to perform assessments without involved in first finding the vulnerable page as this sometimes most tedious task for any beginner.

The virtual setup provides a sandboxing environment for both testing any application before as it can available for users and for practicing penetration testing in localhost. Virtual environments provide a safe, efficient and cost-effective way to test apps and other services because they are segregated from production and often use free, simple
virtualization tools. You can test everything from server configurations to resource allocation to storage.

But when it comes to a real time security practice of a web application, in most of the time the reality is far away from the virtual setup. The virtual setup gives the basic environment for learning which is very different
from a live web application. So many times security professional faces some problems in getting and understanding all the vulnerable parameters.
Also whatsoever they have learned is located on their localhost with all the known vulnerabilities and architecture of web application and network.

so it is like an exam where you already know all the answers. Most of the web application already patched all the general common known vulnerabilities loopholes. Therefore professionals need more in depth knowledge to handle such kind of loopholes that they never faced during practice sessions. On the other hand, Blackhat hackers mostly practice the live web application that’s why they have more knowledge than an average security professional.

The main drawback of virtual practice environment is that all the architecture is already known and only have known vulnerabilities for practice so our mind lacks to develop their own logic and learning. But as we have discussed, it will be a good source for gaining knowledge and practicing for any beginner.

Then as they move to advance learning they may practice and understand the architecture of live web application with the permission of the app owner.