Web Application Security Testing – Types, Best Practices, and Checklist

6 Min. Read

The internet, despite being a powerful tool, has a fair share of dangers lurking within it. The biggest, most significant risk that you need to be aware of is web application security risk. It’s important to understand what this entails in order to protect your company and its data from these threats.

Web application security testing involves finding vulnerabilities in applications so they can be fixed before hackers take advantage of them or steal sensitive information like credit card numbers or passwords.

This article will provide an overview of web application security testing, including types, best practices, and checklist items that should be considered when developing an effective web app test program.

What is Web Application Security Testing?

Web application security is an important but often overlooked aspect of web design and development. By understanding what it is and how to use the different types of testing available, you can help ensure that your applications are safe from hackers and other malicious actors.

Web application security testing is the process of identifying vulnerabilities in web applications and assessing the potential impact that these flaws could have on your business. By finding and fixing these issues before they are exploited by hackers, you can dramatically reduce your risk of a data breach.

Web Application Security Testing – What Are the Types?

Web application security tests can be broadly classified into two types: black box and white box. Black box testing is done without any knowledge of the internal workings of the application that is being tested, while white box testing involves having access to this information. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but most experts agree that a combination of both methods provides the best results.

Black Box Testing

Black Box Testing
Black Box Testing

Black box testing, also known as gray box testing, involves having no knowledge of the web application when starting a security test. This is preferred by some because it doesn’t allow testers to be influenced by any previous assumptions and could help them identify vulnerabilities they wouldn’t have otherwise found through white-box testing. However, others believe that this approach can produce less reliable results since it won’t take into account features or functions that developers added after completing other parts of the project.

White Box Testing

White Box Testing
White Box Testing

This method gives testers full access to all aspects of an app’s design before beginning their tests including source code if available. While this kind of information would seem like a benefit for black-box testing too, many security experts prefer not to use it in this scenario because it can lead testers to focus on specific areas instead of looking for vulnerabilities that may be spread throughout the application.

Under both black box and white box web application security testing, there are many different types that vary in the amount and type of information that they provide.

Web application security testing types include:

  • Penetration Testing
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Static Analysis
  • Dynamic Analysis

Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing
Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is the most common type of web application security test and involves simulating an attack on a web application in order to identify vulnerabilities. The tester will attempt to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to sensitive data or critical functions like the login page.

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability Scanning
Vulnerability Scanning

Many security applications can be used for vulnerability scanning, which is a passive approach that involves identifying weaknesses without exploiting them. While penetration testing requires active engagement with the web application, this type of test doesn’t actually exploit flaws but simply identifies them to be fixed.

Static Analysis

Static Analysis
Static Analysis

This method involves manually reviewing the code to find security issues before or after it’s written, rather than during the development process. This can be done by either hiring an expert or using a web application analysis tool that automatically scans code for common vulnerabilities like SQL injections and cross-site scripting (XSS).

Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic Analysis
Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic analysis is a more comprehensive type of security testing that simulates how the application will behave when it’s actually in use. This involves executing tests on a copy of the production environment and can identify issues that may not be caught by static or vulnerability scanning methods.

Best Practices for Web Application Security Testing

Best Practices for Web Application Security Testing
Best Practices for Web Application Security Testing

Once you’ve identified the different types of web application security testing that are available, it’s important to understand the best practices for using them. There are many best practices for web application security testing and they depend on multiple factors including the type of analysis being performed, its objectives, and scope.

In general however you should:

  • Involve all stages of development from start to finish.
  • Ensure that your tools can be integrated into existing processes seamlessly.
  • Have a clear understanding of what’s effective in terms of results & ROI.
  • Use penetration testing in conjunction with vulnerability scanning.
  • Combine static analysis and dynamic analysis together.
  • Having a dedicated, responsible team or individual for web application security.

Involve All Stages of Development From Start To Finish

It is important to involve various stakeholders at different points during the test process so that their feedback can help identify issues early rather than after launch when it could have a much larger impact. Defining clearly defined goals with specific business requirements will also ensure ongoing support from key decision-makers throughout the process.

Ensure That Your Tools Can Be Integrated into Existing Processes Seamlessly

The right tools can significantly improve the efficiency of web application security testing, however, they must integrate seamlessly into existing processes in order to avoid introducing new issues or creating unnecessary work for your team. This also ensures that each tool is providing a unique value that justifies its place on the project’s budget.

Have a Clear Understanding of What Is Effective In Terms Of Results & ROI

Web application security testing should be focused on achieving specific goals while delivering a clear return on investment at every stage. When working with an external partner you should have regular meetings about test results and include them throughout development so that their expertise remains fresh in their minds. You should also perform a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that the time and money being invested in providing the desired results.

Using Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Scanning Together

Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are also known as VAPT, should be used together as they complement each other. Penetration testing can help identify high-risk vulnerabilities while vulnerability scanning can help identify low-risk ones.

Combine Static Analysis and Dynamic Analysis Together

Static analysis is great for finding coding errors and other vulnerabilities that may not be found during the development process, but it’s important to combine it with dynamic testing too. This will help you identify how the application behaves when it’s actually in use.

Having a Dedicated, Responsible Team or Individual for Web Application Security

It’s important to have a dedicated team or individual responsible for web application security. This allows them to focus on nothing but security and ensures that all aspects of the application are considered when designing tests. Having someone who is responsible for security also helps keep developers accountable and makes sure they’re following best practices throughout the development process.

These are just a few of the best practices for web application security testing, but it’s important to remember that they vary widely depending on your specific situation. Be sure to consult with experts in order to create a comprehensive checklist that will work for your organization.

Checklist For Web Application Security Testing

Checklist For Web Application Security Testing
Checklist For Web Application Security Testing

A web app security checklist should contain all of the steps you need to do before starting a test program including deciding what types of analysis will be performed (penetration test vs vulnerability scan), defining scope & objectives with clear business goals, gathering requirements for infrastructure setup and tools needed, and creating a process for managing and tracking findings.

A web application security checklist should also include things to look out for when testing, such as insecure coding practices, cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, SQL injection attacks, and session ID transmission over an encrypted channel. Having this information in one place will help ensure that all areas of the application are tested and that no potential vulnerabilities are missed.

Since a web application security checklist is a list of the most important things to look for when performing penetration tests or vulnerability assessments, it can be used as a loose guideline that will vary depending on what type of testing you’re doing, how much time you have, and your level of expertise. Typically it includes items like:

  • Password policies.
  • Login forms that don’t use SSL/TLS encryption.
  • Authentication that isn’t using multi-factor authentication.
  • Checking if session IDs are being transmitted over an encrypted channel (SSL).
  • Testing whether login credentials are stored properly at rest or transit on disk or through database queries.
  • Validating input fields for Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and SQL Injection attacks.
  • Identifying insecure cookie settings.

These are just a few examples, so be sure to tailor your checklist to fit the specific needs of your organization.

Conclusion

Web application security testing is a crucial component of website management. It’s important to understand the different types of web security testing, employ the best practices and make use of web application security checklists to help you stay ahead in this ever-changing digital landscape.

We hope you’ve found some new ideas on how to protect your site from hackers, but if not please reach out for additional assistance with any type of web application security needs!

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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