The Inevitable Need to Conduct Application Security Testing

By Alisha Henderson

Web applications are becoming an integral part of our day to day lives because of their 24X7 availability. As the numbers of transactions are increasing on the web, the need for a proper security testing has also increased. The main objective of security testing is to discover ways to detect vulnerabilities in the system and ensure that the data is secured from hackers. Let us talk about the common types of attacks causing web vulnerabilities

  • Cross Site Scripting (XSS): XSS is a type of vulnerability wherein the information is sent to the web service provider like online stores or banks, from which an attacker is able to intrude the transaction process and mine valuable information. This is done by allowing attackers to inject client-side script into Web pages, observed by other users and pretend that a user clicks on that URL. As soon as it is executed by the other user’s browser, this code then achieves action to change website behavior.

  • Injection Flaws: This attack results from a failure in filtering un-trusted inputs. There are several forms of injection attacks such as passing unfiltered data to the database, to the browser, to the LDAP server. This allows an attacker to submit malicious database queries and pass commands straight to a server. To prevent such attacks, it is imperative to ensure that application input fields accept input by filtering data, if possible, according to a whitelist and should avoid using blacklisted data.

  • Insecure Direct Object Reference: An application design which is not responsive in nature and where authentication levels are not checked appropriately and users are able to gain administrative access to system data. In this situation, an attacker might be able to predict another user’s ID and can resubmit the request to access their data, only if the ID is an expected value.

  • Security Misconfiguration: The root cause of this susceptibility is the misconfiguration of the infrastructure that supports an application. Some common issues include default usernames such as admin, and passwords, like password or 123456. These usernames and passwords are quite vulnerable and predictable which causes many flaws.

Now, the major concern that arises is the identification of the method by which we can eradicate these vulnerabilities.

Security testing is the solution to these apprehensions; a thorough security testing can make it easier to identify and eradicate the vulnerabilities in the applications. Now, the concern arises that from where should we begin security testing? Let’s find out the ideal scenarios from where to start the process.

Where to Begin Security Testing?

Embedding security testing right at the beginning of the development process is important to reveal the application layer security flaws. Therefore, security testing should start from the requirement gathering stage to recognize the security requirements of the application. The main aim of security testing is to recognize if an application is susceptible to attacks and if the information system is able to defend the data while maintaining functionality. Any possible information leakage can help in assessing in how the application performs when it comes to a malicious attack.

Security testing is also a significant feature of functional testing as there are some basic security tests required that are a part of functional testing. However, security testing needed to be premeditated and performed separately. In contrast to functional testing that authenticates what the testers know should be true, security testing emphases on the unidentified elements and tests the endless ways by which an application can be broken.

Types of Security Testing:

To build a secure application, security testers need to run the following tests:

Penetration Testing:

Penetration testing commonly known as pen-testing is a simulated test that imitates an attack by an ethical hacker on the system that is being tested. This test necessitates gathering information about the system and recognizing the entry points into the application while attempting a forced entry to determine the security vulnerabilities of the application.

Vulnerability Scanning:

Vulnerability scanning tests the complete system under test to identify system loopholes, vulnerabilities, and uncertain susceptible signatures. This scan, detects and categorizes the system weaknesses and also forecasts the efficiency of the countermeasures that have been taken.


Ethical Hacking:

Ethical hacking uses a private professional to enter the system emulating the method of actual hackers. In this test, the application is attacked from within to uncover security flaws and vulnerabilities, and to recognize potential threats that malicious hackers might take benefit of.

Security Risk Assessment:

This testing involves the assessment of the risk of the security system by analyzing all potential risks. These risks are then categorized into high, medium and low categories based on their severity level. Defining the accurate modification strategies based on the security posture of the application is done in this phase. In this level, security audits are executed to validate the service access points, inter-network, and intra-network access, and also data protection is conducted at this level.

Security Scanning:

To improve the security testing process, testers need to conduct proper security scans to assess network weakness. Every scan sends malicious requests to the system and testers have to check for behavior that could specify a security vulnerability. XPath Injection, SQL Injection, Malicious Attachment, XML Bomb, Invalid Types, Cross Site Scripting, Malformed XML, etc. are the scans that need to run to check for susceptibilities which are then studied in detail, evaluated and then finally secured.

 Access Control Testing:

Access control testing makes sure that the application under the test is opened by genuine users. The main aim of this test is to assess the distinguishing policy of the software components and confirm that the application execution complies with the security policies and protects the system from unauthorized users.

Having a suitable security testing plan that functions in alignment with the speed of development becomes crucial. The stakeholders can then develop actionable understandings from the shown tests. They accomplish a widespread vulnerability valuation and make sure that even a minor gap is fixed at the earliest. By conducting thorough security testing across the software development lifecycle, organizations can make sure that unexpected, premeditated and unintentional actions do not bring down the application at any stage.

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