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Web Security Testing For Beginners

by Kanishk Tagade

Web applications are the beginning and the end of today’s customer-centric business. Websites have advanced in their purposes and features offered to customers, simultaneously increasing security as well. However, since they’re the public-facing side of any business, they are also frequent victims of hacking attempts.

At least 40% of data breaches are focused on websites as the preferred target. It’s noteworthy that it took the average security team a month at minimum to figure out that something was wrong.

Hackers also find it worthwhile to target websites because they have access to important data on customers and the company. Also, following best practices for the prevention of intrusions doesn’t cover all the security gaps. This is where comprehensive web security testing comes in and ensures that all vulnerabilities are recognized and resolved.

Web Security Testing – What to Look Out For?

While web security testing is a great addition to any organization’s overall security strategy, there are certain businesses that need it more than others. Here are a few characteristics to watch out for:

  • Early testing during the software development lifecycle (SDLC)

A lot of companies leave security testing as their last priority. However, simultaneous security checks during the SDLC save a lot of time and resources. Vulnerabilities are numerous and relentless, so mobilize your development operations (DevOps) team to check these and rectify them as you go for better risk management. 

  • How critical is your business?

Some businesses regularly use and have access to customers’ sensitive information such as payment details, personal records, etc. Since this data is crucial for business operations and needs to follow privacy regulations, it should be regularly checked for vulnerabilities. In fact, web security testing is often mandated as a part of compliance requirements, government-based rules and regulations, etc. This step will also define the scope of testing and your final goals. 

  • Prioritize remediation and fixes

Dropping a final list of bug fixes onto your development and IT teams sounds cumbersome and inefficient. Instead, rate your vulnerabilities as you discover them according to the impact they pose to your business. Use this criticality scale to fix the riskiest issues and subsequently go down the list. Prepare a bug-tracking system as well that will allow you to keep on top of all the issues encountered.

Common Vulnerabilities in Web Applications

  • Compromise of sensitive data

Websites have access to a wide array of sensitive customer and company information which is often not protected well. This includes payment information, authentication credentials, etc. Poor security measures eventually lead to identity thefts, unauthorized payments, and other cyberattacks.

  • Injection attacks

Hackers use SQL or OS interpreters to send malicious code via twisted command queries so that they’re executed and critical information is accessed. 

  • XML External Entities

There are certain external entities within outdated XML documents that are processed by misconfigured XML processors. This opens up a portal to Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, scanning of internal ports and unauthorized remote code execution. 

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks

Hackers use this form of attack to manipulate user sessions, set external redirects to suspicious sites, or deface the website. These attacks are triggered by sending untrusted data through the web browser without proper data validation, allowing the hacker to set a backdoor and implement malicious code

  • Components with known risks

Certain software module components such as the library or the framework are automatically given full access privileges, which can be exploited by attackers to gain access to the site. Most sites don’t have enough monitoring and proper log-in and log-out procedures, opening up space for hackers to enter unnoticed.


Types of Web Security Testing Methods

There are various web security testing methods that are used here:

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

This kind of testing works best for inside checks, going through the internal source code and identifying vulnerabilities. Essentially, it offers a still picture of the security standing of the web application in real-time.

  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

Opposite to SAST, the dynamic testing approach looks for security risks and loopholes in the web application when running. It focuses on the external methods that may be used by an attacker to enter and exploit the system. Since this testing method doesn’t require the source code, it’s simpler and done periodically. 

  • Application Penetration Testing

This is similar to the regular procedure of pen testing where an ethical hacking team is in charge of simulating attack scenarios to test vulnerabilities. With a touch of appropriate skills and required expertise, testers will act as both completely foreign attackers and those with insider knowledge. It’s ideal that a third-party website pentesting service conducts the procedure as they’ll have an objective perspective of the entire system.

These are a few tips on the vast topic of web security testing. Since each business has industry-specific rules and regulations as well as unique security requirements, it’s always best to personalize your security strategy.

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