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Automated VS Manual Security Testing – Which One to Choose?

Published on: January 16, 2022

Automated VS Manual Security Testing – Which One to Choose?

In today’s cybersecurity scenario, the demand for security testing is directly proportional to the need for software protection. Manual security testing is the most common and widely-used method, but automated testing is also a viable option. If you are wondering which one to choose, this blog is for you. Instead of making a case for one methodology over the other, we will look at how both work and how they can work together to create better security.

What is Security Testing?

Security testing is a part of quality assurance during the lifecycle of a software product. It ensures that the product is not vulnerable to security threats like hacking, viruses and other malicious attacks, which may harm the integrity of the application, its data and its users. 

Security testing is a broad term that encompasses several specialized forms of testing, such as penetration testing, which is the most popular form of security testing. Penetration testing simulates an attack carried out by a malicious hacker in order to find and report software vulnerabilities.

Security testing is carried out to test if the software application is secure from attacks. It is vital to be tested as it will help to avoid any catastrophic attacks. It is performed by checking applications for the loopholes and other weaknesses thereof. It is a challenging task as it requires a thorough understanding of the potential threats and how to avoid them.

Understanding 2 Types of Security Testing

Security testing is the process of testing the security in which a system is being tested and analyzed with the help of penetration testing. Any outsider or your employees can exploit even the smallest of the vulnerability. According to the importance, the testing process is manual and automated. Let’s understand both of them deeply.

1. Manual Security Testing

Manual security testing is the testing that is done by human beings. Manual security testing is often referred to as manual penetration testing, manual code review, and black-box testing. 

Manual security testing applies human reasoning and evaluation to assess the security of a product, service or system. It requires a tester who has the knowledge and experience to recognize security vulnerabilities in a system and execute a series of steps that would exploit the vulnerability and determine if hackers can exploit the vulnerability in real-time and on a live system. The tester also has to determine if the vulnerability is real and report it to the correct people within the organization.

2. Automated Security Testing

Automated security testing is a process of testing applications for potential security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. In this process, automated scanning tools are used to identify potential security problems and vulnerabilities in various applications. 

Companies can perform automated security testing on a standalone basis or as part of a comprehensive security testing program. It is beneficial to perform automated security testing as part of a comprehensive security testing program, as it complements other manual testing efforts.

Comparing Automated Security Testing with Manual Security Testing

Both types of security testing methods have their benefits and are used widely across the industry. Let’s understand some basic differences between the two.

S No.Manual Security TestingAutomated Security Testing
1.In-depth testing of the application.Regular security testing using automated tools.
2.It can only be performed by skilled security professional.Automated security testing tools can be used by anyone.
3.Different results for every application.Results are fixed based on scan rules of automated scanner.
4.Time consuming and costly.Automated tools takes less time and human efforts hence the cost is comparatively low.

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Why is Manual Security Testing important?

The importance of manual security testing is often overlooked. Many people think that their site is safe because they use a security scanner, and the scan always comes back clean. We want to emphasize that security scanners are not perfect, and they can only check for certain vulnerabilities. 

Another issue with automated security scanners is that they don’t test the same way a human being would test. Automated security scanners are great for the first pass at testing, but they should never be used as the only security testing tool.

Manual Security Testing is one of the most basic techniques used in testing a web application. There are many different reasons why this technique is so popular. First, it is easy to do and relatively cheap to perform. 

Manual Security Testing is also highly effective, which is why it is used by most of the companies that need to make sure that their websites and applications are protected from different types of threats. 

Some common benefits of performing manual security testing are:

  • Very few false positives
  • Detects business logic vulnerabilities
  • Comparatively less per scan cost

Types of Manual Security Testing

Manual Security testing is further divided into two different categories. Let’s see what these are.

1. Focused manual security testing

Focused manual security testing is a method of manual testing that tests specific vulnerabilities and risks. This method is different from the general manual security testing method. When performing focused manual security testing, the tester will test specific vulnerabilities and risks. The tester should also have knowledge of how to exploit the vulnerabilities.

2. Comprehensive Manual security testing

Comprehensive Manual Security Testing is a method for testing software, networks, mobile apps and networks for the presence of all certain types of vulnerabilities, exploits and weaknesses. It is a structured and detailed approach to reviewing the security of a product by identifying and confirming the presence of vulnerabilities, exploits and weaknesses.

How is Manual Security Testing Performed?

The manual security testing is performed in 4 different steps: 

  1. Information gathering
  2. Discovery
  3. Exploitation
  4. Reporting  

Each of these steps is important for the whole process of manual security testing. The Information Gathering can be done by several methods such as: investigation of website and software documentation, analysis of the source code, etc. 

The Discovery (reconnaissance) can be done either in an active or passive way. Active reconnaissance includes scanning the network and various services, while passive reconnaissance includes the analysis of the server security logs and error messages. 

The Exploitation of a discovered vulnerability is the last step of manual testing. In this step, a tester attempts to exploit a discovered vulnerability. The exploitation is done by several techniques such as brute-forcing, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, etc. 

Reporting is the final step of manual security testing. The tester prepares a report of the whole process of manual security testing, which includes a description of the discovered vulnerabilities and their exploitability.

How Manual Security is performed?
Image: How Manual Security is performed?

Top 3 Tools used to perform Manual Security Testing

When it comes to performing manual security testing, multiple tools can help. We’ve listed down 3 of the most common ones below.

1. Nmap: Nmap is an open-source network administration tool for monitoring network connections. It is used to scan large networks and helps audit hosts and services and intrusion detection. It is used for both packet-level and scan-level analysis of network hosts. Nmap is free of cost and available to download.

2. Burp Suite: Burp Suite is a proxy that allows you to intercept and modify the requests sent to a server. This allows you to simulate the attacker and gather information about the target.

3. Metasploit: Metasploit is a framework for developing and executing exploit code against a remote target machine. Security testers use Metasploit to develop and validate the exploit code before using it in the real world. It can be used to test the security of a network or to hack into a remote computer. 

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Astra’s Security Testing Solution: Automated + Manual Security Testing

Astra’s goal is to conduct a complete and thorough security testing process. To accomplish this, we have a team of security experts who have experience in manual and automated security testing.

At Astra, we bring you the most advanced security testing solution. Our products are designed keeping in mind all the best practices and standards of testing. We have a team of security experts who will provide you with an efficient, detailed and error-free security report after testing. We will test your website with the most advanced tools and techniques and ensure that it stands the test of time.

Manual Security Testing
Image: Astra’s Security Testing Solution: Automated + Manual Security Testing

Conclusion

Now that you’ve read this article, you know that your security strategy is only as good as your weakest link. If you’re not performing both manual security testing and automated tests as part of your security strategy, you’re leaving a gap. If you’d like more information about how to integrate both testing methodologies into your security strategy seamlessly, please get in touch with us at hello@getastra.com. We’re always happy to help!

Have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to talk to us anytime!

We are also available on weekends 😊

FAQ’s

1. What is manual security testing?

Manual security testing is the testing that is done by human beings. Manual security testing applies human reasoning and evaluation to assess the security of a product, service or system.

2. What is automated security testing?

Automated security testing is a process of testing applications for potential security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. In this process, automated scanning tools are used to identify potential security problems and vulnerabilities in various applications. 

3. Why manual security testing is important?

Manual Security Testing is highly effective, which is why it is used by most of the companies that need to make sure that their websites and applications are protected from different types of threats. 

4. Can Astra help me with manual security testing?

Yes, you can always count on Astra to help you with manual security testing. We have a team of certified security testers who can do the job better and a faster way.

What is manual security testing?

Manual security testing is the testing that is done by human beings. Manual security testing applies human reasoning and evaluation to assess the security of a product, service or system.

Why manual security testing is important?

Manual Security Testing is highly effective, which is why it is used by most of the companies that need to make sure that their websites and applications are protected from different types of threats. 

Can Astra help me with manual security testing?

Yes, you can always count on Astra to help you with manual security testing. We have a team of certified security testers who can do the job better and a faster way.

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Keshav Malik

Keshav is a hacker by heart. He loves playing with fire (code) and loves discovering bugs. Not only in web applications but in all kinds of software. His first introduction to the world of Cyber Security was through bug bounty programs. He quickly made a name for himself as a bug hunter and now actively participates in bug bounty programs. Other than Infosec, he loves creating full stack web applications using cutting edge technologies.
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