Security Audit

What is Web Application Penetration Testing [Ultimate Guide]

Updated on: November 3, 2023

What is Web Application Penetration Testing [Ultimate Guide]

73% of successful breaches in the corporate sector occurred in penetrating web applications through their vulnerabilities. As more and more companies migrate to the cloud, the above statistic is becoming even more alarming. It is important to ensure that your data is safe and secure to ensure that your business is safe from malicious actors.

Web application penetration testing ensures that you are aware of weaknesses before a malicious actor takes advantage of it. This gives you an edge over your competitors and helps you build trust amongst your customers. A constant focus on security is an added feather on your cap.

This articles focuses on web application penetration testing and helps you better understand the different facets of conducting web application penetration testing in your organization to ensure better overall security posture.

What is web application penetration testing?

Web application penetration testing is an essential part of web application security. It is the process of simulating hack-style attacks to identify potential vulnerabilities in web apps using simulated attacks.

It helps organizations comply with security standards and regulations such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, etc. Web application testing should be performed regularly and periodically to ensure that the web applications are secure and up-to-date.

The purpose of these web application penetration testing is to uncover and mitigate security risks to improve the applications’ overall security posture before they can be exploited by malicious actors. This will ensure that your data is safe and secure while ensuring that your brand is dependable by customers’.

What are the benefits of web application penetration testing?

Web app penetration testing is essential as it helps in determining the security posture of the entire web application including the database, back-end network, etc. Moreover, it suggests ways to strengthen it.

Here is the list of some common objectives for performing web applications penetration testing:

  • Identify security loopholes in web applications
  • Verify the effectiveness of the existing security policies and controls
  • Ensuring compliance such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, etc
  • Check the configuration and strength of components exposed to the public including firewalls.

What is the process of penetration testing for web applications?

The usual process of penetration testing for web applications involves a vulnerability scanner which is used to probe and detect loopholes in your security such as misconfiguration, unpatched software, SQLi, cross-site scripting, etc.

Then manual pentesters enter your system to

a) confirm the authenticity of the vulnerabilities found by the scanner and

b) look for more complicated vulnerabilities like business logic errors, and payment gateway errors.

Once the testing and exploiting are done the pentesters prepare a pentest report containing the details of all the tests performed, vulnerabilities found, information about their severity, and probable solutions. You can engage your in-house security team or look for web application penetration testing services.

What tools are used for web application penetration testing?

  • Astra Security Scan
  • Acunetix
  • HackerOne
  • Burp Suite
  • Browser’s Developer Tools
  • NMap
  • Zenmap
  • ReconDog
  • Nikto

What are the different types of web app penetration testing?

Depending on your business requirements, you can conduct internal or external penetration testing.

1) External Penetration Testing

External Pentesting involves simulating attacks on the live website/web application. This kind of penetration testing runs on the Black Box testing methodology. It is usually done by a third-party pentest provider.  

During this, the pentester only gets the list of the organization’s IPs and domains and using just IP & domains the pentester tries to compromise the target just like the real-world behavior of malicious hackers. 

This kind of testing provides a comprehensive view of the effectiveness of your application’s security controls that are publicly exposed since it includes testing servers, firewalls, and IDS.

2) Internal Pentesting

Sometimes the organization overlooks the need to pentest the web application internally. They feel that no one can attack from inside an organization.  However, this isn’t the case anymore. After the external breach, internal penetration testing is done on a web application to identify and track the lateral movement of the hacker from the inside.

Internal Pentesting is done for a web app hosted on the intranet. Thus, it helps in preventing attacks due to the exploitation of vulnerabilities existing within the corporate firewall.

Make your Website / Web Application the safest place on the Internet.

With our detailed and specially curated SaaS security checklist.

What steps are used to perform a web application pentest?

There are four ideal phases in which web application pentesting can be performed:

Phases of web application penetration testing
Image: Phases of Web Application Penetration Testing

1) Planning Phase

During the planning phase, a number of important decisions are made that directly impact other phases of penetration testing. It includes defining the scope, timeline, and people involved among other things. The organization and the provider of pen testing services for web applications must agree on the scope.

Most importantly during defining the scope of the security assessment, there are various things that are considered before going to the next phase of testing. These may include application pages that need to be tested, deciding whether to perform internal or external testing or both, to name a few.

It is also crucial to define the timeline for the whole process. This ensures that the assessment doesn’t drag out and timely security controls can be put into play to strengthen the defense for your application.

2) Pre-Attack Phase

In this phase, the reconnaissance is done which is important for paving the way for the next phase of testing. Especially, it includes looking for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), or any other information available publicly that can be used against you.

We can perform port scanning, service identification, vulnerability assessment, etc in this testing phase. To accomplish this you can use tools such as Nmap, Shodan, Google Dorks, dnsdumpster, etc.

As we all know, due to the growing adoption of social media among the organization’s employees, hackers can easily fool employees and extract or guess passwords they use for their social media, threat actors do this by carrying out social engineering attacks to target those organizations that have weak internal security posture implemented.

3) Attack Phase

During the attack phase, the pentester tries to exploit the vulnerabilities found in the last phase. They try to go one step further by identifying and mapping the attack vectors. 

In an attack phase, the pentester gets into a web application’s internal structure and tries to compromise the host. 

This may involve social engineering attacks, physical security breaching, web application exploits, phishing employees or CXOs of an organization, etc. 

4) Post-Attack Phase

After the penetration testing is complete, a full detailed report is generated. This report can vary from organization to organization or the type of application that is pen-tested. 

But generally, the penetration testing report includes a list of vulnerabilities, an analysis of the finding, proposed remediations, and a conclusion. Apart from that, the pentester is also responsible for restoring the systems and network configurations to their original states in the post-attack phase.

Should You Consider Automated or Manual Pentesting?

You can perform web application penetration testing either manually or automated or both. Automated pentesting helps in bringing up speed, and efficiency increases coverage, and several other benefits. On the other hand, manual pentesting helps in finding the vulnerabilities related to Business Logic.

It helps in removing false positives generated from the automated scanning. Therefore, it is always good to perform both of them to bring out the best of both worlds.

Why You Should Consider Astra for Web App Penetration Testing Services

Astra Security is a vulnerability assessment and penetration testing company that provides round-the-clock security testing services to assess internet-facing assets as quickly and efficiently as possible to detect vulnerabilities. 

Our VAPT offerings help with: 

  1. Better security coverage for web and mobile applications, cloud infrastructure, networks, and APIs.  
  2. Detection and remediation of vulnerabilities and security gaps of varying criticality. 
  3. Maintenance of compliance with regulatory requirements like HIPAA, SOC2, PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, and GDPR. 
  4. Shifting from DevOps to DevSecOps giving due priority to security testing applications in SDLC.

Features Of Astra Security Testing Services

  1. Constantly Evolving Vulnerability Scanner

Astra Vulnerability Scanner is constantly updated to detect the latest vulnerabilities and can currently run 8000+ tests for the same. The scanner checks for payment manipulation and business logic errors and can scan behind logins. 

Uses NIST and OWASP methodologies to provide detailed scans for detecting major vulnerabilities, and new and relatively unknown vulnerabilities as well. 

The scanner can also be scheduled to conduct scans as per the customer’s convenience. 

  1. Detailed Pentest Reports

Astra’s pentest reports can be downloaded in multiple formats including PDFs, and XLS. It is a detailed document that provides an executive summary of vulnerability findings with their risk level and CVSS scores

The report is customized to be easy to understand for all parties involved from CXOs, and CTOs to security teams.

Later sections include an overview of tests carried out followed by detailed information on each vulnerability with appropriate remediation measures. 

  1. Publicly Verifiable Pentest Certificates

Astra provides a Pentest Certificate which can be publicly verified by the target’s customers to ensure the validity and security standards of the organization. 

The certificate is only provided upon successful remediation of all vulnerabilities and is valid for 6 months or until the next major code update, whichever is earlier.

  1. CXO friendly Dashboard

Astra Pentest boasts an easy-to-navigate CXO-friendly dashboard that displays the vulnerabilities in real time. 

Members of the development team can be added to the dashboard to collaborate with pentesters for quicker vulnerability resolution. 

The dashboard also offers the option to comment under each vulnerability so that the development team can clear queries quickly.

Customers can also track the progress of the manual scans & ETA from the dashboard. Astra’s security analysts can set estimated deadlines and provide delivery status updates for scans. 

  1. CI/CD Integrations

Astra Security provides integrations with multiple project development tools & web repositories like GitHub, GitLab, Jenkins, Circle CI, and BitBucket. 

It also provides integrations with project management platforms such as Jira and with Slack for easy communication and collaboration. 

These integrations allow projects to be scanned for vulnerabilities during their development phase. 

  1. Compliance Scans

Astra offers the option to scan for specific compliances required by an organization. Compliance-specific scans provided by Astra include PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOC2, ISO 27001, and GDPR. 

It has a compliance-specific dashboard where the specific compliance can be opted for a scan. Once the scan is complete the results in the dashboard reveal the areas of non-compliance. 

  1. Remediation Support

Astra provides detailed steps for remediation based on risk prioritization. 

POC videos are provided and collaboration with security analysts is possible within the vulnerability dashboard. Support is also provided via Slack and MS- Teams. 

  1. Manually Vetted Results

Results from a vulnerability scan are manually vetted by expert security analysts to weed out the false positives.

These false positives can also be marked to be excluded from the subsequent scans.

Wrapping Up

Web app penetration testing plays an essential role in the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC), helping in developing a secure and flaws-free web application. It ensures that the end-users are safe from cyber attacks like data theft and exposure of sensitive information. 

It is one small security loophole v/s your entire website or web application

Get your web app audited with Astra’s Continuous Pentest Solution

It is always best to perform a comprehensive vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) for your web application before or after pushing it into production in order to identify the direct threats to your website/web application and ultimately to your business. Additionally, doing the VAPT scans for your web application on regular basis is a best practice to protect it from emerging cyber threats and possible zero-day exploits and attacks. 

Web application pentest- FAQs

1. What is the timeline for web app pentesting?

Web app penetration testing takes between 7-10 days. The vulnerabilities start showing up in Astra’s pentest dashboard from the 3rd day so that you can get a head start with the remediation. The timeline may vary with the pentest scope.

2. How much does web application pentest cost?

It costs $700 to $4999 per scan to perform web application penetration testing depending on your choice of plan.

3. Why trust Astra for web app pentesting?

With 1250+ tests according to global security standards Astra ensures that all security loopholes are identified. The VAPT dashboard offers dynamic visualization of the impact and severity of threats. It helps you prioritize the remediation. Astra assists you in fixing the vulnerabilities and certifies your web app.

4. Do I also get rescans after a vulnerability is fixed?

Yes, you get 2-3 rescans depending on the plan you are on. You can use the rescans within a period of 30 days from initial scan completion even after a vulnerability is fixed.

Kanishk Tagade

Kanishk Tagade is a B2B SaaS marketer. He is also corporate contributor at many technology magazines. Editor-in-Chief at "", his work is published in more than 50+ news platforms. Also, he is a social micro-influencer for the latest cybersecurity, digital transformation, AI/ML and IoT products.
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Sean Peapell
Sean Peapell
2 years ago

Very well written article that covers everything both newbies and advanced users could possibly need to know about web application penetration testing. This could come in handy for those wishing to learn in order to pursue a career in penetration testing.

1 year ago

What is the difference between normal pen test and web application pen test?

Nivedita James Palatty
Reply to  Jack

Pentesting is an umbrella term for all kinds of hacker-style penetration tests done on mobile applications, APIs, cloud infrastructure, and network systems to find vulnerabilities. When such a pentest is conducted on a website or a web application, it comes to be termed as a web application pentest. Hope this cleared up your doubt.

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