Security Audit

Web Application Security Testing: Methodology, Tests and Tools

Updated on: August 30, 2021

Web Application Security Testing: Methodology, Tests and Tools

In the last decade, web applications advanced with unprecedented speed to enter finance, banking, e-commerce, and every other industry you can think of. For the smart cybercriminals, this seemed like a perfect opportunity and consequently, cybercrimes leaped up. The hastily coded & unsecured applications succumbed to cybercrimes and businesses closed with the drop of a hat. This is why web application security testing holds supreme importance in web app development in today’s scenario.

What is Web Application Security Testing?

Web Application Security Testing or simply Website Security Testing is a process of assessing your web application for security flaws, vulnerabilities, and loopholes in order to prevent malware, data breaches, and other cyberattacks. A meticulous security testing reveals all hidden vulnerable points in your application that runs the risk of getting exploited by a hacker.

In this guide, we answer the most asked questions on web application security testing, starting off with why you should get one.

Make your web app the safest place on the Internet

with our detailed and specially curated web app security checklist.

Why you must not neglect Web Application Security Testing?

Digitization bestowed us with many boons and new banes — Hackers & Cyber threats. With every passing day, hackers are developing more and more sophisticated techniques to bypass the previously established security standards. Regular web application security testing keeps you updated with your application’s security and vulnerabilities that may be used against your app.

For the longest time, developers’ complete focus was converged on building apps and software without giving a second thought to its security. Cybersecurity was being brushed under the carpet at boardroom discussions and business planning meetings. This changed when security breaches in business giants started making headlines and companies started losing millions. This is when cyber threats were acknowledged and cybersecurity was given due importance and priority.

Hence, you must not overlook web application security testing if you want to:

1. Identify flaws and vulnerabilities in your application:

The most important benefit you can get out of thorough security testing is that it uncovers all security flaws and vulnerabilities in your application. Web app security testing has emerged as a crucial step in the app development cycle (SLDC), making developers mindful of security while they build the application.

2. Comply with laws:

To regulate data security & privacy in web applications, councils and conglomerates were formed and laws were implemented. Web application security testing was mandated for many businesses (such as e-commerce, finance, banking, etc) to protect user interests.

It is very important for a business owner to conduct web application security testing for their application and that too regularly in order to comply with the current laws if you’re into a serious business. Web app security testing is not limited to just businesses, but is equally crucial for developers also, who push out web apps for public use on app distributor platforms or as a SaaS (Software as a Service).

3. Analyze your current security:

A web app security testing also checks your current security measures and detects loopholes in your system such as a firewall, configurations among several other security measures.

4. Detect security breaches and anomalous behavior:

Another huge benefit of conducting a security audit is that it helps you identify security breaches or hacker behavior in your application. As per IBM, on average, it takes companies 192 days to identify a data breach in their system. By this time, the damage may become irrevocable. Security testing sniffs out hacks and breaches in due time saving your business from adverse consequences.

5. Formulate an effective security plan:

Detailed outcomes of an audit can help you plan and prioritize risk responses better against a breach or a hack. It also helps you formulate an incident response mechanism as per your app’s or business’ needs.

Who performs Web Application Security Testing?

You can either hire a security professional to audit your application or have an in-house team perform security testing for you regularly. If you’re a solopreneur or an app developer, you can perform preliminary web application security testing on your own as well. 

Note: Owing to the complex nature of security testing, there are too many ways one can falter. Hence, it is advised that you go with professional security testing for the best results and better protection of your app and its users.

That said, you sure can perform a preliminary web app security testing (minus the code analysis) yourself. Refer to the next section.

Common Terms Used in Web App Security Testing

  • Vulnerability: A vulnerability is a security risk in a web application that can be potentially exploited by hackers to gain access to the app or data.
  • XSS: XSS,  short for Cross-Site Scripting, is a type of attack in which an attacker inserts malicious JS code to extend an attack from one compromised website/application to another.
  • SQL: SQL Injection is a very critical vulnerability. In SQLi, hackers inject malicious SQL queries into the website via form inputs, GET, POST, Cookies, etc. It can give hackers access to your database, file system and in most cases complete server. SQLi is caused due to lack of input sanitization and escaping. This is one of the most critical vulnerabilities which single-handedly can compromise the entire web app.
  • Spoofing: Phishing and email spam are the biggest opportunities for hackers to enter the network. They often spoof a web app’s emails & messaging to trick a user into clicking on some malicious email attachment. It can compromise an entire enterprise with ransomware, cryptojacking scripts, data leakages or privilege escalation exploits. This can be prevented with the help of {DMARC/SPF} records.
  • URL manipulation: Attackers often manipulate client-browser communication to intercept crucial data & credentials. If they do this by modifying some information in the request URL, it’s known as ‘URL manipulation’.
  • CSRF: Cross-site request forgery is a web application vulnerability that lets an attacker to jump the same origin policy and take actions on behalf of the user.

How to perform Web Application Security Testing manually?

To perform basic security testing on your web app manually, follow these steps:

  1. Asset discovery: Identify your application’s security areas and its complementary assets that would be included in the testing.
  2. Check for outdated versions: Verify if your application is up to date. Repeat with other assets.
  3. Check permissions: Check if your app follows secure rules for user permission and roles.
  4. Check security protocols: Check if there are security measures such as a firewall, malware scanner, SSL, etc are in place.
  5. Analyze code rigidity with penetration test: Analyze your code for CVE, code injection, SQLi, and other common attacks. (This would require more hands-on experience with security testing.)
  6. Test database security: Check if your database is hardened against malicious SQL queries or not.
  7. Run configuration tests: Check your application as well as your network’s configurations structure and if they are secure. 
  8. Check network assets: Test your router, switches, printers, servers, desktops, etc against known CVEs and specially crafted attacks.
  9. Business logic:
  10. Client-side logic: Check if the JavaScript loading on browser web pages follows the correct rule.
  11. Input validation: When accepting user data on your web app, check if input validation is in place.
  12. Authentication & session management: Check authentication rules and session management is not vulnerable.
  13. Configuration: Check your web app for missing or misplaced configurations.
  14. Authorization check: Verify if your web app allows unauthorized access.

Also check: Complete Guide On Penetration Testing

Testing Methodology for Web Application Security Testing (in Phases)

Phase I : Initiation

  • Define scope of testing for an application
  • Document initial testing requirements
  • Develop testing & scanning schedule
  • Understand implemented functionalities in an application
  • Sampling of browser-server traffic flow
  • Finalize testing deliverables format

Phase II: Evaluation

  • Perform static code analysis of an application
  • Server Infrastructure Testing & DevOps
  • Identify the loopholes in the business logic
  • Do authorization checks for user access (UAC)
  • Schedule manual & automated application scanning using tools
  • List commercial and open source tools for security testing

Phase III: Discovery

  • Perform dynamic analysis & penetration tests
  • Payment manipulation testing
  • Test for known CVEs
  • Technology specific attack vectors and payloads
  • Verify findings and remove false positives
  • Catalogue all the exposed vulnerabilities
  • Collection of evidence and Video POCs

Phase IV: Reporting

  • Determine ease of vulnerability exploitation
  • Document app vulnerabilities details
  • Research and document technical solution or recommendations for fixes
  • Do an Independent quality review
  • Get a VAPT Certificate for security audit from reputed vendor

Related blog – Detailed Sample Penetration Testing Report

What are web security testing tools?

You can automate most of the discovery and testing processes with tools available online. Here are some of the tools you can use for the purpose of web security testing:

  • Nikto
  • NMap
  • BurpSuite
  • Arachini
  • Harvester
  • Testssl
  • OpenVAS
  • Metasploit
  • SQLMap
  • XSSer

Astra Security’s VAPT Solution

Looking for professional web app security testing? Look no further. Astra Security’s VAPT solution has got you covered with its well-designed tests that include both — automated prowess and human intelligence. 

Website VAPT Process
Astra’s VAPT Process

Astra Security detects security loopholes in your Network including AWS, Azure, or any other cloud and Application (Web application & mobile application), routers, IoT things, Web & Mobile application with 2500+ security tests which includes — security control check, static and dynamic code analysis, configuration tests, Server Infrastructure Testing & DevOps, Business logic testing among various others.

Let experts find security gaps in your web application

Pen-testing results that comes without a 100 emails, 250 google searches and painstaking PDFs.

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Jinson Varghese

Jinson Varghese Behanan is an Information Security Analyst at Astra. Passionate about Cybersecurity from a young age, Jinson completed his Bachelor's degree in Computer Security from Northumbria University. When he isn’t glued to a computer screen, he spends his time reading InfoSec materials, playing basketball, learning French and traveling. You can follow him on Medium or visit his Website for more stories about the various Security Audits he does and the crazy vulnerabilities he finds.

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