Web Application Security Testing: What, How, and Why?
- March 26, 2020
- Hiba Sulaiman
Customers today need ease and accessibility, something which organizations are heavily focusing on. Instead of complex installations or update rollouts, organizations are keen on providing cloud-based solutions, be it web-based email, online shopping, or banking. Organizations are also working to provide B2B solutions in the shape of applications customized according to the needs of businesses for operations like finance and marketing automation.
While web applications offer convenience to customers and businesses alike, they also provide an opportunity for cybercriminals. Which is why, web application security testing, or testing and scanning for risk, is essential.
According to Verizon’s Data Breach Report of 2018, web applications are a popular target in confirmed data breaches as in some industries, up to 41% of the data breaches are web-application related. Another finding of the report was that almost 50% of app-related breaches went undiscovered for several months or longer. The longer an attacker stays in the system, the more damage he can cause. This is why attacks must be discovered and removed as early as possible, however, it’s often easier said than done.
Attackers are not ordinary people. There are great minds behind an attack that learn, evolve, battle-test and refine their methods as they increasingly target web applications. With increased sophistication, they’re able to counter even the best practices that are adopted by companies to protect themselves. Many of the times, these are motivated individuals who have access to the latest attack tools and methods and are often a part of organized crime. Businesses who look to combat this muscle alone sign up for suicide. This is why getting expertise from a well-reputed security testing company is a must.
Types of Web Application Security Testing
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
This approach involves finding vulnerabilities in a web application that could be a target for an attacker and how the system could be breached. Dynamic application security testing tools do not need access to the source code of the application, so testing with DAST can be done frequently and quickly.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST)
It’s testing with a more inside-out approach, meaning that as opposed to DAST, SAST checks the web application’s source code to find vulnerabilities. It requires access to the source code and therefore, SAST offers a snapshot in real-time of the security of web application.
Application Penetration Testing:
The human element is the major distinguishing factor between this and other types of web application security testing mentioned above. A security professional simulates an attack on the web application using a variety of penetration testing tools and personal security know-how to find exploitable flaws. Web application penetration testing services can also be outsourced to a security testing company if there are insufficient resources in-house.
Tips for Web Application Security Testing
- A business-critical system must be tested often: Any system that stores data of customers – including personally identifiable information (PII), credit card numbers, etc. – should be tested for security vulnerabilities; as a matter of fact, it’s often a requirement of many compliance guidelines of industries and governments. This is important to consider when looking at the potential scope of web app security testing in your organization.
- It’s always better to test the security as early in the design lifecycle as possible. You don’t want to leave security testing till the very end just to find vulnerabilities throwing a big wrench into the maintenance and development process. Bring security early into the development process, preferably with DevOps team’s full involvement, to minimize time or costs spent on remediation, minimize risk, and streamline response.
- Keep development teams on track with prioritization of bug fixes and remediation: The web app security testing output will often be in the form of a list (of items) that will be needed by the development team at some point. The term used by security is “vulnerabilities” whereas the development calls them “bugs”. It’s not just about dropping a list of these issues into a DevOps team’s lap; instead, it’s about prioritizing the vulnerabilities and being able to fully maximize time to remediation by integrating with the existing bug tracking system.
The security of web applications is more important than ever. By acquiring the services of a good security testing company and following the best practices for both remediation and testing, businesses can reduce the risk and help keep their systems safe for attackers.