How to Perform Security Testing In Web Applications

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Testscenario Testing Team

How to Perform Security Testing In Web Applications

The University of Maryland has come up with a study that says that on average a hacker attacks websites every 39 seconds. This alarming rise of security thefts and vulnerabilities can cost a hefty amount to the stakeholders. Security testing for web applications becomes important under these circumstances. You can do it regressively for avoiding any vulnerability which can cause cyber-attacks.

What is Security Testing?

Security Testing is a type of software testing that identifies and prevents malicious attacks by intruders. Performing security testing for web applications involves identifying risks, threats, and vulnerabilities in an application which further helps us in recognizing loopholes before the cyber-attacks. Also, a security tester tests on all-important layers such as network, database, access points, etc.

Let us go through the security web testing best practices below.

Why is web application security testing important?

Security testing for web-based application is very important for businesses as it helps in detecting and preventing any kind of security theft. Web applications have confidential data which is a target for cybercriminals.

One of the main goals of security testing is the protection of confidential data to meet compliance regulations and avoid heavy penalties. Websites should adhere to compliance standards and if there is any kind of non-compliance, then businesses would have to pay a heavy price.

Some hackers attack your site on odd hours which can stop your site and can badly impact your business.

Also, it is very important to build trust with your customers. One incident of security theft of their data can make your business lose a lot of loyal customers. To avoid such conditions, we need profound web application security testing services.

Types of Security Testing

Let us look at the different types of security tests that are performed by security testers.

  • Vulnerability Scanning: This is done via automated security testing tools to find vulnerabilities against susceptible signatures. It generates a report which specifies vulnerabilities after scanning the system.
  • Penetration Testing: This testing is done by a security tester who simulates an attack which is done by a hacker. It involves SQL injection and malicious script injection in the system to check the application’s behavior.
  • Security Scanning: Identifying network and system weaknesses are part pf security scanning. Scanning of websites is done using automated security testing tools which also provide solutions to get rid of them.
  • Posture Assessment: In this type of testing, ethical hacking and risk assessments are done along with security scanning to analyze the overall security posture of the application.

How to Perform Security Testing In Web Applications

Let us imagine, as a security tester if you are handed over a project, what your steps to achieve security testing can be. This strategy is very much like other web application testing strategies. Here are the steps you can follow to leverage security testing.

1) Understanding Business Requirements

The very first step is to understand your business expectations and their security goals. Regressive analysis of these will help you in formulating a perfect security testing strategy and avoid any kind of vulnerabilities in your web application.

2) Gather data for security testing

You must gather data related to the web application on which you will be performing security testing. The data list includes:

  • Technical languages use for developing backend and frontend for the web application
  • The database used for the application
  • OS supported by the application
  • Hardware specifications supported by your application etc.

3) Creation of test plan followed by traceability matrix

Now, it is time to identify all the risks and vulnerabilities and then formulate a threat list of those. Following this, you have to make a test plan which takes care of all the vulnerabilities and risks mentioned in the threat list. Create a traceability matrix so that no risks and vulnerabilities are left untested.

4) Decide the tool for security testing

Once you have come up with the plan, it is time to decide whether you want to proceed with manual security testing or automated security testing. Doing everything manually can be very tedious and can also lead to some risks. It is always good to have a hybrid approach. You need to explore all the tools available in the market and decide the tool which is best for your application.

5) Execution of security test cases for web application

It is now time to draft the security test cases for web applications. Execute them manually and via automation. File the defects if any. Execute all the regression security test cases to avoid any kind of vulnerabilities.

6) Creation of Detailed Report

In the last, we need to create a detailed report with all the vulnerabilities and risks identified in the application. We need to mention all those which were resolved and existing risks if any along with their severity.

By now, you might’ve got a decent idea about basic security testing for web applications. Web applications can be security tested both manually and via automation. You all must be thinking about how to do security testing for web applications manually. Not to worry, let us look at the detailed manual security test cases for web applications below.

Manual Security Testing Techniques

1) Monitor Access Control Management

Access control is very important for all applications to avoid any kind of insider threats. Your system should authenticate, and display information based on your access role.

For example, in an online inventory management system, a dealer should be able to manipulate with his data and not with the data of others where a system admin can play around with the data of all dealers. A well-designed access control management will help in avoiding all kinds of insider threats.

A security tester should create accounts with all the access roles and then verify that a user is only given access to information that is as per his access role. The security tester can maintain an active session in the browser with one access role and then try to login into the system with another user with different access.

Trying login to the application using disabled or expired accounts can help in finding vulnerabilities related to access controls. A security tester can also test by trying to log in to the application using different password rules and meanwhile playing around with password recovery and password changes. These can bring loopholes in the application.

2) Monitor Server Access Controls

A security tester should assure that the server should have user access points so that the security is not breached at all. Server should block all open access points which are unsecured. You can verify by accessing the application via mistrustful IP addresses. Also, bulk transactions can be carried at a single time to check the server’s behavior.

3) Verifying Ingress and egress filtering

In this, we verify that no unauthorized network can send data to the server. We can perform this by sending data from a restricted network and then analyzing if the host server is accepting data or not. We need to verify the data communication between server and client so that ingress and egress points are secured.

4) Session Management

In this security testing, testers verify session management for the application. Session duration is analyzed, and different test cases are executed such as the session should expire when the logout button is clicked, the session should expire after maximum session duration or idle time.

5) Cracking of password

This is the favorite way for hackers to attempt security thefts. Your web application should have strict password policies like having numeric, alphabets along with special symbols.

Hackers attempt brute-force attempts to guess different password combinations. Also, ensuring the password is always stored in an encrypted format is an easy way to make them less vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

A security tester should attempt to log in with an incorrect password and then verify that your web application should block the user after a defined number of failed attempts.

In addition, if an attempt is made via a suspicious device or network then multi-factor authentication such as OTP or security questions should be enabled.

6) SQL Injection

It is a technique by which malicious SQL statements are injected into your web application so that hackers can gain access to data to your application. They can corrupt the data or can use the data for their profit gains. For all the applications which use Oracle databases, it is one of the most common methods of security thefts.

Manual testers usually verify the SQL injection entry points. This is done by identifying all the places in database code where queries are executed based on one input the user provides.

A tester can use random combinations of inputs such as double quotes or single quotes. When some database error shows up on the UI, the tester can easily verify. If there is an error, it can indicate that some query’s execution is happening based on the wrong data.

7) Cross-site Scripting

In this, we execute malicious scripts in the browser to check if the website is prone to such attacks. The website should not accept any kind of HTML or scripts from <HTML>. Hackers can use these scripts to steal information from your database by appending & parameters to the URL to inject malicious script.

8) URL manipulation

The tester has to verify that no sensitive information should be passed as part of query strings. These types of attacks mostly occur when your application uses HTTP GET method to transfer information. A tester can pass random values in query strings to verify the behavior of the application. If a tester can manipulate query string, then there are a high number of chances of information at high risk.

Automated Security Testing

It is very important to leverage automated security testing to avoid any kind of vulnerabilities. Security testing is very tedious, and it is very important to test all aspects of the application so there are high chances we can miss some potential bugs while manual testing of web applications. Let us look at some security testing tools which can be leveraged by security testers.

1) Intruder

Intruder is a vulnerability scanner that finds threats related to configuration, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, etc. It follows OWASP web security testing standards and can also perform API penetration tests to find out weaknesses in your APIs. You can schedule your pen test using an intruder.

Intruder also takes care of misconfigured cloud configurations so that hackers cannot use them for their benefit. It provides high-quality reports and has seamless integration with Slack, Teams, JIRA, and Zapier.

2) ZAP

ZAP is an open-source security testing tool that is widely in use. OWASP maintains ZAP, and you can use it for dynamic application security testing as well as for AJAX Spidering.

Jenkins also has a plugin for ZAP with which we can run automated ZAP security tests in the pipeline. This plugin provides various options such as active scan, spider scan, session management, and ajax spidering.

Using ZAP, one can inject a lot of fuzzy payloads to analyze the application’s behavior in an unexpected state. It is highly popular for web socket security testing and is highly scriptable. JSR223 scripting can be used in ZAP to get rid of manual processes.

3) Acunetix

Popularly used for medium-sized organizations to get rid of data breaches, Acunetix helps in identifying a large range of issues with its advanced scanning for 7000+ vulnerabilities. It provides a web crawler for complex web applications to find security issues related to password management.

This security testing tool provides capabilities of vulnerability scanning, assessment, and management. And integrating Acunetix with CI/CD pipelines is seamless as well.

Also, Acunetix provides proof of exploitation so that false negatives can be eliminated. In addition, you would be getting some awesome scanned results with plenty of details. It makes this tool it one of the top choices for web security testing.


You would now have a good idea about basic security testing for web applications. If you still have questions and you want to know more, then contact us. Get free estimation from our team to implement security testing for your application.

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