In today’s broad digital landscape, web app penetration testing is considered as one of the most important parts of a company’s vulnerability management program. Conducting a web app penetration test not only requires expertise, but it also needs a significant amount of time. In this age of steadily increasing cyber attacks, it has become essential to have a solid understanding of the web app penetration testing procedure. In this post, we’ll explain it in detail and the major aspects you’d need to keep in mind if you’re going for a web app penetration test for the first time.
What is web app penetration testing?
It refers to the process of detecting an application’s security vulnerabilities by evaluating the website and its associated services with different types of malicious techniques. The purpose of web app penetration testing is to secure sensitive data from cybercriminals who may gain unauthorized access to the application. A web app penetration testing is widely known as a pen test and the tester is widely considered as an ethical hacker.
Importance of web app penetration testing
Web applications play an immensely important role in the digital domain. End users expect web applications to offer a good amount of functionality and data access while maintaining optimum security. If the developer fails to test and secure its web apps properly, a huge amount of business damage can happen. Today’s cyber defense needs a thorough and realistic understanding of diverse web application security issues. A few web hacking tactics can be learned by anyone, but proper web app penetration testing needs something deeper. In an ideal scenario, the objective of web app penetration testing is to create a secure web application.
How you can perform a web app penetration testing?
Web app penetration testing involves guidelines, phases, and rules that are needed to be followed in order to ensure an accurate test. Let’s have a look at the key phases of this testing.
Here the web application needs to be explored for collecting information about the website. You’d need to gain a complete picture of its web environment including its functionality and features. This phase is performed using web proxies, web browsers, web application assessment tools, and the exploration scenarios that vary based on the scope of assessment.
In this phase, vulnerability assessment is performed using a wide array of tools and techniques to simulate different attack scenarios in an authorized and controlled way. The key objective of this phase is to detect and exploit the vulnerabilities of the web application with different approaches. You can perform these simulated attacks as a normal user, privileged user, non-registered user, among others. Some simulated attack scenarios can be imagined as trying to alter the content of the website in an attempt to trick or deceive a victim, unauthorized access to different parts of the website that are only available to users with proper privilege rights or authenticated users, or attempts to retrieve critical information which should only be accessed by a certain group of users, among others. In addition, the status of the particular web server hosting the tested application is also verified for possible misconfiguration that can lead to security flaws, which can be exploited by a hacker.
This is the final phase where testers analyze the captured data, collect the necessary pieces of evidence of different activities (like screenshots, custom develop scripts, proof-of-concept pieces of code etc) performed by them and generate a final report of the test results. This report provides important insights on the found vulnerabilities, explains the risks as well as their impact on the application and/or the end users. It also provides a numeric risk score which demonstrates the severity of the vulnerability. In addition, recommendations on the best ways to prioritize and fix those vulnerabilities are mentioned in this report.
Web app penetration testing methodologies
The methodology can be referred to a set of security industry guidelines on the method based on which the testing should be performed. There’re some well-established standards and methodologies that can be used for web app penetration testing. However, as each web application needs different kinds of test to be performed, testers can develop their own methodologies by referring to the methodologies and standards available in the market.
Some of the common test scenarios include SQL Injection, Cross Site Scripting, File Upload Flaws, Broken authentication and session management, Security Misconfigurations, Caching Server Attacks, Password Cracking, Cross Site Request Forgery, among others.
Types of web app penetration testing
There’re two major ways to perform web app penetration testing. Let’s have a look at them.
External penetration testing
In this scenario, attacks are done from outside the company and involve testing web applications that are hosted on the internet. Testers are only given the IP of the target system to simulate these attacks.
Internal penetration testing
In this scenario, testing is performed within the company using its LAN and it involves testing of web applications that are hosted on the intranet. This helps testers to find out if there’re vulnerabilities that exist within the corporate firewall.
With the above information, you should get a good understanding of how to conduct a web app penetration testing and you can start testing. Once you’ve done your first testing, you must remember to log and collect all vulnerabilities in the system. Any scenario shouldn’t be ignored assuming that it won’t be executed by the end users.