Our Thoughts
Jeevan Bhushetty
QA Practice Lead
13 October, 2021
9 MIN READ

Security Testing - A Complete Guide

Security threats can tremendously impact your web and mobile applications. When your mobile and web applications are not secured and safe via security testing, it makes the web apps vulnerable to security attacks like threats, risks, and misuse of data. Users tend to avoid applications with security threats as they are afraid that their data will be misused.
 

According to recent research, 17% of breaches include malware attacks; 45% were hacking and 22% were phishing attacks.
 

Hence, security testing is a must to make mobile and web applications safe and user-friendly. Security testing is a type of software testing that helps in discovering threats, vulnerability and risks in mobile and web applications. It is conducted to identify any threat in the application and helps in preventing attacks from intruders.

Security Testing should be a part of your mobile and web application development life cycle as it helps in developing and deploying secure software. The purpose of this is to find out all the weaknesses and loopholes in the system that may result in revenue loss and information loss.

Security testing aims to analyze various security sections by following these six principles: authenticity, availability, continuity, confidentiality, authorization, and non-repudiation. In addition, security testing ensures that the software information and data are protected from any losses. 

When we talk about the internet and the web, online security is a matter of concern. If the web or mobile applications cannot protect the data, no one will ever use it. For example, if your site has a payment protocol, then the user’s banking information with his email id data must be secured. If these details reach the wrong hands, the user can get into trouble. Thus, establishing a security system that helps identify the loopholes beforehand saves online businesses or users from security attacks and misuse of sensitive information.

 

The need for security testing

The security system helps in detecting any threats or risks on the software. In addition, it helps to identify loopholes and risks associated with the software system. When it comes to the web, security is the topmost priority. If, while using an application, your transaction data is not secure, users will think twice before using it. Security testing helps develop solutions around these loopholes through the means of coding and delivering flawless and secure applications. Security testing is needed to make sure all the information and data are secure and safe.

Security testing helps identify the loopholes that were not discovered during the code review, security white box test. In addition, it helps in identifying the applications’ vulnerabilities that were ignored during the first screening test and the development phase of the software. 

Security testing works on six principles. These principles help in developing an integrated system that helps in securing the data of the users. 

  • Confidentiality - This determines whether your user has full control over their information so that only authorized people have access to it. 
  • Authentication - This is to check whether the user’s identity is correct or not. Sometimes people may put wrong information to get access to the information. 
  • Integrity - This principle will help in confirming that the information received is correct or not. 
  • Availability - The data and information on the software should be available to users at any given point
  • Non-Repudiation - The web and mobile apps should be able to deny any action that has already taken place. 
  • Authorization - The user should have permission to do any activity in the software. The user should have permission to use the data and information present on the site. 

 

Types of security testing 

There are seven types of security testing mentioned in the Open Source Security Testing methodology manual: 

  • Vulnerability Scanning - Vulnerability scanning is the first step in security testing that helps to identify known loopholes and signatures.
  • Security scanning - Both automated and manual tools are used in security scanning to identify the loopholes. Security schanning is the process of identifying misconfigurations in software, systems, networks, and apps. The outcomes from this test are listed and analyzed in-depth to find the relevant solutions.
  • Penetration Testing - It is a process of performing a real-time cyber attack on an application and network software under secure conditions. This test is performed manually by a security expert to check whether the software will be able to handle a cyber attack in real situations. In addition, penetration testing exposes the unknown vulnerabilities of an application. 
  • Ethical hacking - Ethical hacking is a broader concept than penetration hacking. Here all the hacking methodologies are used to check whether the application, network, or software will handle a cyberattack in real-time. Through ethical hacking, all the misconfigurations are exposed by attempting attacks from within the application and software. 
  • Risk assessments - Risk assessments, classifies, identifies, and analyzes the security risks.. These risks are classified into low, medium, and large scale. Here, mitigation controls are suggested that are based on priority. 
  • Posture Assessment - The overall security for any organization is determined through posture assessment. This is an amalgamation of ethical hacking, risk assessment, and security scanning. 
  • Security Auditing - Security auditing is an internal inspection of systems and applications to check for security flaws. Security audit can be done using the line-by-line inspection of code. 

 

Desktop and mobile security testing

A desktop application should be secured for its access and storage of the data. Likewise, a web application requires even more security than a desktop application for its access and to protect its data. While making a web application, a web developer should ensure that it is immune to Brute Force Attacks, XSS, and SQL injections. In addition, Brute force attacks are dangerous to web applications and desktop software and applications. 


How to do security testing?

It is a known fact that the cost of security testing will be more if it is done after the software implementation stage. Hence, it becomes necessary to include security testing in the initial stages of your System Development Life Cycle (SDLC). 

Here is the security process that should be adopted for every stage in the SDLC:

  1. Requirements - Security test analysis for requirements. To check the misuse/abuse case. 
  2. Design- Develop test plans involving security testing. Analysis of security risks for designs.
  3. Unit and Coding Testing- Dynamic and Static testing + Security White Box Testing
  4. Integration Testing- Black Box Testing
  5. System Testing- Vulnerability Scanning and Black Box Testing
  6. Implementation- Vulnerability Scanning, Penetration Testing
  7. Support- Analyze the impact of patches

 

Security testing methodologies

In security testing, several methodologies are followed:

Tiger Box - Tiger box is a type of hacking done on a laptop comprising hacking and OS tools. This methodology for security testing helps security testers and penetration testers to conduct vulnerability attacks and assessments. 

Black Box - The tester is permitted to conduct tests related to technology and network topology.

Grey Box - The tester is given partial information about the system, and it is a mixture of black and white box models. 

 

Approaches for security testing

Follow are the mentioned approaches while planning and preparing for security testing:

  • Security architecture study - The initial step is to understand the organization's requirements, objectives and security goals. 
  • Security Analysis - Analyze and understand the requirements of the web application to be tested.
  • Classify Security Testing - Collect and classify every information used while developing web application networks and software such as technology, and operating systems.
  • Test planning - On the basis of detected risks, threats and vulnerabilities prepare a test plan. 
  • Reports - Prepare a detailed report of the identified threats, issues and vulnerabilities. 

 

Security testing roles

  1. Crackers- Crackers usually break into the systems to steal and destroy data.
  2. Hackers- Hackers access networks and computer systems without any permission.
  3. Ethical Hackers- They hack software and applications with the authorization of the owner. 
  4. Script Kiddies- These hackers are not experienced and have programming language skills. 

 

Security testing tools

There are many tools available for security testing. Some of them are mentioned below: 

Intruder

The intruder is a security testing tool that is easy to understand and use. It is a vulnerability scanner that is enterprise-grade. It conducts over ten thousand high-quality security tests over your IT infrastructure involving application weaknesses, missing patches, and configuration weaknesses. It provides proactive scans and accurate tests. It also helps in saving time and keeps applications safe from hackers.

Owasp

The OWASP: Open Web Application Security Project focuses on improving the security of applications and software. It is a non-profit organization comprising several tools to penetrate many software protocols and environments.

Acunetix

Acunetix is easy to use, and it helps small and medium-sized companies ensure that their web applications are immune to costly data breaches and are perfectly secured. Acunetix detects a wide range of web security threats and issues. It helps developers to detect such issues early to solve them immediately. 

Wireshark

Wireshark is a security and network analysis tool also known as Ethereal. Wireshark is a network packet analyzer that provides details about the decryption, network protocols, packet information, and many more. It can also be used on OSX, Linux, Solaris, Windows, NetBSD, and other systems. The results depicted from these security tools can be seen through TTY and GUI.

W3af

W3af is an audit framework and a web application attack. It comprises three different types of plugins: audit, attack, and discovery, which communicate to check any vulnerability on site. For instance, a discovery plugin focuses on several URLs to check vulnerabilities and then forwards it to the audit plugin that uses these URLs to find vulnerabilities. 

Burp Suite

Burp suite testing tool which uses PortSwigger's research to help in finding vulnerability and threats in web applications. It provided quicker automated results. 

Wapiti

Wapiti is a web application vulnerability scanner that enables users to audit the security of web applications and websites. Wapiti covers errors such as SQL injections, XSS, Shellshock, open redirects, XXE injection and many more. 

 

Myths and facts about security testing

Let’s get to know about the facts and myths about security testing:

Myth1: There is no ROI (Return of Investment) in security testing 

Security testing points out areas that require improvements which lead to improved efficiency and web application. Security testing makes your web application secured and immune to various security attacks like SQL injections and Brute Force Attacks. Hence, security testing gives ROI.   

Myth2: If someone has a small business, they are not required to have a security policy.

Anyone and everyone is required to have a security policy. Security policies and testing are necessary for every type of organization, whether it is small or big. Security testing helps in finding loopholes that will make your web application better. 

 

Conclusion

Security testing is the most mandatory and necessary type of testing for a web application. It ensures that all the confidential information in an application stays secure. Mobile apps are vulnerable to hacking attacks. We simulate hacking attacks on your app and identify security loopholes along with relevant recommendations. We also provide backend security/server-side security testing for larger applications. Know more about our Quality Assurance services here.

Jeevan Bhushetty