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Technology has shaped the world magnificently and has become a driving force for businesses and organisations. From academia to big enterprises, everyone is enjoying the perks of technological advancement in the form of applications, IoT devices, online shopping and businesses, portals, etc. including amateur to non-technical people, everyone now utilises some form of a networked-enabled communication system such as email, social media, etc.
However, all such innovative applications that dominate the world and manage almost all online businesses lack the essence of security at some point or other. Those gaps open up a vast opportunity for the intruders to break in and steal whatever they want.
To secure the application, software, network, precisely the cyber arena, the cyber security industry offers a wide variety of security testing and testing tools to assess and enhance the protection of applications.
This blog post revolves around the security testing types which businesses of all sizes must endure to outline the internal and external risk and/or exploitable weaknesses. But before we move ahead, you must understand what security testing is and why it is so important. So, let’s get started.
What is security testing?
Software security testing is a process of uncovering flaws related to the security mechanism of an application-connected information system and IT infrastructure. It is conducted to distinguish and detect underlying vulnerabilities within the application or software.
The ideology behind security testing is to measure the probability and impact of risk that can potentially compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data and assets.
It assures that the system or application operates under pre-defined requirements and has all the necessary components to eliminate the risk of exploitation. Thus, the result of the security test provides a real insight into business risk. Furthermore, it contributes a clear understanding to mitigate those risks and gauge the overall threats to make software immune to threats and risks to a possible extent.
Cyber security professionals use different types of security testing methodologies and tools. As no size fits all, similarly, not every security testing is made for every business. The testing methodologies and procedures vary with business niche, requirements, and circumstances.
Why is testing security important?
Application-based attacks are the norm presently; now and then, we hear about security breaches, data loss, data leaks, and whatnot. Applications and software are the foundation of every online activity, major intrusions target banking, health, e-commerce sectors and government organisations and this is why application-based attacks have been growing exponentially.
To overcome the attack chances, it is important that you put relevant security controls on every access and endpoint and continuously check the effectiveness of those controls through manual and automated tools.
Before online communication and businesses, shop owners, companies used to have a security guard on their premises, locks on the door, cabinets, etc., to prevent theft and robbery (These are still true in current times, too). Similarly, when businesses moved online, the protection against application intruders, cyber criminals, and data theft were still there, and here application security testing comes in.
Security testing, if done right, provides evidence of threats and shows how secure the system, application, network is. The only way to validate that you have suitable countermeasures in the right place is to test them through multiple testing strategies such as application security analysis, pen testing, risk assessment, vulnerability scanning, security audits, etc. All such security testing techniques identifies threats by analysing the vulnerabilities and associated risk factors and help fix the problem from the root cause.
What are different security testing types?
The cyber security industry has numerous application security testing types for every business and technology, including cloud security testing, operational technology testing, information technology security testing, and much more. However, all application security testing techniques adhere to one common goal and, i.e., protect the assets and make them resilient.
As a cyber security service provider, we recommend and every business the following security tests. These tests you must conduct half-yearly, annually or according to your security needs and circumstances.
The vulnerability scanning security testing helps perform analysis of vulnerabilities and misconfiguration across the operating system, web server, network, system, and application. It is usually done through automated scan against known vulnerability signatures to validate insecure user credentials, segmentation, access control policies, configuration issues, sensitive data leakage, denial of service flaws, etc. and helps remediate the risk according to their impact and occurrence possibility.
Penetration testing, also famous as ethical hacking, is one step ahead of vulnerability scanning. It identifies security flaws, known-unknown vulnerabilities in the organisation’s internal, external, application and/or system with a real attacker approach. It answers the question of how businesses can be breached, to what extent the assets are exploitable, and what remedial steps businesses should take to reduce the risk impact.
Risk assessment enables organisations to take vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and other cyber security analysis results as input. It maps identified threats and weaknesses according to their importance to business, the likelihood of appearance and potential to collapse the overall security control in any minor or significant cyber incident.
This security testing works as a proactive approach and helps the organisation to implement countermeasures, prepare plans and risk mitigation strategies.
Application security testing involves the secure development and deployment of the application. This testing incorporates security countermeasures in the overall application/software design and development process to minimise the attack surface.
It involves continuous security management from the application foundation, implementation of security considerations in the application architecture, threat modelling and gap analysis in it, secure coding practices as well as helps maintain application and/or web security through the pen testing, vulnerability assessment, patch management policies to build mature applications with an integrated secure development life cycle throughout the processes.
Third-party risk assessment
The modern application relies upon a variety of third-party frameworks and libraries, which significantly increase the attack surface. As a result, an attacker who compromises any of the third-party products or services integrated with your application or network would also be able to attack your assets. In this regard, third-party risk assessment greatly helps test and quantify the associated risk your third party may impose upon you.
A security audit systematically examines a company’s established security controls models with industry regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, etc. In addition, the audit assesses the information system security processes and practices to ensure that the business complies with the standards and offers a defended data security and communication pathway.
What are the security testing tools?
Usage of tools is a vital step to security testing methodology. However, tools vary in their functionality, accuracy and support. It is impossible to include all the tools as they keep getting updated with new releases and updates. Some of the popular evergreen tools are included here.
It is worth mentioning that several tasks taken during manually focussed assessments include the use of custom scripts, utilities and other proprietary items that are part of the tool-set in use. For example, scripts to enumerate information based on true/false results in an input validation scenario, scripts prepared by penetration tester to scrape information from responses and modify them to automate certain areas during web app test.
Nmap or Network Mapper is a free and open-source software tool used for vulnerability assessment, pen testing, security audit and network discovery in various web application security testing. It is also used by network and system administrators to facilitate network inventory, monitor hosts, manage services, and various other networking tasks.
It analyses IP networks and then determines what hosts availability over the network, application, network services and version, operating system running on the network, types of firewalls, packet filters and other, open ports, network protocols, and other similar characteristics.
Nessus is another open-source vulnerability scanner tool used for asset discovery in vulnerability analysis, web application security testing, network scanning, penetration testing engagements. This tool inspects each port on a network to discover services running on them and then scan for exploitable vulnerabilities.
Nessus is a widely used security tool in the security industry and one of the requirements in some of the compliance regulations such as PCI-DSS. Along with scanning vulnerabilities and ports, it detects missing security updates, patches, security gaps in a local and remote host and simulates attacks to exploit the flaws.
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Burp Suite is among the most used and popular web application security testing tools. It is widely used by security professionals, bug hunters for web pen testing and vulnerability assessment. This tool intercepts the HTTP request, acts as a man-in-the-middle proxy, and allows capturing and analysing each request To and From the targeted web application.
Furthermore, it enables to pause, modify, and replay of individual HTTP requests and provide manual and automated fuzzing attacks to test application behaviour under certain circumstances.
Acunetix is an automated vulnerability scanner and web application security testing tool used to audit the web application against the vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (CSRF), directory traversal, and other exploitable vulnerabilities. In addition, it restrains false positives and examines websites and web applications against malware that could be present on the webserver.
Wireshark is a free and open-source network packet analyser tool. It captures the network traffic from the wireless network, Bluetooth, token ring, etc., to analyse the packet details in the run-time environment.
It is widely used across the IT and security industry; network administrators use it to troubleshoot network issues, security professionals use it to evaluate the network security and network application.
How do you test security on an application?
Application security testing is the fundamental element of enterprise security. Your application must be free of all vulnerabilities and glitches before deployment and released for everyday use. Nevertheless, there will be some flaws that you might encounter once the application goes live, but for maximum protection and efficiency, you must undertake security testing tools and processes to identify flaws in the application.
You can test security on the application by incorporating a secure software development lifecycle (SDLC). Secure SDLC is the efficient solution to embed and test security in the pre and post-development stages.
It describes how the software should be designed and developed while considering the software testing and activities requirements. Of course, you can add the secure SDLC in a developed or released application, but the latter increases the cost.
Therefore, the optimal option is to adopt a secure SDCL to in-production applications. It makes the software resilient and prepares it to face an internal and external attack that could in any way compromise the CIA triad of information security or disrupt the brand reputation and customer trust.
The secure SDLC security testing is based on the following fundamental steps.
This revolves around analysing different abuse cases that could trigger any bug or provide a path to misuse any application’s functionality.
This phase focuses on the security risk analysis of application design, i.e., both front end and back end. It includes analysing the design of each application process to understand the risk with each function and user experience.
In this secure SDLC stage, the codes are reviewed with static and dynamic security testing to identify vulnerabilities present within the code and insecure coding practices.
Once the code is reviewed and the application is developed, the security testing is conducted in this stage of secure SDLC to verify whether the developed code meets all the requirements decided in the first stage or not. At this point, multiple security testing approaches such as vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, system testing, etc. are carried out to verify the effectiveness of implemented defence countermeasures.
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Once the testing is done, the application is all set to release for public use. At this stage, the developed application is undertaken into a run-time environment for simulated attack tests to evaluate application behaviour, resilience and ensure full-stack security.
The last stage of secure SDLC is performed after the release of the application. It is a continuous process and solely done to improve the application security, patch vulnerabilities that come with the evolution of attack vectors and industry trends. In addition, it includes annual pen-testing, audits, and other on-demand security requirements.
Software security testing is a continuous process and should be done at least half-yearly. Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques and tactics and safeguarding your web application against evolving cyber threats. Therefore, you must check and validate the security health check frequently. Therefore, every new application/software must undergo a security testing process and be tested beyond the minimum open web application security project checklists (OWASP).
As a cyber security consultancy and service provider, we at Cyphere ensure application security through our diversified approaches based on customers i.e. SaaS, service providers, retailers or eCommerce websites, etc.
Our services include web application pentesting, source code review, API testing and much more. We also offer customised and managed security services according to business needs and requirements.
Get in touch for a free consultation or discuss your security concerns.