Fundamentals and techniques of security testing

Hackers are more active than ever

According to The Economic Times, hackers are using the disruption caused by COVID-19 to double down on cyberattacks. Phishing attempts have gone up by three times, and the work-from-home infrastructure is also under attack. In this article, we will discuss the various types of security testing you can perform for your application to save yourself from such threats.

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7 primary types of security tests

There are different types of security tests for various situations. Here are the basic ones:

  1. Vulnerability scanning.
  2. Penetration testing.
  3. Security scanning.
  4. Security auditing.
  5. Risk assessment.
  6. Posture assessment.
  7. Ethical hacking.

Now let us examine each type of security testing. We will also cover the exact process and tools for implementing the tests.

Types of security testing

Every application should be tested thoroughly before deployment — not just for testing the functionality of the application but for its security as well. Below listed are the primary tests performed to assess the security of any system.

1. Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning is performed to assess and identify security loopholes in the application to reduce the probability of a successful hacking attempt. Tactics include verifying the strength of the passwords, assessing the security of configuration files and databases.

2. Penetration testing

A penetration test is the simulated cyber attack against the application to check for vulnerabilities a hacker might use to break in. Penetration testing is used to augment the Web Application Firewall (WAF) and involves procedures like cross-site scripting, SQL injections and backdoors.

3. Security scanning

Security Testing Web Developer at WorkThis refers to scanning the security of a site, application, network or database system to identify the security risks associated with that system. Security scanning is performed by the administrators regularly and it can be either manual or automated.

4. Security auditing

Security auditing is testing the application to evaluate how well it performs on a set of established criteria. A security audit is often used to comply with regulatory guidelines of securing the confidential user
information.

5. Risk assessment

Risk assessment gauges the various risks associated with the system and categorizes them in the low, medium and high-impact category. It also recommends measures to mitigate those risks, starting with the most high-impact risks.

6. Posture assessment

A posture assessment can be useful for any organization that wants to identify where they stand, what they’re missing and what they need to do to increase the security level of their application.

It also helps the organization in preparing a roadmap to follow to reach their goal in terms of IT security.

7. Ethical hacking

Ethical hacking is the practice of intruding into the system with the right intention to identify the weaknesses of the system. Ethical hackers may use the same methods and tools used by malicious (black hat) hackers but with the permission of the authorized owner. The goal here is to defend the systems from attacks by malicious hackers.

Attributes of security testing

To make the system fool proof, security testers follow the below-mentioned attributes of security testing.

Authentication

Security Testing Graphic of Hacker MaskThe user’s digital identification is verified in the authentication attribute of security testing. Authentication is the process of checking whether the login credentials (username and password), answer to the security question and One Time Password (OTP) sent on mobile or email are correct.

It is extremely important that the account is accessed by the correct user, otherwise there can be a breach in the application security.

Authorization

While authentication allows the user to enter into the application, authorization controls the usability of the application based on the user’s role.

For example, an admin has access to all the records and views in the application, whereas a customer service agent might only be able to access the customer information that is required for them to perform their role.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality attribute confirms that the users have access to the right information. Data meant to be seen by managers or leaders should not be visible to the users having lesser privileges in the system for maintaining data privacy and confidentiality.

Availability

The availability attribute ensures that the system is always up and minimizes the downtimes if any.

Integrity

Integrity involves making sure that the information received is not altered and checking if the correct information is presented to the user.

Non-repudiation

It is important to deny access to a user with incorrect login credentials. For safeguarding the system further, it is also imperative to track down their IP address and ensure that they do not pose any further danger.

Resilience

This attribute finally checks the preparedness of the application against any malicious attacks. This attribute is completed by implementing OTP, encryption or two-layer authentication.

Related: This is a good time to improve your PHP web development skills

How to perform security testing of an application

Security Testing Closeup of Hands on Keyboard
Photo: Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

There is a set sequence to perform security testing in an efficient way. Below are the brief steps to perform the vulnerability testing of an application.

  1. Initial scoping: In the first phase, you define the metrics on which you are going to measure the security tests. All the required approvals are taken to carry out the security testing on the application.
  2. Reconnaissance or research phase: After initial scoping, this stage is quite important and demands maximum time. The entire application with its functionality is studied in this stage to understand the possible vulnerabilities of the system.
  3. Threat modeling: Identify risks and threats of the application. Break down the threats into smaller parts.
  4. Exploitation: After identifying the tests, you try to perform the penetration testing and see how deep you can go into the system to access the unauthorized information.
  5. Reporting: At the end of the testing, you document your activities and results. You will mention the methods that you have used, the vulnerabilities that you have identified in the system and the implications you have uncovered.

The final step is resolving any security issues you’ve found. At this stage, the development team works on the identified issues or vulnerabilities and then submits the application to the security testing team for re-testing.

This process can be repeated until all security gaps are fixed.

Security testing tools

There are various tools and softwares available in the market for performing security testing. Below-mentioned tools are quite popular amongst the security wizards:

  • w3af is an open-source web application attack and audit framework.
  • Arachni is a high-performance Ruby framework for performing penetration testing and evaluating the security of an application.
  • Grabber is a web application scanner for small websites.
  • Wireshark is the most widely used network protocol analyzer.
  • Netsparker is quite advanced and has many features to satisfy all your security testing requirements

Related: Learn how to get more web development projects

Final words

The central purpose of security testing is to identify the loopholes and vulnerabilities of the application so that it can be saved from the actual threat.

In this article, we have discussed the various types of security testing, their attributes and the exact process and tools required to implement the same. It is indeed the most important testing for any application because in the security of data lies the integrity of your business.

Image by: NeONBRAND on Unsplash