Web application penetration testing is a process of identifying, exploiting, and mitigating vulnerabilities in web applications. It is a proactive approach to secure web applications from attackers.
The goal of web application penetrations testing is to find all the vulnerabilities that can be exploited by an attacker and to harden the application against these attacks.
What is penetration testing?
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a type of security testing that you use to evaluate the security of a computer system or network.
Ethical hackers conduct those pen tests to gain unauthorized access to systems and data. The goal of penetration testing is to identify security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.
What is web application penetration testing?
Web application penetration testing is a process of testing a web application to identify security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. By identifying and addressing these vulnerabilities, web application testing can help improve the security of a website.
Web application penetration testing process:
- Propose information gathering
- Conduct a vulnerability scan
- Find and exploit vulnerabilities
- Report results to the customers
What are the different types?
There are four main types of web application penetration testing:
- Black box testing
- White box testing
- Gray box testing
- Adaptive/hybrid testing
Black box testing
A black box when used in the context of web application penetration testing means that the security tester has no prior knowledge of the system or applications tested. The tester has access to a firewall or network where the tested and located website is, as well as access to the website itself but with fabricated credentials.
White box testing
A white box testing means that the security tester has full knowledge of the system of applications tested. The tester has full access to the application, databases, and infrastructure that are being tested, with valid credentials.
Gray box testing
Gray box testing means that the security tester has partial knowledge of the system or applications tested. The tester has partial access to the infrastructure that is being tested, with federated credentials.
Adaptive/hybrid testing means that the tester follows a black box approach for the initial phases of testing and then switches to a white box approach. This occurs if the hacker discover vulnerabilities during the first stage. It allows the tester to try and gain more persistent access to the system or application. A hybrid test combines all three of the above approaches, starting with a white box approach, transitioning to a grey box, and then ending with a black box approach.
Why is web application penetration testing important?
You can use penetration testing to test the security of both internal and external-facing websites and web applications. When testing externally facing systems, penetration testers will attempt to gain access to sensitive data or functionality. For internally facing systems, testers will attempt to elevate privileges or access sensitive data.
Penetration testing is an important part of website and web application security. By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, you can help to protect your website or web application from unauthorized access, data theft, database corruption, or website defacement.
What are the different types of web application penetration testing?
There are three main types of web application penetrations tests:
A third-party firm or security testers conduct this type of test. Usually, they aren’t affiliated with the organization that owns or operates the website tested.
In this type of test, the organization that owns or operates the website tested works with the tester to establish testing objectives and define when the testing will take place.
- Ad-hoc or incident-based
This type of test is conducted when a vulnerability is discovered that may immediately pose a risk to the organization, its users, or its reputation.
Testing can also be categorized based on the level of access attempted during the test.
- Low-level access tests
Low-level access tests attempt to gain access to systems without authentication (aka authentication without credentials).
- Authentication-aware penetration testing (AUP)
Authentication-aware penetration tests attempt to gain authenticated access.
- Authentication less penetration testing (ALP)
Authentication-less penetration testing attempts to gain unauthenticated access to a system.
It’s important to note that these categories aren’t mutually exclusive. A single test may incorporate multiple levels of access and types of testers.
How can web application penetration testing improve your website’s security?
While you can use web application penetration testing to find vulnerabilities in any type of web application, it is especially useful for finding vulnerabilities in custom-built applications.
Application security testing using application performance testing tools and automated testing tools can also identify vulnerabilities in off-the-shelf applications. But, it is possible that a web application penetration test will miss some vulnerabilities.
Penetration testing can also identify insecure configurations, such as ports that should be secured but are left open. Which is another vulnerability.
Penetration tests, both authentication-aware and authentication-less, can also be more accurate than vulnerability scans in identifying application-level vulnerability. Especially in complex custom-built applications.
Those tests are more likely to identify all the vulnerabilities that exist in a web application. This information is critical for developing a secure configuration for the application. Is also important for understanding how the application should be.
What happens after a pen test?
The insider will communicate their results with the target company’s security team after completing a penetration test. This data can then be utilized to enforce security improvements to address any flaws found during the test.
New WAF rules, stricter form validations, rate limiting, and DDoS mitigation are some examples of these improvements.
Penetration testing is an important aspect of web application security. By performing penetration tests, organizations can identify vulnerabilities in their systems and take steps to mitigate the risks. While penetration testing can be costly and time-consuming, the benefits of doing so far outweigh the costs.
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