Web applications have become an integral part of modern businesses, offering a wide range of functionalities and conveniences. However, with the increasing complexity and ubiquity of these applications, they have become prime targets for cyber attackers. A Web Application Penetration Test is a crucial step in identifying and rectifying potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
Read on to find out how a web application pen test is executed, and how it can benefit your business.
What is a web application penetration test?
A web application penetration test is part of an ethical hacking engagement designed to highlight issues resulting from insecure coding practices and configuration of web applications. The types of issues discovered are categorised against the OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities list, these are:
- A01:2021-Broken Access Control
- A02:2021-Cryptographic Failures
- A04:2021-Insecure Design
- A05:2021-Security Misconfiguration
- A06:2021-Vulnerable and Outdated Components
- A07:2021-Identification and Authentication Failures
- A08:2021-Software and Data Integrity Failures
- A09:2021-Security Logging and Monitoring Failures
- A10:2021-Server-Side Request Forgery
What are the benefits of a web application test?
- Identify Security Weaknesses: Before malicious actors can exploit them, it’s essential to be aware of potential vulnerabilities. This proactive approach not only safeguards sensitive data but also enhances brand trust and reputation.
- Compliance with Regulations: Regular pentesting helps organisations adhere to global security standards like PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR.
- Evaluate Security Policies: Testing allows businesses to verify the effectiveness of their existing security measures and make necessary adjustments.
Incorporating web application penetration tests into your security practices helps you to assess the integrity of your infrastructure and identify its vulnerabilities before they’re breached.
When we say ‘infrastructure’, we mean things like firewalls and servers from which the web applications are hosted, and are public-facing. If any modifications are made to the infrastructure, they can result in vulnerabilities. Web application pen testing can identify any existing or potential weaknesses, so they can be reinforced before a hacker has chance to abuse them.
This kind of security testing can also help you meet compliance requirements, and validate existing policies around web security. Depending on your industry, penetration testing is required to keep sensitive information safe from exploitation. Web application pen testing also ensures that any security policies are being met and, if not, are rectified.
Understanding Web Application Penetration Testing
Web app penetration testing is a discipline that goes much beyond mere security auditing. As an integral part of information security, it actively seeks to uncover web application security flaws through simulated cyber attacks on your web application. With a penetration tester acting as a potential attacker, the security posture of your app can be thoroughly tested.
Why do you need a web application penetration test? It helps assess the potential business impact of a successful cyber attack, which is vital for maintaining your organisation’s reputation and consumer trust. Enlisting the services of a web application penetration testing company allows you to leverage the abilities of adept pen testers, who use a combination of automated and manual penetration testing techniques.
Our services at Aardwolf Security enhance web service security through advanced methodologies whether it’s a vulnerability scanner that detects security flaws or a manual penetration testing technique used in API penetration testing.
The Significance of Web Application Penetration Testing
As a consultancy who has worked in this landscape for years, we’ve seen firsthand how conducting a pen test can greatly improve web application security. It’s built not only on the skills of the pen tester but also on the apt use of web application penetration testing tools. Manual and automated penetration testing work together, like DNA strands coiling around each other, to offer in-depth insight into security vulnerability.
Web app penetration testing also offers valuable insight into the effects of potential security breaches. Understanding the potential business impact of these breaches, evaluating any likely data compromise, and formulating a response plan are all crucial tasks. This helps companies anticipate and prepare for potential security incidents and minimize their damage.
You might still have lingering questions, and I understand your concerns. Therefore, I urge you to reach out to us at Aardwolf Security for further elucidation on web application penetration testing. We will be more than happy to advise you on the most effective path forward to ensure your web application is secured and the integrity of your data is preserved.
Who could benefit from a web application security test?
Web application pen tests are for any business that is responsible for a website or web application. If you have a:
- Web application or website
- CMS, especially a bespoke CMS
- Digitally hosted client accounts
- Employee accounts with a hierarchy of access privileges
- Back-end log of sensitive payment information
- Back-end log of other sensitive personal information
Methodologies Used in Web Application Penetration Testing
Here at Aardwolf Security, our team of penetration testing experts have established an effective 6-step system for performing a web application security test:
To get an idea of the client’s security level, a pen testing expert will first conduct an analysis, assessing the potential requirements, using Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
Using automated scanners, the consultant will delve deeper into the infrastructure of the client’s servers, picking up any surface-level weaknesses.
3. Manual assessment
This step is where most of the consultant’s time is utilised, and involves specific manual penetration testing on the following areas:
- Session management
- Input validation and sanitisation
- Server configuration
- Information leakage
- Application workflow
- Application logic
Next, the vulnerabilities unveiled in the scanning and manual probing stages are raised to the client. Depending on the client’s business operations and the severity of the vulnerabilities, the client may give the consultant the go-ahead to subject certain issues to exploitation attempts.
After the exploitation attempts have been made, the pen testing consultant will produce a comprehensive report to highlight the impact likelihood of all system defects, and recommend solutions.
The sixth and final step of the process, offered exclusively at Aardwolf Security, is a free retesting, once the client has actioned their software system solutions, to make sure that their infrastructure weaknesses have been resolved correctly and completely.
Essential Tools in Web Application Penetration Testing
High quality web application penetration testing relies heavily on efficient usage of specialised tools. As a pen tester, I’ve found tools such as Invicti, Burp Suite, and nmap to be indispensable. The right penetration tool can transform the way your web application withstands threats.
A variety of tools are employed in the pentesting process, each serving a specific purpose:
- Acunetix: A popular web vulnerability scanner.
- Burp Suite: An integrated platform for performing security testing of web applications.
- Browser’s Developer Tools: Useful for inspecting elements, viewing source code, and debugging.
- NMap & Zenmap: Tools for network discovery and security auditing.
- ReconDog & Nikto: These tools assist in the reconnaissance phase, gathering information about target web applications.
Acunetix: A Popular Web Vulnerability Scanner
Burp Suite: An Integrated Platform for Performing Security Testing
Burp Suite is a comprehensive toolset designed for web application security testing. It combines a variety of features, from crawling and scanning to more advanced functionalities like session manipulation and intrusion. It’s particularly useful for manual testers, providing a rich interface that allows for detailed inspection and modification of HTTP requests and responses. Burp Suite offers both a free community edition and a more feature-rich professional version, catering to different needs and budgets.
Browser’s Developer Tools: Useful for Inspecting Elements, Viewing Source Code, and Debugging
NMap & Zenmap: Tools for Network Discovery and Security Auditing
NMap (Network Mapper) is a highly versatile tool used for network discovery and security auditing. Its GUI-based counterpart, Zenmap, offers the same functionality in a more user-friendly interface. These tools can identify devices running on a network and discover open ports along with various attributes of the network. NMap is invaluable for understanding the ‘lay of the land’ before launching a more targeted attack or scan.
ReconDog & Nikto: Tools for Reconnaissance and Information Gathering
ReconDog is a straightforward Python script that provides an array of useful reconnaissance features, allowing you to gather DNS information, conduct subdomain mapping, and more. Nikto is another reconnaissance tool that is focused more on web server configurations, aiming to uncover issues like outdated software and potential vulnerabilities. Both tools are often used in the early phases of a penetration test to paint a detailed picture of the target environment.
How to Implement Web Application Penetration Tests Effectively
when it comes to securing your web application, a one-off measure simply won’t suffice. Security is a continuous, multi-layered effort that requires both in-depth expertise and an understanding of your specific business needs. That’s precisely where we, at Aardwolf Security, come into play.
We start our engagement with comprehensive planning. Understanding your specific objectives—be it compliance mandates or a general security review—helps us tailor our approach. We’ll define the scope in granular detail, deciding which applications and functionalities to test, and set a realistic yet effective timeline. At this stage, we’ll also allocate the appropriate resources from our expert team to ensure a blend of technical and strategic skills.
Following this initial groundwork, we delve into information gathering and reconnaissance. Our specialists will use an arsenal of tools and manual techniques to identify the technology stack of your application, map out related subdomains, and unearth any publicly accessible information. This comprehensive survey acts as the springboard for our threat modelling. We identify and prioritise possible attack vectors specific to your application, such as SQL injection, CSRF, or XSS vulnerabilities.
Execution is the crux of our engagement. Our experts employ an array of sophisticated tools, both automated and manual, to carry out the penetration tests. Automated scans provide a broad overview, but we believe that manual inspection is where we truly add value. Our team delves into the complexities of your application, scrutinising session management, business logic, and other intricate functionalities. We also simulate real-world attack scenarios to see how your system stands up under genuine threat conditions.
But our job doesn’t end at identifying vulnerabilities; we take it several steps further. Our meticulous analysis leads to a comprehensive report that details our findings and classifies vulnerabilities based on their severity. Importantly, we provide you with a roadmap of actionable remediation steps. This isn’t a generic report; it’s a tactical guide that enables your internal teams to prioritise and implement fixes effectively.
Post-remediation, we’ll revisit your application to ensure all vulnerabilities have been adequately mitigated. At the same time, we’ll update our documentation to incorporate any changes. This ensures that you’re not just secure today, but are also prepared for tomorrow.
Finally, we advocate for regular security assessments. The cybersecurity landscape is ever-changing, with new vulnerabilities emerging frequently. Our periodic reassessments will help you stay ahead of potential threats. Additionally, our ongoing monitoring services can provide real-time insights into your security posture, enabling you to take immediate corrective actions if required.
Case Study: Successful Web Application Penetration Testing
The following case study that highlights the value of thorough web application penetration testing. Our client was a well-known e-commerce site, looking for a comprehensive security audit of their website. The task was to analyse their web application for potential vulnerabilities and suggest countermeasures.
Our web application penetration testing methodology began with an extensive understanding of their application. We analysed their programming language, ran thorough vulnerability scans using Burp Suite, and spent a large amount of time using manual penetration testing techniques.
|Understanding the target web application||Analyzed the programming language and setup||n/a|
|Vulnerability scanning||Performed detailed security scans for potential vulnerabilities||Burp Suite Pro, Nikto, Nmap|
|Penetration testing||Manual penetration testing techniques||None|
We discovered several vulnerabilities, including XSS and SQL injection weaknesses. Vital to our approach was not merely identifying these security issues but also addressing them effectively. We curated a comprehensive plan towards enhancing their web application’s security posture.
Through our well-structured process and the right use of web application penetration testing tools, we were able to assist our client in fortifying their e-commerce website. Subsequent tests reflected a significant improvement in their web application’s security measures. Their site continues to thrive, with the reassurance of their customers’ data safety. Should your business require our expertise, please feel free to contact us at Aardwolf Security.
Challenges in Web Application Penetration Testing
Web application penetration testing is a critical discipline in the realm of information security. However, as a seasoned consultancy, we recognise the challenges that often accompany this process. Let’s talk about some of the common difficulties faced during web app penetration testing:
- Lack of understanding about the target system
- Inadequate or outdated penetration testing tools
- Difficulty simulating realistic cyber attack scenarios
- Struggles in mitigating identified security vulnerabilities
- Problem in maintaining regular testing schedules
In-depth Understanding of the Target System
Before conducting any tests, our team conducts a comprehensive review of your web application’s architecture and programming languages. This ensures that we can tailor our testing methods to closely match the real-world environment, making our assessments not just theoretically sound, but practically applicable as well.
In an industry where yesterday’s news is ancient history, we constantly upgrade our suite of tools to stay ahead of emerging threats. We employ a hybrid approach that incorporates both automated and manual techniques, allowing us to harness the speed of machine-based scanning while applying the nuance of human expertise where it counts.
Realistic Simulation of Cyber Attacks
We don’t just rely on standardised checklists; we simulate realistic cyber attack scenarios. Our methodology includes probing for a wide range of vulnerabilities, including but not limited to, XSS and SQL injections, thus mimicking the tactics employed by real-world cybercriminals.
Comprehensive Remediation Strategies
Identifying vulnerabilities is only half the battle. Our reports are complemented by actionable recommendations that detail how to mitigate or completely neutralise the identified threats. We provide a clear roadmap for remediation, making it easier for your team to prioritise and implement fixes.
Regular Testing Schedules
Much like how regular health check-ups are essential for well-being, we advocate for a consistent penetration testing schedule. To this end, we offer long-term partnerships that include periodic assessments aimed at catching new vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
Navigating the intricate world of web application security is challenging, but it’s a challenge that Aardwolf Security is more than equipped to tackle. If you require assistance in bolstering your web application’s security posture, we’re just one click away. Feel free to reach out to us for a bespoke, no-obligation consultation.
Web Application Security Tips: Beyond Penetration Testing
Even with the use of comprehensive web application penetration testing services, your job of securing your web application isn’t quite done. As any penetration tester would tell you, maintaining an optimum level of security in your web application goes beyond performing a penetration test. Here, I’ll share a few tips to keep your web application security robust:
- Stay up-to-date with your app’s programming language, the latest security flaws, and developments.
- Enforce strict password measures and multi-factor authentication.
- Ensure that data inputs are thoroughly sanitised to prevent injections.
- Conduct regular security awareness training for your team.
- Consider a web application firewall for added protection.
Staying current with your web application’s programming language and latest security vulnerabilities is crucial. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it could be the key to protecting your web application from potential threats.
Consider enhancing your authentication measures. Strict password rules and multi-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security, making it more daunting for any potential attacker trying to breach your application’s security.
Thoroughly sanitising data inputs can protect against injections, a common vulnerability in many web applications. Simple measures can sometimes deliver meaningful results in the grand scheme of web application security.
Remember, your team plays a vital part in maintaining web application security. Regular training and awareness sessions can equip them to detect irregularities in the system and act promptly, potentially averting a security mishap.
Lastly, adding a web application firewall could be a worthy investment. It acts as a guard between your web application and the internet, filtering out malicious traffic and potential threats. And as always, our team at Aardwolf Security is here if you have more questions or need further assistance with securing your web application.
How long does it take to perform a web application security test?
There are numerous factors that influence the scoping of a penetration test, such as:
- The number of websites and subdomains
- Underlying infrastructure elements
- The number of pages
- How many input fields
- Privilege levels e.g. admin and basic user levels
How much is a web application penetration test?
A web application penetration test cost is calculated by the number of days a penetration tester will take to fulfill the agreed scope. The number of days can be determined by filling out our penetration testing scoping form or messaging us through our contact form to arrange a scoping call with one of our senior penetration testers.
The Importance of Regular Web Application Pen Testing
In an ever-evolving digital landscape, new vulnerabilities emerge regularly. Cyber attackers are constantly devising new methods to exploit these vulnerabilities. Regular web application penetration testing ensures that businesses can identify and rectify these vulnerabilities promptly, maintaining a robust security posture.
Customised Testing for Specific Needs
Every business is unique, with its own set of challenges and requirements. Aardwolf Security recognises this and offers customised penetration testing services tailored to the specific needs of each client. Whether you’re a financial institution handling sensitive customer data or an e-commerce platform processing thousands of transactions daily, Aardwolf Security has the expertise to address your specific concerns.
Continuous Monitoring and Support
Post-penetration testing, it’s crucial to have continuous monitoring in place to detect any anomalies or potential threats. Aardwolf Security offers round-the-clock monitoring services, ensuring that any potential threats are identified and dealt with promptly. Additionally, our team provides ongoing support, assisting businesses in implementing the recommended security measures and ensuring their effectiveness.
Key steps after a web application penetration test
After a web application penetration test, you should plan to remediate the issues found. At Aardwolf Security, we prioritise the vulnerabilities based on their risk levels, providing you with a clear pathway to address the most critical issues first.
Following the report, we recommend conducting a meeting with your development team to ensure they understand the vulnerabilities discovered and how to fix them. Additionally, we encourage businesses to incorporate the insights from the testing into their development lifecycle to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Periodic retesting is essential to ensure that the remediation steps have effectively addressed the issues and to discover new vulnerabilities that may have been introduced during the remediation or development process.
Why Choose Aardwolf Security for Web Application Penetration Testing?
Aardwolf Security offers a unique blend of automated and manual testing, ensuring minimal false positives. Our platform is trusted by renowned brands and integrates seamlessly with CI/CD pipelines, making security an integral part of the development process.
Schedule your web application penetration test today
At Aardwolf Security, we have a track record of providing valuable and actionable insights through our web application penetration tests. We follow industry standards and use a methodological approach, combined with our vast experience and expertise.
Take the first step towards securing your web applications by contacting us for a free consultation. We’ll help you understand your risk landscape and suggest the best course of action tailored to your business requirements and objectives. Get in touch with us today for a free quote via the contact form.