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- A06:2021-Vulnerable and Outdated Components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?
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.
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
A web application pen test is vital to your business’ security.
The Web Application Penetration Testing Process
Web application pentesting typically involves the following phases:
- Planning Phase: This initial stage involves defining the scope of the test, including which application pages to assess, whether to conduct internal or external testing, and setting a timeline.
- Pre-Attack Phase: Reconnaissance is conducted to gather publicly available information that could be used in the attack. Tools like Nmap and Shodan might be employed for tasks like port scanning and service identification.
- Attack Phase: Here, pentesters attempt to exploit identified vulnerabilities, mimicking potential real-world cyber-attacks.
- Post-Attack Phase: After testing, a detailed report is generated, highlighting vulnerabilities, their severity, and recommended remediation measures.
How is a web application pen test performed?
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.
Why is Web Application Penetration Testing Essential?
Web application penetration testing, often referred to as pentesting, is the process of assessing web applications for vulnerabilities by simulating cyber-attacks. A staggering 73% of successful breaches in the corporate sector occurred by exploiting web application vulnerabilities. As businesses continue their digital transformation journey, ensuring the security of web applications is paramount.
Benefits of Web Application Penetration Testing
- 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.
Tools and Techniques in Web Application Penetration Testing
A variety of tools are employed in the pentesting process, each serving a specific purpose:
- Acunetix: A popular web vulnerability scanner.
- HackerOne: A platform that connects businesses with ethical hackers.
- 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.
Types of Web Application Penetration Testing
Depending on the specific requirements and the nature of potential threats, different types of pentesting can be conducted:
- External Penetration Testing: This simulates attacks on live websites or web applications. It provides insights into the effectiveness of publicly exposed security controls, including servers, firewalls, and IDS.
- Internal Penetration Testing: Often overlooked, internal pentesting assesses web applications hosted on intranets. It’s crucial for identifying vulnerabilities within the corporate firewall, ensuring robust internal security.
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.
Automated vs. Manual Web Pentesting
While automated tools offer speed and efficiency, manual pentesting is essential for detecting intricate issues like business logic errors. Combining both ensures a thorough assessment.
Integrating Web Pentesting into Development
The earlier vulnerabilities are identified in the development process, the easier and more cost-effective they are to rectify. By integrating penetration testing into the development lifecycle, businesses can ensure that security is considered at every stage, reducing the risk of costly fixes later on.
Training and Awareness
While tools and techniques are vital, the human element cannot be overlooked. Regular training sessions for developers and IT staff can ensure that they are up-to-date with the latest security best practices and are more likely to design and implement secure applications from the outset.
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 zero 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.