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Software Testing

Security Testing: Types, Best Practices to Follow, and Testing Tools

Security testing is a type of testing where the system is tested to identify the vulnerabilities, threats, risks in a software application and prevents malicious attacks from intruders. 

The main purpose of security testing is to identify all possible loopholes and weaknesses of the software system which might result in a loss of information, revenue, and reputation at the hands of the employees or outsiders of the organization.

Importance of Security Testing

The main goal of security testing is to identify the threats in the system and measure its potential vulnerabilities, so the threats can be encountered, and the system does not stop functioning or cannot be exploited.

It also helps in detecting all possible security risks in the system and helps developers to fix the problems through coding.

Types of Security Testing

There are mainly 7 types of security testing. They are:

  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Security Scanning
  • Penetration Testing
  • Risk Assessment
  • Security Auditing
  • Ethical hacking
  • Posture Assessment

1. Vulnerability Scanning

In this type of security testing, vulnerability scanning is performed with the help of automated software to scan a system to detect the known vulnerability patterns.

2. Security Scanning

Security scanning is done to identify network and system weaknesses and provides solutions for reducing these risks. This scanning can be performed for both manual and automated scanning.

3. Penetration testing

Penetration testing is a type of testing where the application is attacked by a malicious hacker.

This testing involves analysis of a particular application to check for potential vulnerabilities to an external hacking attempt.

This allows us to analyze whether the application is capable of withstanding hacking attempts by the hackers.

4. Risk Assessment

Risk assessment testing involves analysis of security risks observed in the organization. The risks are mainly classified into three. They are Low, Medium and High.

This testing recommends controls and measures to reduce the risk.

5. Security Auditing

This is an internal inspection of the application and operating system for security flaws.

An audit can also be done by line-by-line inspection of code.

This will help in identifying bad coding standards that affect the system security and rewrite good quality code that enhances system security.

6. Ethical hacking

Ethical hacking is a hacking done on the organization’s software systems.

Unlike malicious hackers, who steal for their own gains, the intent is to expose security flaws in the system.

This type of hacking is done with the permission of the organization and they are the one who performs this testing using hacking experts.

7. Posture Assessment

Posture assessment is a type of security testing that combines security scanning, ethical hacking and risk assessment to show an overall security posture of an organization.

Security Testing Best Practices to Follow

Some of the best practices for security testing are

  • Test the accessibility
  • Test the protection level of data
  • Test for malicious script
  • Test the access points
  • Test the session management
  • Test the error handling
  • Test the other functionalities

1. Test the accessibility

Accessibility testing contains testing the application with the users who have access to the application. It is mainly done to identify whether any unauthorized user has access to the application.

It mainly involves authentication and authorization. This ensures that the data is available only to the authorized users and user roles.

2. Test the protection level of data

The security of the data depends on

  • Data visibility and usability
  • Data storage

Data visibility means defining how much data is visible to users. It is important to test the application for the various types of user roles and their areas of visibility in the application.

Data storage involves testing the security of your database. Proper security testing measures are required to ensure the effectiveness of data storage.

A professional tester can test the database for all kinds of critical data such as user account, passwords, billing and others.

It is important that the database stores all the important data. The transmission of data should be encrypted as well.

The qualified tester also checks the ease of decryption of the encrypted data.

3. Test for malicious script

In this method a malicious script is injected into an application using XSS and SQL injection and tester tests whether the application is capable of handling such malicious data.

For example, the tester can check the maximum lengths allowed for the input fields. This restriction doesn’t allow a hacker to include these malicious scripts.

4. Test the access points

There are access points or URLs that are public and known to most of the people. So there is a possibility of unwanted breach at these access points.

To overcome this the tester has to conduct testing on these access points and make sure that the application is immune from such attacks.

Here the tester evaluates and ensures that all the access requests come from reliable IPs or applications.

5. Test the session management

Session on the web includes the response transactions between your web server and the browser utilized by a user.

Testing the session management involves multiple actions such as expiry time of the session after a certain idle period, maximum lifetime of termination, session end time after a user logs out and others.

6. Test the error handling

Testing the error codes is very important as part of security testing. This includes the errors of 408, 400, 404, and others.

The tester should perform directed actions to reach such pages and ensure that the presented page doesn’t contain any critical data or information.

This helps in ensuring that all the data presented on error pages are safe and can’t help the hackers.

This test also includes the checkup of the stack traces, which can help the potential hackers to breach.

7. Test the other functionalities

Other functionalities that require testing are the file uploads and payments. These functions require thorough testing.

Any malicious file that is found during this testing should be restricted.

Also, the tester should check the vulnerabilities associated with the payments such as buffer overflows, insecure storage, password guessing, and other issues.

Security Testing Tools

For performing security testing there are some best tools available for us. They are:

  1. Acunetix
  2. Intruder
  3. WireShark
  4. W3af

1. Acunetix

Acunetix helps small to medium-sized organizations ensure their web applications are secure from costly data breaches. 

It does so by detecting a wide range of web security issues and helping security and development professionals act fast to resolve them.

Features

  • Advanced scanning for 7,000+ web vulnerabilities, including OWASP Top 10 such as SQLi and XSS
  • Automated web asset discovery for identifying abandoned or forgotten websites
  • Advanced crawler for the most complex web applications, including multi-form and password-protected areas
  • Combined interactive and dynamic application security testing to discover vulnerabilities other tools miss
  • Proof of exploit provided for many types of vulnerabilities
  • DevOps automation through integrations with popular issue tracking and CI/CD tools
  • Compliance reporting for regulatory standards, such as PCI DSS, NIST, HIPAA, ISO 27001, and more.

2. Intruder

Intruder is a powerful, automated penetration testing tool that discovers security weaknesses across the IT environment.

Offering industry-leading security checks, continuous monitoring and an easy-to-use platform, Intruder keeps businesses of all sizes safe from hackers.

Features

  • Best-in-class threat coverage with over 10,000 security checks
  • Checks for configuration weaknesses, missing patches, application weaknesses (such as SQL injection & cross-site scripting) and more
  • Automatic analysis and prioritization of scan results
  • Intuitive interface, quick to set-up and run your first scans
  • Proactive security monitoring for the latest vulnerabilities
  • AWS, Azure and Google Cloud connectors
  • API integration with your CI/CD pipeline

3. Wireshark

Wireshark is a network analysis tool previously known as Ethereal. It captures packets in real time and displays them in human readable format. 

Basically, it is a network packet analyzer – which provides the minute details about your network protocols, decryption, packet information, etc. 

It is open source and can be used on Linux, Windows, OS X, Solaris, NetBSD, FreeBSD and many other systems. The information that is retrieved via this tool can be viewed through a GUI.

4. W3af

W3af is a web application security scanner. It provides a vulnerability scanner and exploitation tool for Web applications. 

It provides information about security vulnerabilities for use in penetration testing engagements.

It has three types of plugins; discovery, audit and attack that communicate with each other for any vulnerabilities in site.

For example, a discovery plugin in w3af looks for different URLs to test for vulnerabilities and forward it to the audit plugin which then uses these URLs to search for vulnerabilities.

Final Thoughts

Hope this article has provided you all the insights regarding security testing.

Do you follow any best practices mentioned above and which tool(s) you use in your testing process? Let’s have a conversation in the comments section.

If you have any security testing requirements, feel free to contact our testing experts at Perfomatix.

Perfomatix | Product Engineering Services Company