If you’re venturing into a penetration testing process for your web application, then you should know certain basics and the reasons for doing such testing.

Penetration testing is an efficient way of mock-testing the security infrastructure of your system in an ethical and simulated manner to find out all the loopholes and vulnerabilities before a hacker does. It can be done in different ways and through different strategies, internal or external, with full, partial, or zero knowledge of the system being hacked, for mobile or web applications, etc.

At the end of the process, the detailed report will give you an insight into how easy it is for the hacker to steal important data, find emails and enter servers, and mess up the website security to get what they want.

Here are a couple of notes and steps you can keep in mind when moving forward with the process:

1. List out your testing scenarios

There are general threats you want to test your system for and for designing the testing methodology, but if you think that a specific situation or problem affects you significantly, feel free to add it to the list as well.

Till then, here are a few for

your reference;

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks
  • SQL injections
  • Flaws in file uploads
  • Security misconfigurations
  • Ease in cracking username and password combinations
  • Cross-site request forgery
  • Problems in authentication and session management
  • Detecting and noting down attacks on the server

2. Preferred web penetration testing methodology

There are a couple of industry guidelines for maintaining security based on each kind of web application. You always have some well-established and reputed security standards at your disposal for this testing procedure, with different testing possibilities.

Some of these are;

  • PTF – Penetration Testing Framework
  • OWASP – Open Web Application Security Project
  • PCI-DSS – Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
  • OSSTMM – Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual

Steps 1 and 2 are important because they both combine to decide your testing strategy for the respective platform.

For example, if you’re testing an eCommerce website, you can’t expect to find all vulnerabilities and issues using a standard testing method such as OWASP.

The platform and the technical requirements and/or standards it uses cannot be covered under OWASP – instead, testers should pay attention to loopholes and security risks in Content Management System (CMS) integration, payment gateway details, coupons and rewards, order management, etc.

3. Types of Testing

As mentioned before, we have both internal and external testing options.

Internal penetration testing is usually done from within the organization, using their LAN, and will also test applications over the Intranet. This is an efficient method for testing the company’s firewall as well, and see if it blocks all potential dangers.

As important as external dangers are, internal issues regarding employees, leaked passwords, social engineering attacks, misuse of user privileges, should be tested with equal importance.

External penetration testing involves testing web applications hosted over the Internet. Ethical hackers are given the IP address of the desired target and information depending on the testing strategy (black – zero information, gray – partial, white – full information) is provided as well.

Testers will scan all web pages available publicly and see if they can gain information of – and compromise the security of – the target hosts.

4. The Testing Approach

The Planning Phase – Here, you need to identify the scope or area of testing, understand the system environment, its firewalls, and system protocol, and prepare all required documents and materials containing information such as web integration, HTTP/HTTPS protocol, architecture, integration points, etc which is crucial for testers to know.
You also need to define what constitutes the success of the testing procedure and maintain a standard from the previous testing procedure.

The Execution Phase – It is best if testers engage the system in different user roles, to find out their respective vulnerabilities.
They should also note down the issues found during the testing process and mention it in the final report later.
Test reports are extremely important to the entire penetration testing procedure, as it dictates both the company’s business strategy, its customer-centric vision, and IT security strategy for the future.

The Post-Execution Phase – This is where the issues are discussed, suitable remedial measures are mentioned, and all stakeholders are informed of the implications.
Consequently, all vulnerabilities must be tested again for further clarity and to check if the remediation measures implemented were successful.
For the cleaning up stage, make sure that all settings are placed back into their original form for the business operations to continue as before.

There is always more information, testing strategies, and suitable procedures to be followed during a penetration test. Given above are some of the basic details to be kept in mind when proceeding with such testing – there are always security professionals, who are experts in this matter, so don’t be overwhelmed with this information!

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