Malicious hackers primarily attack websites and web apps. Many organizations have begun to offer essential services through web applications, such as banking, healthcare, and intelligence services. This has made them the leading cause of data breaches. Therefore, it becomes essential for businesses to test web apps for breaches and malicious activity.

When testing web apps under the supervision of an experienced testing team, it is essential to have a web application penetration testing checklist for consistent comparison. The testing team creates a strict pen-testing checklist to ensure that the total domain of web application security testing is exhaustively covered. This article will explain the penetration test and the ultimate checklist for efficient web application penetration testing. 

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is about evaluating software for security flaws by skilled security experts (also known as penetration testers or ethical hackers). Various IT helpdesk support teams offer this service to organizations. 

This process includes finding, assessing, and reporting the vulnerabilities that exist in the web application, including buffer overflow, input validation, code execution, bypass authentication, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and cross-site request forgery. This test aims to improve the software’s security flaws such that hackers cannot easily exploit them. It is a preventive control, providing an overall view of the system’s overall security.

1. Information Gathering

Businesses must not conduct penetration tests arbitrarily or blindly. The foremost crucial step is to acquire as much information as possible about your web app’s potential threats, vulnerabilities, hazards, etc. 

This is accomplished by generating a sitemap using crawling tools, manually opening pages, employing brute force to reach unlinked folders, getting information from developers, etc. Furthermore, ensure that comments and metadata, third-party applications/services, metafiles, and access points are included while gathering intelligence on the various components of a web application/target function.

2. Vulnerability Assessments

Web applications consist of multiple components and vulnerabilities, not all of which require testing. However, it is possible to scan for known vulnerabilities, such as SQL injections, XSS, file inclusions, and other OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities using automated tools like web vulnerability scanners. Getting assistance from trusted testing service providers allows you to personalize scanners and fine-tune policies based on your business’s specific needs. 

With the assistance of the available security analytics, you can comprehend traffic behavior, the nature of attack attempts, attack trends, etc. You can then validate the results of the scan done by the IT helpdesk team to determine what is exploitable and the associated dangers. So, you must utilize penetration tests to identify gaps in business logic, user/web browser-specific problems, undisclosed vulnerabilities, and other misconfigurations that are not revealed by vulnerability scanning. 

3. Develop a Solid Security Strategy & Plan for Penetration Testing

Create a solid security plan with the help of testing service providers. Based on the obtained information/intelligence and site map, define the scope, objectives, and expected outcomes/deliverables of penetration testing, prioritizing significant issue areas and high-risk components over others, based on the obtained information/intelligence and site map. Additionally, parts of the application where users can add, delete, or edit material (comment section, contact forms, etc.), third-party services hosted, entrance points, etc., should be given utmost importance.

You should also test several users, such as an external source with minimum or no privileges and a user with all privileges and authorizations.

You must specify the techniques and tools that can test the web application. In most cases, organizations opt for outside security services to run penetration testing. In such cases, ensure that it is only entrusted to trustworthy and certified security specialists who combine intelligence, technical abilities, and innovative techniques to maintain the highest levels of web application security. You should reach out to a trusted testing organization offering excellent security solutions.

4. Actual Exploit

An ideal penetration testing process should be done for testing the following within your web application:

  • Incorrect deployment and setup of the network, application platform, framework, file extensions, etc.
  • Access control, privileges, authentication, authorization, and identity management flaws enable the theft of sensitive data by malicious parties.
  • Penetration testers should continue to adjust privilege levels, access control, etc., to determine if vulnerabilities may be exploited. Additionally, evaluate the effect of extended access and privileges on the system and data.
  • Weaknesses in session management include logout capabilities, session timeout, CSRF, session hijacking, etc.
  • Input/data validation issues determine if the program permits unsanitized user input.
  • Error handling by the program to determine whether or not cyber attackers can obtain sufficient information to execute attacks.
  • Data encryption and data transfer gaps
  • Business logic weaknesses and the means through which they can be exploited to alter workflows.

 5. Analysis & Reporting of Results

Penetration testing alone is insufficient. The most crucial step is to conduct a detailed study of various test results. Compile their findings and analyses so that the security personnel or IT helpdesk team may fine-tune the WAF and other security measures, and developers can solve other high-priority flaws. The key stakeholders must comprehend the nature of known and unknown vulnerabilities, sensitive data, and the time-frame penetration tester.

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