Why should we perform security testing of Web Applications

Why should we perform security testing of Web Applications

Security testing of Web Applications deals with finding out all the inconsistencies and loopholes in the system which may result in a loss of information and used for unwanted purposes. Security Testing is not only mandatory, but it also needs to be continuous.

Security Issues of Web Applications can be prioritized based on

  • Exploitability – which is based on the ease at which the software can be exploited/violated.
  • Detectability – refers to the ease at which the threat can be detected
  • Impact on the software – refers to the magnitude of damage that can be done if the security loophole is attacked.

Let us review the main web application security issues that require services for a thorough and continuous security testing of web applications.

  1. SQL Injection and Cross Site Scripting: It is a kind of security issue that allows a user to alter backend SQL commands by crafting malicious data into application and tricking it to execute unintended commands or accessing unauthorized data. Cross Site Scripting or XSS targets users by injecting JavaScripts into the output of a Web Application. Such compromised outputs allows a hacker to obtain user sessions. This occurs whenever the data supplied by the user is not properly validated.
  2. Improper Session Management: While authenticating user credentials, user sessions are created in order to keep track of user HTTP requests. Such authentication credentials need to be encrypted at all times. A walk by attack or an XSS attack can steal the session values and impersonate the original user. Hence all high valued functions should carry out a two factor authentication.
  3. Web Server Security Misconfiguration: Misconfiguration of web servers  and applications are very common. These include –
  1. Running the application in production environment with the debug option enabled.
  2. Enabled directory listing on the server. This leaks valuable information.
  3. Running deprecated software.
  4. Unnecessary services running on the machine.
  5. Retaining the default user keys and passwords.
  6. Disclosing error handling messages to hackers.

4. Inadequate Transport Layer Protection: This implies using expired or  invalid certificates, not using SSL, which compromises the web security of the application and makes sensitive data available.

5. Insecure Direct Object References: This stems from the assumption that users will always follow the application rules. The best ways to prevent such vulnerabilities are to use random, unpredictable values and never expose the actual values of data parameters.

6. Unvalidated redirection: Here the parameter that causes the redirect can be manipulated, making the user think that the target site is also a safe and secure site, whereas, this may transfer them to any malicious page.  Header injection is also a cause of concern where unwanted user-defined input can be forcefully injected into the HTTP header.

7. Using unvalidated codes: It is a very convenient practice to incorporate code from a forum. But this is not free from a serious web security vulnerability. Software applications which contain third party lines of code need to be well documented, updated and regularly tested.

Conclusion

In order to prevent all the above listed security issues of web applications, a good knowledge of the HTTP protocol and the client-server communication is necessary.Security Testing in the current scenario is a must, as it is only a matter of time before hell can break loose on a user or an organization. A web application security testing approach needs to be proactive and defensive. The prime objective of a web security testing should be to determine vulnerability of the system. In order to achieve this professional and up to date services, Security Testing of Web Applications need to be a matter of prime importance.

Michael works for Cigniti Technologies, which is the world’s first Independent Software Testing Services Company to be appraised at CMMI-SVC Level 5, and an ISO 9001:2008 & ISO 27001:2013 certified organization.

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