By: Katie Johns
Developing a web-application is never enough! You need to test it. Hackers are scanning tons of web applications every day. They’re always looking for vulnerable web applications. With the penetration testing approach, you can ensure that your web applications are not in danger.
Nevertheless, the purpose of conducting a penetration test doesn’t always matter. What matters is that how it benefits your business! In this article, we’ll discuss the WHYs and HOWs of web-application penetration testing.
What is Penetration Testing and why is it important?
The penetration testing of web applications is an elaborate test where the test engineer follows a few steps to collect all necessary information available from the target system. With this test, you can find out the flaws within your target system that could invite hackers. Sometimes a web-application includes some critical vulnerabilities. Penetration testing helps in detecting those from the root.
When you develop a web application, what are your primary aims? Let us guess. You want to create an application that does the job seamlessly and that is free from any vulnerabilities. In short, every enterprise aims at creating secured web applications.
Now, with penetration testing, you can ensure that you’ve actually created a secured and flawless web application. Here’s why penetration testing is important:
- Penetration testing finds out both major and minor weaknesses within your target system
- Penetration testing detects and fixes all the security loopholes within a system
- With penetration testing, you get the opportunity to analyze all your present security policies
- Most importantly, penetration testing guides you to identify the most critical route in your system that a hacker can take to attack your applications
- And the bonus is that you get to check whether DNS, Routers, and other components are functioning correctly or not
What are the types of Penetration Testing?
There are three different types of penetration testing approaches. Find out more below to identify what suits your enterprise the most:
Black Box Penetration Testing
Under this approach, your testing team won’t have any clue about the systems you have prepared. They will typically act as the hackers and find out the weakest links to exploit in the web application.
Gray Box Penetration Testing
In this approach, the penetration testers have some idea of the target system. They generally know the algorithms and data structures of the target system. So, what they do is create test case scenarios based on the system designs and documents they have in hand.
White Box Penetration Testing
Finally, for the white box penetration testing approach, the group of testers has access to source codes, containers, binaries, and even the server running systems. Hence, with this approach, the probability of accuracy is highest at the minimum time.
What are the phases of penetration testing?
There are three distinct phases of penetration testing. Here’s a detailed discussion:
Phase 1: Pre-attack phase
- In the initial phase, the pen testers collect all relevant information associated with the target system. They find out the issues to be addressed and the methods/approaches that would be the right fit to move forward.
- In this same phase, the pen testers define their goals and the scope of the tests.
- In the pre-attack phase, gathering intelligence from different networks and domain names is also important. This way, you get to find the prospective weaknesses of your target system.
- Then comes the analysis stage. In the pre-attack phase, the pen testers perform two different kinds of static and dynamic analysis. As part of the static analysis, they test the source codes of an application. That way they can easily find out how these codes will react to different security scenarios.
- On the contrary, in the case of dynamic analysis, the pen testers focus on the real-time execution of the source codes. The dynamic analysis is relatively a more realistic approach to scanning.
Phase 2: Attack phase
- Once the pen testers are done collecting the data, they use it to address the local ports and services. It is time to conduct an elaborate vulnerable assessment for an insight into the target systems and applications.
- In the attack phase, the pen testers take assistance from different web attacks including cross-site scripting, backdoors, SQL injection, etc. These are all the areas where the pen testers look for probable vulnerabilities.
- Once the vulnerabilities are identified, the testers then move on to exploit these weaknesses. They perform different actions including data breach, bug exploitation, traffic interception, etc. With these actions, it becomes easier to find out how harmful these vulnerabilities are and their possible consequences.
Phase 3: Post-attack phase
- It is the final phase where the pen testers create and submit a detailed report explaining their findings and the best solutions to protect the target systems.
- Later on, the security professionals of an enterprise analyze these findings and come up with suitable strategies and solutions that make a system risk-free.
Interesting Read: Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: Which one should you use and when?
Top 5 Penetration Testing Tools that Pen Testers Use
Let’s find out about the best tools in penetration testing:
nMap (Network Mapper) is a popular penetration testing tool. This tool can invariably answer questions like:
- Which ports are open at the moment?
- What is running on the open ports?
And so on! Needless to say, these are some crucial datasets for the pen testers when they are in the process of penetration testing. Also, there are no legal issues associates with nMap. In fact, many legitimate entities like insurance agencies, risk scorers are using nMap for penetration testing purposes.
Hashcat claims to be the fastest password recovery tool in the entire world. While we’re not sure about this, we can definitely say that investing in Hashcat is a good choice. This tool supports different types of password attacks like mask attacks, dictionary attacks, password guessing attacks, and so on. If you’re using an advanced GPU version, know that Hashcat runs the best in there.
3. Kali Linux
Kali Linux should be your primary penetration testing tool. Trust, we’re not exaggerating a bit when we say this. This tool has been designed and updated frequently to make sure that every bit of it can work as a cool penetration testing tool. BTW, Kali Linux was previously known as BackTrack Linux.
The default operating system of Kali Linux is most commonly used in different used cases of penetration testing. Nevertheless, Kali Linux is not optimized to defend your system. It can only test the vulnerabilities. So, make sure that you’re not storing your most important files within Kali Linux.
Another penetration testing tool that you can definitely use is Wireshark. The best thing about Wireshark is that it detects the traffic that is passing through your network. Also, this tool can support different types of protocol analyses. So, in our opinion, every new pen tester must learn the A to Z of Wireshark.
5. Burp Suite
Burp Suite is a vulnerability scanner for web applications. It is a premium tool that most MNEs use. There is a community version of Burp Suite but it doesn’t match up to our expectations in terms of its features and functions. The enterprise or premium version of Burp Suite may cost you up to $4000 a year. Yeah, that’s undoubtedly a lot for SMEs! But then again, the premium version is worth every penny. The web vulnerability scanner is one of the most effective pen-testing tools at the moment.
Are there any challenges of penetration testing?
Well, yeah! There are some challenges associated with penetration testing. Here are a few:
- Penetration testing is labor-intensive. Only pen testers with proper education and training can perform this testing. That makes it costly as well.
- Let’s be honest! There is no 100% assurance that you’ll detect all bugs and vulnerabilities through penetration testing.
- There are possibilities of a sudden crash or collapsing of the entire system/server due to the heavy vulnerability scanners.
That was it about penetration testing. We hope you have a brief idea about penetration testing, its phases, and tools. Is there anything that you didn’t get?
Let us know in the comments section. We’ll be more than happy to help!