Adaptation of large-scale web applications at a wider level in several multi-faced industry verticals like healthcare, banking, intelligence services and others has exposed them to massive data breaches. Despite increasing awareness about security, complex threat vectors continue to put organizations across the globe under attack.
Recent data security numbers highlight that numerous threat actors successfully compromised a number of institutions across several industry verticals and the trend of stealing personally identifiable information (PII) is increasing every year in a continuous manner. The situation is so grim that it is estimated that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world around $10.5 trillion each year.
Hence, protecting web applications from cyber-attacks and ensuring their safety has become imperative for every organization at present. And what comes handier than the tried and tested ways of security testing. That is why we have come up with a detailed security checklist based on the OWASP Security Testing Guidelines regarding the web application penetration testing checklist which you must follow.
5 Tips to Get Started with Your Web Application Penetration Testing Checklist
Web application penetration testing is all about simulating how a threat actor would conduct unauthorized attacks externally or internally on your application and gain access to sensitive information. But the most important aspect of it is how to get started. Don’t you think it would be great if you had a checklist at hand?
Here are a few tips on how you should proceed with your web application penetration testing checklist:
1. Segregate Test Categories
One of the important first steps when it comes to a web application pen testing checklist is to decide what kinds of tests you are going to run and what vulnerabilities you are focusing on. Categorizing your tests into relevant categories can play a vital role in organizing your security efforts. It is recommended that you pick categories that best fit the requirements of your application and the resources at hand. Major categories that we would recommend include:
Weak Platform Configuration Tests
Application Functionality and Business Logic Checks
Checks for Sensitive Data Exposure
3rd Party Component Checks
Session Management Tests
Weak Application Configuration Checks
Weak Server Configuration Checks
Check for Authentication Bypass
2. Create a Baseline for Your Tests
It is literally not viable to cover each and every test scenario in your checklist. However, we shouldn’t overlook those basic tests that save time and efforts for your organization and also cover the most prominent vulnerabilities. The creation of baselines for your tests is an important part of your checklist as it would later ensure that your application satisfies the basic security requirements and other performance standards.
3. Link References and Solutions
It may not be logical to try and fit every verbose testing procedure into your current checklist but including links that contain relevant information can bring wonders to your checklist. We recommend that you should limit the number of test scenarios in your checklist to the most common ones and link references for the others to increase coverage.
The inclusion of a small summary along with useful resources and induction of any troubleshooting that occurred during the first use case can play a major role in speeding up the whole process.
4. Use an Apt Testing Checklist Program
Selecting a suitable checklist solution can help free up more of your time for looking into complex vulnerabilities which haven’t been covered in your baseline tests. There are a number of checklist platforms that can help create and maintain a list of required tasks and procedures.
Our recommendation is to use the platform which has the capability to connect the tests with the findings and ultimately create a report or a ticket for the targeted business owner. This will also go a long way in reducing the number of redundant tasks and enhance the speed at which your entire team can work through significant solutions to get desired results for the people who need them.
5. Prioritize and Remediate
The entire point of testing for web application vulnerabilities is to try and fix them before someone else tries to take advantage of them. At the end of any test that you conduct, you must have a process put in place to deliver the information about the identified vulnerabilities to the right people so that they could be remediated and mitigated soon.
Prioritizing vulnerabilities and their remediation should be an important part of your checklist and it must be made sure that the vulnerabilities are reported and remediated according to the policies of your organization.
Web Application Penetration Testing Checklist that Security Professionals Use
The checklist that we are going to discuss here involves a set of security industry guidelines that are based on how the testing should be performed based on several important factors. We have focused on the testing methodology established by OWASP for the purpose of web application penetration testing.
All of the tests mentioned in this standard checklist are based on the black-box testing approach. The tests in the checklist have been divided into 12 categories. Let’s see how each of them works.
1. Information Gathering: In the avenue of information gathering, the testers usually explore the site/web application to gather information about exposed content and files, identify related applications, hostnames, and possible application entry points.
2. Configuration and Deployment Management Testing: Gaining information about the deployed configuration of the server which hosts your web application is equally important to the entire testing process itself. Configuration errors have the capability to compromise the integrity of the application in a similar way to an untested application that can threaten the entire server.
3. Identity Management Testing: Identity and access management are all about managing and defining access privileges and roles of internal network users and the circumstances under which those privileges are granted or denied. In identity management testing, tests for user registrations, account provisioning, username policies etc. are conducted.
4. Authentication Testing: Improper authentication functions can act as a doorway for hackers to break into your application by compromising session IDs, passwords and exploit numerous other flaws using the user credentials. That is why it becomes essential to conduct authentication testing by assessing default credentials, password policies, browser cache weaknesses among other parameters.
5. Authorization Testing: After testing for authentication and gaining the required roles and privileges, the next step is to test for authorization. During this assessment, a tester explores if there is a way to bypass the existing authorization framework by conducting tests for privilege escalation, directory traversal file includes etc.
6. Session Management Testing: In session management testing, the tester checks whether the cookies and other session tokens are implemented in an unpredictable and secure manner. These tests are important because if a hacker can predict any information related to a user’s session, then he might be able to easily hijack the whole session.
7. Input Validation Testing: One of the most common security weaknesses in modern-day web applications is the inability to validate the incoming input from the environment or the client. This security loophole leads to most of the major web application vulnerabilities like file system attacks, SQL injection, Unicode attacks etc. In this type of testing, tests for cross-site scripting, SQL injection, SSI injection etc. are performed.
8. Error Handling: In error handling testing, it is checked whether the system can handle errors, incorrect transactions, and exceptions. Tests for error codes and stack traces are performed during error handling testing.
9. Cryptography: Weak cryptography has severe consequences. In the absence of HTTPS enforcement in your web application, sensitive user information can be disclosed over insecure channels. In case of testing for weak cryptography, tests for weak encryption, insufficient transport layer protection etc. are performed.
10. Business Logic Testing: Business logic becomes really important when it comes to web application security as the vulnerabilities associated with it can’t be detected by any vulnerability scanner and their discovery solely depends upon the creativity and skill of the testers. These application-specific vulnerabilities are also very specific to the parent application and as a result, are severely detrimental. In business logic testing, testers usually test for malicious file uploads, process timing, conduct integrity checks etc.
11. Client-Side Testing: In client-side testing, we are usually concerned with the code execution on the client-side, which is generally within a browser or a browser plugin. In this type of testing, tests for HTML injection, CSS injection, cross-site flashing, WebSockets etc. are performed.
Web applications can be considered as one of the easiest targets for malicious hackers. That is why internal and web-based applications should be tested end-to-end to ensure that they don’t serve as a gateway of entry for attackers. It is also important that web developers carry out penetration testing on a frequent basis and ensure that their web applications are well-maintained and display a clean bill of health as far as security is concerned.
Having a well-structured security checklist not only makes it easy to channelize your organization’s efforts towards maintaining security but also minimizes the scope of any residual risk as all the avenues are already covered thoroughly. That is why, in order to make the most of web application penetration testing, it is extremely important to prioritize your testing efforts via a security checklist.