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All you need to know about application security testing

April 22, 2022
 by 
Avipsha GhoshAvipsha Ghosh
Avipsha Ghosh

Introduction

With organizations deciding to have almost all of their services available through mobile applications and other web services, testing software and apps are now a necessity. The ever-increasing threat of cyber attacks makes security applications irreplaceable for any enterprise. Mobile app security testing is crucial to mitigate risks arising due to gaps in the security infrastructure.

Automated security testing had begun as a manually conducted procedure. However, due to the growing modular nature of software, the numerous open source components, and unknown risks and threats, application security testing needs to be automated. Usually, enterprises use a combination of different testing tools.

What is application security? Why is it important?

Application security is required at an application level to prevent any data stolen or hijacked. It includes all the risk scenarios during the software development lifecycle. Application security measures also continue after the app is deployed to improve the protection provided to existing apps. Security testing encompasses hardware and software-based procedures which identify and reduce vulnerabilities. A good example of hardware application security is a router that hides a computer's IP address. An example of a security procedure concerning software is when an application firewall defines what kind of activities are allowed or prohibited. 

Application security measures are developed, added, and tested within mobile applications. These protect your apps against vulnerabilities such as errors that come from modification and unauthorized access. The importance of application security testing rests on many different aspects:

  • Being available over many different networks and connected to the clouds, security threats are also increasing. Application security testing reveals weaknesses where attacks can be prevented without incurring much cost. 
  • While developing an application, any third-party code must go through automated security testing. Components offered by external vendors cannot be entirely trusted because much of it is open source, and the developers of isolated codes don’t necessarily pay as much attention to industry standards or security guidelines. Scanning these codes almost always reveals some issues which need to be patched. 
  • Application security in the cloud poses different challenges. Extra care must ensure that users only have access to the data they are authorized to view. Sensitive data tends to be vulnerable on a cloud-based platform because it is constantly transmitted back and forth.

The cloud-based security testing market is predicted to have substantial growth. 

Also read: Why is Automated Mobile Application Security Testing a Priority for Businesses

The different types of application security features 

As a part of application security features, authentication, authorization, encryption, and logging are significant. Developers have their ways of coding applications to help reduce the vulnerabilities they may face.

Authentication

Some procedures are built into an application's system to ensure that only authorized users can gain access to it. We can ensure this by having the user provide a username and password unique to them when logging into the application. The kind of authentication which requires more than one form of identification is called multi-factor authentication. These can be passwords, integration of mobile devices, or more personal options like thumbprints or facial recognition tests. 

Authorization

Authorization protocols allow the user to have access to the application. Authentication is mandatory before authorization so that the application matches users only with validated credentials. The system is programmed to authenticate the user against the list of already authorized users.  

Encryption

Authentication and authorization apart, there are security measures that protect sensitive data from being stolen, seen, or used for nefarious purposes. It is helpful in cloud-based applications to encrypt the data to keep it safe during a cloud-user interaction. 

Logging 

In case of a security breach in an app, logging is helpful to identify the location of the breach. Application logs are maintained, and they can provide time-stamped records of exactly what parts of the application were visited and accessed by whom and when. 

Finally, application security testing is the cumulative procedure to ensure all security controls work seamlessly without any roadblocks.

Check out: Why should you invest in Mobile App Security Testing?

Types of automated application security tests

  • SAST or Static Application Security Testing: 'SAST' tools use the white box testing approach in which the internal operations of an application are tested. The static source code is inspected to figure out security vulnerabilities. Syntax and mathematical errors, invalid and insecure references, and input validation troubles can be identified from non-compiled code. They need to use binary and byte-code analyzers to run on compiled codes.
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST): In DAST, mobile application security testing tools use the black box testing approach. The code is inspected in runtime to expose security issues. Issues with query strings, usage of scripts, requests and responses, memory leakage, authentication, execution of third-party components, DOM injection, and cookie and session handling can be dealt with via DAST tools. This is known for simulating a large number of test cases.
  • Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST): the tools here are an evolved version of the SAST and DAST tools. They run dynamic tests and inspect the software at runtime. They are executed from within the server that lets them investigate compiled source code. These tests can provide valuable details on the root cause of vulnerabilities and the programs to which they are attached. They can analyze source code, third-party libraries, and data flow and are best suited for testing API.
  • MAST or Mobile Application Security Testing: MAST tools combine static and dynamic analyses of forensic data generated by mobile applications and investigate it. They are best known for addressing mobile-specific issues like jailbreaking, wifi network issues, and data leakage problems from mobile devices. 
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA): SCA tools conduct inventories on third-party open-source and commercial components within the software. 
  • Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP): These tools evolved from SAST, DAST, and IAST. Their specialty is to monitor application traffic and behavior during runtime and detect cyber threats to prevent them in the future. 
Also check: Improving Software Security - The Latest Trends

Best Practices of Application Security Testing 

Application security testing abides by new industry standards that facilitate certain best practices. 

  • Integrate security testing into every stage of development: Novel industry practices like DevSecOps emphasize the requirement for security at every step of SDLC. Here are a few scenarios where security automation tools can help:
  • Aid developers to understand all security concerns and enforce the best practices at the early developmental stage.
  • Help the testers to recognize security risks early before production is finished.
  • Mitigate risks by identifying and blocking vulnerabilities in the source code itself.
  • Testing internal interfaces with APIs and UIs: A common mistake that testers make is to focus their energy on external threats such as public API requests and user inputs submitted through web forms. However, it is more common for hackers to attack weaker authentication of internal systems once they have penetrated the security perimeter. A best practice would surely be to leverage automated security testing to test the inputs, connections, and integration between internal systems.
  • Regularity in testing: It is crucial to test frequently. New vulnerabilities can be discovered every day since enterprise applications generally use thousands of components, many of which can require security updates often. Critical systems require frequent testing where high-impact threats should have priority. Allocation of resources for remedial work also happens fast if these practices are followed.
The rise in malware production in the past decade is why it is a requirement to have security testing for your applications.
Recommended Post: Mobile App Security Testing Challenges & Best Practices

Web application security testing and to test website security 

Web application security testing can be applicable for both apps and services which users access through browser interfaces over the internet. This is important to organizations that provide web services or host web applications. They protect their networks from intrusions using firewalls. This firewall can inspect the web application and block data packs that it deems harmful.

Website security means protecting data on a website and regulating its integrity, availability, and confidentiality. To test website security also means ensuring uninterrupted access to a website and its contents so that legitimate users are not hindered from using it. However, the purpose is to ensure that no attacker can hack into, distort, and modify any information available on the website. Maintaining confidentiality of sensitive data (such as login details like passwords) is crucial. 

Concluding thoughts 

Automated application security testing is the only way to achieve these goals is to ensure the security of sensitive data or offer a bug-free and threat-free experience for customers and employees who use applications. By leveraging SAST, DAST, MAST, IAST, RASP, and SCA tools, developers can smoothly run their app irrespective of using third-party open-source codes.

FAQs

1. Why is security testing done for a web application?

Security testing identifies risks, threats, and vulnerabilities in an application. The purpose is to prevent cybercriminals from infiltrating the infrastructure of applications and launching malicious attacks.

2. What are the different phases of application security testing?

A comprehensive security software testing process usually encompasses the three testing processes: static, dynamic, and manual.

3. How is security testing useful for real applications?

Security testing is most important for an application because it ensures that confidential data stays protected on real devices. Since testers emulate real-life attacks on the privacy of applications in these tests, it is safe to say that the app is prepared for similar threats in the future when the customer is using it.

4. What is application-level security?

Application-level security means the kind of tests implemented at the interface between an application and a queue manager to which it is connected. The application issues MQI calls to the queue manager, and this service is invoked. 

5. How is information security different from application security?

Information security describes the measures to protect information from unauthorized access, while application security, as a process, concerns itself with building software that is free from exploitable vulnerabilities.

All you need to know about application security testing

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