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Web Application Penetration Testing: A Complete Guide

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Kanishk Tagade Hacker Noon profile picture

@kanishkt23Kanishk Tagade

Kanishk Tagade is a Marketing Manager at Astra Security. He is also the Editor-in-Chief at "QuickCyber.news"

The Internet has made everything accessible for people living in different parts of the world. All sorts of products and services, whether high-end or inexpensive, can be easily found and purchased online. This advancement in the use of internet technology has also enhanced the techniques of hackers to manipulate the information available online.

According to Gartner, more than $123 billion was spent in the cybersecurity field during 2020. The total cost of cybercrime is expected to cross the threshold of $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

The increase in the rate of cyber-attacks per year suggests that by the end of 2021, a business will be targeted every 11 seconds.

It is clear from these statistics that hackers are always on the lookout for targets to manipulate. Your website can be the next ‘target’ if you don’t take the necessary steps to secure it.

One of the most appropriate ways to secure a website is by enforcing comprehensive security techniques such as penetration testing. Through this article, we will discuss in detail everything you need to know about web application penetration testing.

Understanding Web Application Penetration Testing

The aim of website penetration testing is to identify the risks and vulnerabilities in the system. These vulnerabilities, if left unchecked, can threaten the integrity and confidentiality of the system.

Website penetration testing can be done internally or one can hire ethical hackers to launch a series of attacks against their system to reveal the potential weak points in the system.

Identifying the weak points and loopholes in a system via ethical hacking can help you in obtaining information about how a hacker can manipulate your security system to get access to it.

A data breach of any kind (be it your personal information or your client’s information) can put you at risk. This is why it is important to conduct web application penetration testing on a periodic basis.

Different types of Penetration Testing

Web application penetration testing can be divided into different categories based on its approach. Different types of penetration testing require different information to proceed with. You can decide the degree of access to the hackers according to your website’s requirements. 

On the basis of available information:

  • Black-box penetration testing: In this approach, no internal information is available for the pentester. A pentester uses his method to test the vulnerabilities of the outside network.
  • White-box penetration testing: It works in the opposite direction of black-box penetration testing. The pentester is given complete access to source code, architecture documents, and so on.
  • Grey-box penetration testing: In the grey-box approach, only partial information of the internal network is available to the pentester.

On the basis of the website’s requirements

There are five types of penetration testing on the basis of the requirements of your website:

  1. Penetration testing of the internal network and its exploitation
  2. Penetration testing of the wireless network
  3. Social engineering tests
  4. Cloud Penetration Testing
  5. Physical penetration testing

Methodology of Web Application Penetration Testing

The process of Website penetration testing involves five phases:

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Image source: imperva

1. Planning & Reconnaissance

The first step of penetration testing is the gathering of information. In this step, the pentester tries to find out the backend fingerprints such as CMS version, Server OS, etc. This stage also involves defining the scope and requirements of the test.

The most popular tools used by pentesters for this stage are Nmap, Harvester, Zenmap(GUI version of Nmap), etc.

2. Code Analysis

After defining the scope, the next stage involves scanning the codes. This step will help you understand how your website will respond to hacking attempts.

  • Static code analysis: It is done to inspect the code to determine its behavior while running the application.
  • Dynamic code analysis: It is done to Inspect the code while the application is in a running state. This gives a more practical review of the code.

3. Gaining Access

In this stage, the pentester uses known CVEs to uncover the hidden loopholes and vulnerabilities of the target. After the discovery of vulnerabilities, the tester then tries to exploit the found vulnerabilities by trying to steal data, escalating privileges, unwanted traffic, etc.

The tools used by pentester to uncover the flaws of an application are Nikto, Burp Suite, OpenVas, etc.

4. Maintaining Access

The idea of this stage is to verify whether the vulnerabilities found in the previous step can be used to maintain access to your website. The main purpose of this stage is to imitate Advanced Persistent Threats, which acts as a backdoor even after the hack removal.

5. Analysis

The last stage of web application penetration testing involves analysis of the results found in previous steps and compiling them in a detailed manner including:

  • The loopholes and vulnerabilities exposed during the testing
  • The threats these vulnerabilities possess against the system
  • Sensitive data assessed during the testing
  • The level up to which the pentester was able to exploit these vulnerabilities while remaining undetected

Finally, Choosing a Penetration Testing Provider (if required)

It is clear from the above sections that penetration testing involves several stages, and it can be difficult for an amateur to go through each step accurately. This is why it is always better to get help from a trusted source than to risk your website’s security.

But how to choose the best VAPT service for your website? There are a number of VAPT providers available in the market to choose from. The features of an ideal VAPT service provider are a qualified team of pentesters, a detailed pentesting report,  excellent customer support - to name a few. Astra Security is one of the leaders of the space and offers everything your website needs and so much more.

Here is a sample pentesting & VAPT Report by Astra security. They also provide a cloud dashboard where clients can view all the found issues & can directly interact with engineers.

Kanishk Tagade Hacker Noon profile picture
by Kanishk Tagade @kanishkt23. Kanishk Tagade is a Marketing Manager at Astra Security. He is also the Editor-in-Chief at "QuickCyber.news"Secure your website

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