When and why to opt for security testing?

Introduction: 

Security testing is performed to identify vulnerabilities and security flaws in software/applications. Security professionals and testers utilize several methods of security testing to discover threats, assess the likelihood of exploiting vulnerabilities, and assess the overall risks. The actionable information gained from these tests is used to close gaps and reduce security threats. There are two ways to conduct security testing: Penetration testing and vulnerability assessment 

What is Penetration Testing? 

In penetration testing, the tester’s objective is to try to breach a web application’s internal architecture, obtain control over internal servers, or to get access to sensitive information. The testers try to replicate the potential behaviors of real hackers. The faults discovered during testing, as well as the testing procedures themselves, have no impact on the outcome. 

Such tests usually result in illegal access, or a simple statement that suggests that access cannot be granted under the system’s present condition. Penetration testing takes less time than a security audit and can disclose how successful your security procedures are in guarding against external threats. 

Thus, penetration testing is a good option when the main goal of the test is to determine the severity of the risk of actual hacking.  

 

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What is vulnerability assessment?  

This security evaluation entails the most thorough and detailed system audit. The primary goal is not to acquire access, but to detect configuration problems and vulnerabilities that might lead to unauthorized access of a user’s system. All faults discovered during the security evaluation are graded based on their risk level and the degree of influence on the overall system. Security evaluations take time and are frequently performed only in compliance with the criteria of various industry standards. 

Difference between penetration testing and vulnerability assessment 

To understand the difference between penetration testing and vulnerability assessment, let us consider a tiny practical scenario. 

For example, let us say that a flaw was detected during testing. The flaw is the lack of the HTTP Only security flag in the cookie containing the user session identity. In the absence of this setting, you can employ a cross site scripting attack to take the user’s cookie. Now this is a flaw in the context of security evaluation and should only be addressed in the final report. In vulnerability assessment, rather than exploiting this flaw, you should only note it down and mention it in the final report. 

On the other hand, during penetration testing, if we find such a flaw in the application, this fault will be exploited, and cross site scripting attack will be launched in actual to test the system response and similar response will be mentioned in the final report. 

Why should you opt for security testing? 

The modern business environment needs a high degree of security due to the increasing number and complexities of data threats. Without security testing, a company is vulnerable to security breaches which have significant legal and recovery costs. Furthermore, if a hacker penetrates data resources, then the businesses notoriety is harmed as well. 

Hackers acquire illegal access to a company’s IT infrastructure through various entry points, such as operating system backdoors, unintentional faults or errors while generating software code, faulty implementation, and management software settings, and so on.  

However, with the power of security testing, companies can identify any potential security shortcomings. This proactive approach can help companies ensure data security. With the help of a Pen Tester, the company can examine, find, and exploit vulnerabilities in the operating systems, services, and applications. 

When to go for security testing? 

 A company might choose to go for security testing in the following scenarios: 

  • After a cyber-attack or attempted cyber-attack. 
  • To test or re-test a business network or online application. 
  •  Following the addition of new features to an existing product. 
  • After a revamp of the business network’s topology. 
  • When transferring an application from a test environment to a production environment. 
  • It is, however, easier to assess whether penetration testing is required. In general, the formula is as follows: If you have “anything” that saves or processes critical data that is accessible over the Internet, then a security test is required. 

Business domains against security testing 

Financial and banking applications:

Banking and financial institutions are usually the top targets of serious cyber-threats. Every year, this industry loses a significant portion of its revenue to illegal operations such as phishing, ransomware, malware, and so on. 

Common Attacks:

Financial institutions rely heavily on third-party contractors for a variety of tasks. Third-party processes expose several vulnerabilities that fraudsters might exploit. One of these threats is referred to as island hopping. It refers to the use of linked third parties to infiltrate a system or organisation via the back door. Contractors, distant employees, business partners, suppliers, and even consumers are examples of linked third parties. 

Prevention: 

Island hopping can easily be prevented by implementing the following: 

  • Multi factor authentication 
  • A routine audit of all the data that other small businesses or affiliates have access to. 
  • A solid incident response mechanism. 

E-Commerce applications 

A substantial number of e-commerce enterprises have been hacked in recent years. This is due to the information stored on their website. E-commerce companies keep a large amount of sensitive customer data: credit card information, customer addresses, passwords etc. 

Common Attacks: 

  • Manipulation of the amount before payment 
  • Currency rigging prior to payment 
  • Credit Card theft 
  • Manipulation of quantity prior to payment 
  • Placing orders using fictitious order data 
  • CSRF to add and delete items from cart 
  • Coupon codes that are easy to guess or predictable 
  • Using many coupons on the same order 

Prevention: 

  • Using a firewall 
  • Using secure protocols 
  • Protect payment gateway 
  • Using solid encryption and passwords 

Media application 

If social media apps are not tested for security, they might result in high-security breaches. Aside from that, inappropriate operation of these applications in any aspect may have an impact on the businesses of thousands of individuals who rely on these apps for their business needs. 

Therefore, proper testing of social media applications is critical. 

Common Attacks: 

  • An ATO attack occurs when an unauthorized person hijacks and takes control of an account, which can occur via phishing or social engineering assaults. 
  • In Phishing attacks, the hackers take over an account and produce an unobtrusive post that redirects users to a phishing site. 
  • Cross-site request forgery: CSRF attacks take advantage of a social networking application’s faith in a logged-in user’s browser.  

Prevention: 

  • Secure social engineering guidelines, 
  • Verify whether the app is secure enough to handle phishing attacks 
  • Verify network infrastructure strength 
  • Firewall configuration testing 
  • Verify IPS deception 
  • DNS security 
  • Verify applets and plug-ins 

Business applications 

Business applications need extensive security testing to reduce the data breach and brand reputation cost, Security testing also reduces the downtime in case of a cyber-attack Additionally, with security measures in place, the company can focus on their internal goals without having to worry about outside threats. 

Let us briefly go over some of the common security threats faced by companies in the current business landscape, along with the prevention techniques. 

Common Attacks: 

  • Many fin-tech or business applications have user input forms which are prone to SQL injection attacks, and it can be avoided by conducting penetration testing. 
  • TCP SYN flood attack: The attacker’s device fills the target system’s tiny in-process queue with connection requests, but it does not reply when the target system responds. When the target system’s connection queue is full, it times out while waiting for a response from the attacker’s device, resulting in the system to crash or become unusable. 
  • Ping of death: This sort of attack employs IP packets with IP sizes exceeding the maximum of 65,535 bytes to ‘ping’ a target machine. Because IP packets of this size are not permitted, the attacker fragments the IP packet. The target system may encounter buffer overflows and other problems after reassembling the packet. 

Prevention: 

  • To avoid SQL injection attacks, at the application level, check input data against a whitelist. 
  • To avoid TCP attacks, install servers behind a firewall that is configured to block inbound SYN packets. Reduce the timeout on open connections and increase the size of the connection queue. 
  • Install a firewall that checks fragmented IP packets for maximum size 

Conclusion – business gains through security testing  

There are multiple potential benefits of security testing that help businesses to gain confidence of customers by securing user data, company accounts etc. This is especially true for companies with customers in the finance sectors. Security assessments and penetration testing also help companies to evaluate their overall IT security infrastructure. Companies can also meet the industry standards and ensure information security compliance. Moreover, firms can focus on prioritizing and solving vulnerabilities using a security programme. 

If you would like to learn more about how AlphaBOLD can help you solve your security challenges, reach out to us! We are more than happy to help you! 

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