May 21, 2024
Security Testing

Importance of Security Testing in Software Development

Manual vs Automated Testing
Manual security testing involves human testers manually testing the application to find security vulnerabilities. While manual testing allows for exploring creative attacks, it is very time consuming and resource intensive. Only a fraction of potential test cases can be covered with manual testing. Automated security testing uses specialized tools and techniques to automatically test for vulnerabilities at scale. Test cases can be run repeatedly as code is updated. This allows exploring a much larger test surface area in less time and with fewer resources than manual testing. Most mature development teams utilize both manual and automated approaches together for comprehensive security testing.

Static vs Dynamic Testing

Static application Security Testing (SAST) evaluates application source code, byte code, or binaries for security vulnerabilities without actually executing the code. This type of analysis is usually done via specialized tools. SAST is useful for finding flaws early in the development cycle before code is compiled or deployed. Dynamic application security testing (DAST) involves executing application code and analyzing runtime behavior to detect vulnerabilities. DAST tools mimic how attackers could interact with the deployed system to identify flaws. Testing tools can simulate attacks to identify injection flaws, authorization bugs, exposed APIs and other behaviors that should be monitored or restricted. Used together, SAST and DAST provide a more comprehensive view of an application’s security posture than either approach alone.

Input Validation Testing

Input validation testing specifically targets how an application handles untrusted data from users, APIs, files and other external sources. The objective is to identify where data enters the application and determine if it is properly validated, filtered, and sanitized before being used. Common issues involve lack of validation on parameters for queries, commands, redirects and other injection points. Testing systematically tries injecting malformed, oversized or otherwise unexpected input to trace how it passes through the application and impacts functions, queries and displayed output. Input validation flaws are among the most common types of vulnerabilities and require special focus during security testing.

Authentication and Session Management Testing

Authentication and session management testing targets how users are identified and tracked during a session. Failure to properly implement authentication opens the door for compromising accounts through brute force and other attacks. Testing evaluates credentials for storage, transmission and replay protections. It examines account recovery and account lockout functionality. Session IDs, tokens or cookies are tested for prediction resistance, fixation issues and exposure via XSS. Test cases involve intercepting authenticated traffic, omitting parameters and injecting unexpected values to identify weaknesses that could undermine account security. Special attention is also given to authorization enforcement across the application and exposure of privileged functions.

API Testing

Modern applications expose robust APIs that power both user interfaces and integrations with other systems. APIs have become a prime target for attackers due to their often less scrutinized code and broad access they provide. API testing specifically focuses on the security of API implementations. Test cases validate input sanitization, authorization of privileged endpoints and controls over sensitive data exposure. Testing targets logic flaws in APIs that could enable account takeovers, information disclosure or unrestricted access. Attack simulations also probe for insecure defaults, weak authentication schemes and other configuration issues. Comprehensive API testing is especially important as APIs connect internal systems with a much larger untrusted surface area on the public internet.

Reports and Remediation

Once security testing is complete, results must be compiled into clear and actionable reports. Reports itemize every identified vulnerability by type, risk level, potential impact, suggested remediation and reference identifiers. This allows developers and security teams to comprehensively prioritize remediation efforts based on the greatest risks. Tracking tools are often used to document resolution status for each issue. All critical and high risk vulnerabilities identified should be addressed before the application is deployed or a major release. Lower risk items might be fixed in future releases based on prioritization. Retesting validates remediation effectiveness and allows security testing to remain an ongoing part of the software development life cycle.

This covers some of the major areas of focus for comprehensive security testing of web and mobile applications. Proper testing is important for maturing an organization’s overall security posture and protecting users by identifying and addressing flaws during development. Both automated and manual techniques are valuable when used together systematically. With adequate testing, development teams can deliver more secure software.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it