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Quality Assurance

Oct 18, 2023 12 min read

Volodymyr Klymenko
CEO, Senior QA

Web Application Security Testing: The Ultimate Guide

This article sheds light on web application security testing—a vital process that fortifies the digital world against external threats.

Web Application Security Testing

In the interconnected digital era, web application security testing is indispensable for businesses and individuals. Whether online shopping, social networking, or managing sensitive data, web applications play a crucial role in our daily lives. However, this growing reliance makes them a prime target for cyber threats. This article sheds light on web application security testing—a vital process that fortifies the digital world against external threats.

What is Web Application Security Testing?

Have you ever wondered how websites stay safe from hackers and other online dangers? That's where Web Application Security Testing comes into play! Web app security testing helps to test your software against possible threats and attacks and to identify and report any vulnerabilities or weaknesses that may discredit privacy and user data. 

Web Application Security Testing is a unique process that checks websites for hidden problems that could make them vulnerable to attacks. 

The main goal of Web Application Security Testing is to keep websites safe and ensure they don't have any “weak spots” that the bad guys can use to steal information. It helps websites follow required rules and standards that keep them extra secure. Explore our security testing services to ensure the robustness and resilience of your software against potential threats and vulnerabilities.

Why Should You Consider Web App Security Testing?

In the tech world, there are always new cyber threats popping up. These threats keep changing and can harm businesses and their online presence. It's not just about finding weak points; it's about understanding how these weaknesses could harm your system and taking the proper steps to fix them.

It is important to bear in mind that the web app development industry operates under specific industry standards and regulations. Adhering to these guidelines is crucial to establish the required level of security from the early stages of development. Web app security testing is pivotal in verifying whether your application meets these standards and regulations.

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Some Approaches to Web App Security Testing

Nowadays, websites have evolved into complex web applications, each with security testing challenges. These challenges arise from the diverse nature of web technologies and the specific needs of different industries.

Diverse Web Application Types

Web applications come in different types, such as mobile apps, single page apps (SPA), and progressive web apps (PWA). Each of these types presents unique challenges and characteristics regarding security testing. Here's why different tools may be required for each:

  • Mobile Apps: Mobile applications designed for smartphones and tablets, require specific security testing tools and methodologies tailored to mobile platforms. Mobile app security testing focuses on vulnerabilities and risks specific to mobile devices, such as issues related to device permissions, data encryption, and API security. 
  • Single Page Apps (SPA): SPAs are web applications that load a single HTML page and dynamically update content as users interact with the app. Security testing for SPAs should focus on client-side vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and client-side injection attacks. 
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWA): PWAs are web applications that provide an app-like experience in web browsers. They combine the best of web and mobile app capabilities. Security testing for PWAs may involve testing for service worker security, offline data storage, and ensuring that the app behaves securely across various browsers and devices. 

Industry-Specific Needs

Specific industries like finance and e-commerce hold sensitive customer data, leading to strict cybersecurity regulations. Complying with these standards is absolutely vital, making web security testing an essential practice.

Scalable Automation

It refers to the capability of automating processes to adapt and expand efficiently as the scale of operations grows. A few critical approaches for autotests scalability:


Shared Objects: Some automation platforms require developers to hard-code basic properties that can easily be shared for improved maintenance and security. Examples include credential objects, execution machine objects, or alert objects. These objects also can have unique security privileges. It is beneficial for passwords or API keys.


Variables: Nearly all enterprise automation tools include variabilization, enabling IT specialists to use parameters within jobs or scripts instead of hard coding all values. Some automation platforms take it further, providing dynamic variable values based on live data sources such as a database, script return value, file contents, and more.


Low-code API accessibility: While out-of-the-box connectors and prebuilt third-party integrations are great, only some tools are integrated with every other tool. Not to mention, versions come in and out of support, and homegrown tools may never be supported. Simple, low-code API accessibility ensures that IT teams can seamlessly integrate virtually anything now or down the line. You can also read our article about API penetration testing to secure your APIs against potential exploits and breaches, safeguarding your data.

For large enterprises housing numerous web apps, automation becomes crucial. However, automated scanners lack the creative insight of humans, necessitating manual penetration tests for comprehensive coverage.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing involves simulating real-world cyberattacks on systems, networks, or applications to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The goal is to assess the security posture and discover potential points of exploitation. Penetration testing helps organizations strengthen app defenses, improve security policies, and safeguard sensitive information. Learn how to do penetration testing effectively with our comprehensive guide, ensuring the security of your systems and networks.

Some widely used penetration testing tools include:

  • Nmap (Network Mapper): A network scanning tool for discovering open ports, services, and vulnerabilities.  
  • Metasploit: A penetration testing framework that facilitates the development and execution of exploit code against a target system.  
  • Burp Suite: A platform for web application security testing, aiding in discovering and exploiting security flaws. 
  • Wireshark: A network protocol analyzer that captures and inspects the data traveling back and forth on a network in real time.  
  • Nessus: A widely used vulnerability scanner that identifies network security vulnerabilities, configuration issues, and malware. 

Secure Development

It refers to designing, coding, and building software applications with a strong focus on security from the outset. As the number of cyberattacks is rising worldwide, it aims to prevent vulnerabilities and weaknesses that cyberattacks could exploit and help protect sensitive data and systems.

Effective web app security testing implementation involves understanding diverse web app types, adhering to industry-specific standards, using automation, and performing penetration tests.

Different Types Of Web Application Security Testing

When it comes to keeping web applications safe and secure, various types of software testing methods play a vital role. Let's take a closer look at these types of testing:

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

In this type of security testing in web application, developers examine the source code to identify potential security weak points. It is done early in the software's life cycle, ensuring the code follows proper security standards.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

Think of DAST as a digital detective probing for hidden entrances. Testers inject cunning data into the software, revealing vulnerabilities like SQL injections and XSS (cross-site scripting). It uncovers the application susceptibility to common attacks.

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

Combining aspects of SAST and DAST, IAST monitors an application during runtime for potential security weaknesses, offering a more holistic view of vulnerabilities that could emerge.

Vulnerability Scanning

This type of security testing in web application, employs automated tools to scan an application for known vulnerabilities, offering an overview of potential weaknesses that malicious entities could exploit.

Security Audit/Review

Experts examine the application's design, code, and configurations to identify potential security lapses, misconfigurations, or flawed design choices.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testers simulate real-world attacks to identify how an application defenses hold up. They explore vulnerabilities and attempt to exploit them, providing insights into potential weak points.

Red Teaming

Red teaming goes beyond standard security testing. It involves creating scenarios where attackers attempt to breach an application security measures. This method helps to uncover unconventional vulnerabilities.

Using these testing types identifies issues in web applications against potential security risks, ensuring a safer online experience for everyone.

Who Conducts Web Application Security Testing?

There are a few ways to go about it. First, you can enlist the help of skilled professionals to examine your application security measures. Alternatively, if you have a dedicated in-house team, they can take on the responsibility of regular security testing.

However, bear in mind that security testing is intricate and nuanced. It can be easy to overlook certain aspects. That is why opting for professional security testing is recommended. It ensures your app and its users are well-protected.

How to Perform Web Application Security Testing

When it comes to ensuring the security of a web application, performing a thorough manual assessment is a must. Below are the steps to perform web application security testing:

  1. Discovery of Assets: Identify your application's critical security areas. It involves pinpointing the various elements and resources that play a role in the testing process. 
  2. Version Check: Assess the application for up-to-date versions, ensuring the software is current and aligned with security standards. Extend this evaluation to other associated assets as well. 
  3. Permissions Audit: Inspect the application to verify that secure guidelines implement user permissions and roles. It ensures that access is limited to authorized individuals only. 
  4. Security Protocol Assessment: Examine essential security measures, such as firewalls, malware scanners, and SSL protocols. These mechanisms contribute to safeguarding the application against potential threats. 
  5. Penetration Test and Code Analysis: Employ advanced techniques to analyze the codebase for vulnerabilities, including Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs), code injections, and SQL injections. It requires a proficient understanding of security testing. 
  6. Database Security Testing: Evaluate the database to guarantee it is fortified against malicious SQL queries, minimizing the risk of unauthorized data access. 
  7. Configuration Validation: Explore the application's and the network's configuration structure. Verify that they adhere to security configurations to prevent potential breaches. 
  8. Network Assets Evaluation: Subject network components such as routers, switches, printers, servers, and desktops to rigorous testing against known vulnerabilities and crafted attack scenarios. 
  9. Business Logic Analysis: Examine the application design and implementation for vulnerabilities arising from its underlying logic to enhance overall security. 
  10. Client-Side Logic Verification: Assess the JavaScript components loaded within web pages, ensuring compliance with established security protocols. 
  11. Input Validation Testing: Thoroughly review user-provided data input mechanisms to confirm the presence of effective validation processes. 
  12. Authentication and Session Management Review: Explore authentication mechanisms and session management procedures to ascertain their resilience against potential threats. 
  13. Configuration Check: Verify that the web application configurations are present and correctly placed, as misconfigurations could expose vulnerabilities. 
  14. Authorization Verification: Confirm that the web application prevents unauthorized access, bolstering its overall security posture. 

Web app security testing requires technical expertise and comprehensive evaluation. By following these steps, you can contribute to fortifying the security of web applications and safeguarding them from potential risks.

Web Application Security Testing Methodology (in Phases)

Familiarize yourself with the web application security testing methodology (in phases).

Phase I: Initiation

  1. Scope Definition (сlearly outline the areas to be tested)  
  2. Initial Requirements Documentation (document testing needs and objectives)   
  3. Testing Schedule Development   
  4. Functionalities Understanding    
  5. Browser-Server Traffic Analysis   
  6. Testing Deliverables Format Finalization (conclude the format for documenting testing outcomes) 

Phase II: Evaluation

  1. Static Code Analysis   
  2. Server Infrastructure & DevOps Testing  
  3. Business Logic Vulnerability Identification  
  4. User Access Authorization Checks (validate user access through User Access Control (UAC))  
  5. Scheduled Manual & Automated Scans  
  6. Security Testing Tool Selection 

Phase III: Discovery

  1. Dynamic Analysis & Penetration Testing (in this phase of web application security testing methodology we conduct dynamic analysis and penetration tests) 
  2. Payment Manipulation Testing  
  3. CVE Testing (test for known Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs)) 
  4. Attack Vectors & Payloads (identify technology-specific attack vectors and payloads) 
  5. Findings Verification & False Positive Removal (verify discovered issues and eliminate false positives) 
  6. Vulnerability Cataloging (compile a list of exposed vulnerabilities) 
  7. Evidence Collection & Video Proof of Concepts (gather evidence and create video proof of concepts, enhance communication, support compliance requirements, and provide visual insights that effectively address and mitigate identified vulnerabilities) 

Phase IV: Reporting

  1. Vulnerability Exploitation Assessment (determine the ease of exploiting identified vulnerabilities. It helps organizations prioritize remediation efforts, verifies the accuracy of findings, and provides valuable insights into the potential impact of successful exploitation) 
  2. Detailed Vulnerability Documentation 
  3. Technical Solutions & Recommendations (research and document technical fixes or solutions. They are provided to address identified vulnerabilities and enhance the security posture of a system or application) 
  4. Independent Quality Review (refers to the engagement of a third-party company to conduct an expert evaluation of a product or system before a major release. This external assessment ensures an unbiased and thorough examination of the software, helping identify potential issues, flaws or areas for improvement that may have been overlooked during in-house testing. The goal is to obtain an impartial and comprehensive evaluation to enhance the overall quality and reliability of the product before its release) 

What are web security testing tools?

You can automate most of the testing processes with tools available online. Here are some of the web application security testing tools you can use as web security testing:

  • Nikto: Scans web servers for potential vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and joint issues. 
  • NMap: Conducts network discovery and security auditing, providing insights into open ports, services, and potential vulnerabilities.  
  • BurpSuite: A comprehensive platform for web application security testing, aiding in discovering and exploiting security flaws.    
  • Arachni: Specialized in web application security scanning, detecting vulnerabilities, and providing detailed reports.  
  • TheHarvester: Gathers information from public sources, helping in the reconnaissance phase of penetration testing.  
  • Testssl: Focuses on testing the security of SSL/TLS connections, identifying potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  
  • GVM: A powerful vulnerability scanner that identifies security issues in networks and web applications.  
  • Metasploit: An advanced penetration testing framework that assists in the development, testing, and execution of exploit code against a remote target.  
  • SQLMap: Specialized in detecting and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities in database-driven web applications.  
  • XSSer: A tool designed to find and exploit cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in web applications. 

So, testing web applications is like being a detective, explorer, and inventor all at once. It's essential to make sure the apps we use are safe and secure for everyone.

3 Key Approaches for Ensuring Web Application Security


Regular Testing for Business-Critical Systems: Security testing for web application is crucial for any system that handles sensitive customer data, like credit card numbers or personally identifiable information (PII). It isn't just a best practice—government regulations and industry standards often mandate it.


Early Integration of Security Testing in Software Development: Don't save security testing for the last phase of software development. Waiting until then can lead to unexpected issues, disrupting the development process. Incorporate security testing early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), ideally involving your DevOps team. This integration reduces risks, potential costs, and time needed to fix issues.


Efficient Bug Fixing through Prioritization: security testing for web application typically identifies potential vulnerabilities that need addressing. While security experts label them vulnerabilities, development teams call them bugs. The key is not merely handing over a list of issues to your Dev team. Instead, prioritize these vulnerabilities and seamlessly integrate them into the existing bug-tracking system. This approach optimizes the time taken for addressing and fixing these issues.

Web application security is a top priority in today's digital era. By establishing a comprehensive application security testing strategy, businesses can significantly lower their risks and safeguard their systems from malicious attackers.

Business Benefits of Web App Security Testing

Familiarize yourself with the benefits of web app security testing for business.

Data Protection

Web app security testing helps to safeguard sensitive data by identifying vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches. It ensures that customer information and proprietary data remain secure from unauthorized access.

Maintaining User Trust

Securing web applications strengthens user confidence. Users who believe their data is secure are more inclined to interact with the application, nurturing lasting relationships and encouraging repeat business. Initially, users come to your app with trust, but trust can be easily lost with a single misstep.

Cost Efficiency

Addressing security vulnerabilities early in the development process is more cost-effective than attempting to fix issues after deployment. Timely identification and resolution of vulnerabilities save both time and resources.

Reliable Protection

Web App Security Testing helps to build reliable protection against cyber threats. Evaluating the application vulnerabilities and weaknesses makes certain that potential entry points for attackers are identified and rectified. This process significantly enhances the effectiveness of your web app security measures. 

Ensuring web application security isn't just a practice—it's an investment in a business's stability, reputation, and future prosperity (you can also read about our fintech testing services to gain insights into how we ensure the quality, security, and compliance of financial technology applications and systems).


This article underscores the significance of web application security testing, shedding light on its definition, purpose, and diverse applications. It emphasizes that this testing isn't merely about identifying weaknesses but comprehending how these vulnerabilities could impact a system and taking proactive steps to prevent harm. Ultimately, investing in web application security is not just a practice but a strategic investment in a business's stability, reputation, and future prosperity.

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What is web app security testing? 

This testing is crucial to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the web application and its data. The goal is proactively discovering and addressing security issues before hackers or attackers can exploit them.

When should you start security web app testing?

Security web app testing should commence as early as possible. It means starting when you are just beginning the development of your web application. Be aware of the release, as security flaws can be identified and rectified sooner, ultimately saving you time and money in the long run.

How do you write a security test case for a web application?

To write a security test case for a web application, you must identify potential vulnerabilities (such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting), specify test inputs to exploit these vulnerabilities and define expected outcomes. You can then execute the test case to verify the application is adequately secured against these threats.

Is there a difference between vulnerability assessment and security testing?

Vulnerability assessment focuses on identifying security weaknesses, while security testing involves both identifying vulnerabilities and trying to exploit them to understand their real-world impact.

What is OWASP, and why is it relevant?

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is an international non-profit organization that provides resources, tools, and standards for web application security. Their Top Ten list is particularly noted for highlighting the most critical web application security risks.