If you are a Web Security Professional, Web Penetration Tester, or Web Application Developer, this article is for you. This article will help to educate and inform you about web application penetration testing (WAPT) techniques and tools of the trade; Explain how to test for vulnerabilities in your Web Applications; Provide tips on how you can improve your Web Application security with WAPT.
Web Application Pentesting
Web application penetration testing (WAPT) is a method of identifying and preventing Web Application Security Issues. WAPT involves the use and understanding of Web App vulnerabilities, tools, techniques, and procedures to identify security issues in Web Applications that might be exploitable for malicious purposes by hackers or other unauthorized individuals. Web applications are programs designed to run on web servers such as Internet Information Services (IIS), Apache Tomcat, etc. They can range from simple text-based calculators all the way up to complex eCommerce solutions like Amazon’s Marketplace Platform; which includes many different services running together at once: authentication systems, databases, websites, and more.
To perform effective Web Application Pentesting one needs in-depth knowledge about technologies used in Web Applications such as Web Servers, Web Application Frameworks, and Web Programming Languages.
What are the benefits of performing web application penetration testing:
Web Application Penetration Testing is the most effective way to detect Web App vulnerabilities and security issues. With WAPT you can find out if your Web Applications are hackable or not, that means whether they have exploitable vulnerabilities for malicious purposes by hackers or other unauthorized individuals; You can test Web Apps in a safe environment without worrying about bringing down production systems during penetration tests; It helps identify problems before attackers do, allowing you to take action before users’ data is compromised. Web Application Pentesting can help Web Security Professionals to understand how Web Applications work, what technologies are used in Web Apps, and which Web App vulnerabilities attackers exploit; It gives you a better understanding of your application’s attack surface so that appropriate countermeasures might be put into place.
How Web Application Pentesting works:
Web application penetration testing is done by web security professionals who are responsible for the security of web applications. Web security professionals use various tools and techniques to perform WAPT on Web Apps; they also develop custom test cases that mimic real-world attacks against web applications with pre-defined goals.
Web Penetration Testers usually follow these steps:
Here’s what Web Penetration Testers usually do:
- Enumerate Web Applications and Web Servers;
- Identify the target application, its technologies (servers, frameworks), and programming languages;
- Use automated scanners like Netsparker or HP Web Inspect to identify known web server and framework-related vulnerabilities. Automated WAPT tools can also be used for exploiting web app vulnerabilities found during the manual testing phase of pentests;
- Perform Web Application Source Code Analysis if necessary so that you can fix security issues by implementing proper filters on input data before it reaches Web Application Web Servers;
Tools used in Web Application Pentesting:
There are many open source and commercial Web Application Security Assessment Tools available for performing Web App security assessments like
- Acunetix WVS/WVS11;
- Netsparker Web Scanner;
- IBM Rational Appscan Standard Edition;
- HP Web Inspect Professional;
- Paros Proxy etc.,
but manual web application penetration testing is another great alternative to these automated techniques which offers more flexibility while executing tests. There are various steps involved when doing a Manual Web Application security assessment. This ranges from reconnaissance all the way up to exploitation based on your test objectives (e.g., to exploit vulnerabilities).
How to perform web app penetration testing:
Once you have identified the target of your web app security assessment, it is time for reconnaissance. You should take every effort to gather as much information about your target as possible that will assist in planning our next steps during the pentest; like identifying all public-facing systems, what software platforms are being used etc., After conducting Reconnaissance searches on Google, LinkedIn social networking sites or any other relevant sources available online using custom made keywords which match with application name or technologies being used, you should also search for downloadable Web App files which contain sensitive information like user names and passwords.
Now it’s time to find out the technologies in use at your target by going through application source code or other resources available online; this is a very important step as it will help plan our next steps during the penetration testing process, especially if you are using automated tools because they can only detect vulnerabilities based on specific Web Application Frameworks/Languages etc., We always recommend using Penetration Testing Methodology from outside-in (i.e.: from public-facing web servers) as that way one can see how attackers do their attacks and what techniques they employ to compromise Web Apps.
Tips to improve WAPT results:
Web Application Penetration Testing requires a lot of planning and preparation before starting your tests, you should also understand that Web Apps are very complex systems consisting of many technologies in use like Web Server/Application servers, Web Application Frameworks or Languages, etc., so it is important to identify which technology is being used at the target web application.
Some tools support only one type of Web App technology e.g.:
- Paros supports PHP applications but does not support ASP based apps;
- Acunetix WVS can automatically identify what type of application server (i.e.; Apache or IIS) is running on Windows OS-based machines but doesn’t do this for Linux boxes as they require manual configuration during the installation process, unlike Windows where everything gets detected automatically.