All There Is To Say About Security Testing For Web Applications

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Last updated on April 29th, 2021

Web applications have become among the favorite targets of cyber attackers as they store vital user details such as their name, contact details, social security number, account number, etc.

According to Risk Based Security, 2,935 publicly reported breaches occurred in the first three quarters of 2020. Over 36 billion records were exposed. The increasing number of data breaches calls for an urgent need to strengthen the security of web applications. 

Why Is Security Testing Of Web Applications Critical?

According to a report by National Vulnerability Database (NVD) and the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), 92% of all reported vulnerabilities were due to web applications and not insecure networks. The error could be in the code or a flaw in the architecture that exposes the application to attacks.

Security testing finds the gaps to fix. This ensures that web applications adhere to compliance regulations, prevent penalties due to data breaches, and builds customer trust.

That’s why security testing is critical.

What’s Tested During Security Testing?

Software development companies use a combination of manual and automated security testing strategies to identify threats and vulnerabilities in the application.

Security testing is a rigorous process. The web developers put the application through various processes such as:
  • Brute force attack testing
  • User authorization
  • Session cookies
  • SQL injection
  • Cross-site scripting

The objective is to test the web application for different types of attacks, identify vulnerabilities or threats, and fix them.

When And How To Do Security Testing?

Performing security tests late in the cycle is ill-advised. We recommend testing in every phase from design to development as a core part of the QA strategy.

Check our previous blog to know how enterprises make security testing a part of their QA strategy. 

1. Define the goals for security testing

Every phase of development will have different testing requirements. For example, during the design phase, the objective of testing would be to review the architecture and design to see if there is any room for threats and modify the design if needed to mitigate risks. In the development phase, the company could review the implemented code against a set of checklists such as – business requirements, industry-specific requirements, and specific security issues related to the language or framework used. In the deployment phase, all the code is reviewed to ensure there are no security gaps in the web application. Set the team’s objectives before they start to design and develop the web application to avoid problems later.

2. Identify and list possible threats and vulnerabilities to be tested

The application can be tested when there is data and a list of threats available to test for. Gather all data and system-related information pertaining to the application use-cases. This could include listing down requirements such as the technology, operating system, and hardware used to develop a web application. Next, identify the possible threats and list them to prepare a threat profile and a detailed test plan to pin down the possible vulnerabilities.

3. Prepare a test plan and a traceability matrix for every threat
The ultimate objective is to have close to 100% testing coverage, i.e., every aspect needs to be tested for vulnerabilities and threats. To ensure that all the checks are in place, a traceability matrix is developed. This is a document in which all the testing requirements are tracked to check for completeness. It lists down all the testing requirements, such as the description of the requirement, objective, verification method, etc. It helps compare the various tests to ensure that nothing is missed and the application is 100% defect-free. Prepare a traceability matrix for each threat to ensure that the application is tested thoroughly.

4. Identify what tools to use for testing
There are various automated tools available for testing. Some are good at detecting threats but lag in reporting; some have robust reporting capabilities but are not powerful enough in finding threats. Hence, software development companies need to research all the available tools carefully. Developers can check the application for different criteria such as – it should be user-friendly and save the time of developers. However, companies should not rely on automated testing tools alone. Unlike performance and functional testing, where the application’s performance is tested against pre-described results, security testing has to be done frequently to check for new vulnerabilities. That’s where manual testing helps. It tests all the code and the architecture of the application against all the security protocols to ensure that no threat goes unnoticed.

5. Prepare and execute security test case document

Before executing the test, prepare a test case document. A test case document should have details such as – what needs to be tested, the pre-conditions, the input values entered in the system, and the expected results and post-conditions. Once the test case document is prepared, execute it. If the results do not match the expected results, mark it as a defect. This will help the web developer to fix the defects before deployment. Once the defects are fixed, retest them and add the results in the test case document. This entire exercise helps the developer to fix the vulnerabilities before it’s too late.

6. Prepare a detailed report on the findings

This is the last step of security testing. Prepare a detailed report once the testing and regression testing is completed. The report should include detailed information on how the security testing was conducted, what vulnerabilities were found and fixed, and which ones still exist. 


Even as applications are built on sophisticated security systems, emerging threats such as IoT-based cyber-attacks and asynchronous procedure calls have started revealing themselves. So, one-time security testing will not suffice. Developers must continuously audit the application for vulnerabilities and threats and address them before it’s too late. Maintain an audit schedule and leverage the right tools to test and fix the applications’ security loopholes.


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