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What Is Security Testing

What Is Security Testing

Security testing, often referred to as penetration testing, pentesting, or simply "pen test," involves attempting to breach an information system or misuse application functions without authorization. The primary goal is to assess the security level of a system or web application through a simulated cyberattack conducted by experienced professionals.

This process, also known as ethical hacking, involves executing an attack on the system in the spirit of "white hat" hacking, using the same techniques and tools that malicious hackers (black hats) employ. "White hat" refers to hacking conducted with good intentions and ethical principles, whereas "black hat" denotes malicious hacking with disregard for ethics.


How Does It Work?

In practical terms, security testing involves attempting to "break into" the system by any means necessary, but with prior agreement and permission. Penetration testing is sometimes compared to picking locks or cracking safes. A good, reliable lock or safe is difficult to pick or break into. 

However, this comparison falls short in one significant way: picking a traditional lock or safe requires physical access to the target.


An internet-facing web application, on the other hand, can theoretically be attacked by anyone, from anywhere in the world, at any time (24/7/365). 


Types of Penetration Testing


  • Black Box Testing: The tester has no prior or limited knowledge of the system.
  • Gray Box Testing: The tester has partial knowledge, typically focusing on specific areas.
  • White Box Testing: The tester has full knowledge of the system, including access to source code and other technical documentation.

Common Tools and Techniques

Penetration testers use a variety of tools and techniques to identify vulnerabilities:

  • Tools: Metasploit, Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, Nmap, and more.
  • Techniques: SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), remote code execution (RCE), and phishing.

Enhancing Security Practices

  • Regulatory Compliance

    Penetration testing can help organizations meet regulatory requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS by demonstrating that they have taken steps to protect sensitive data.

  • Remediation and Follow-up 

    Addressing the vulnerabilities found during the test is crucial. It's important to fix the identified issues and conduct a retest to ensure that the vulnerabilities have been properly resolved.

  • Integration with Development Processes

    Security testing should be integrated into the development lifecycle (e.g., DevSecOps) to ensure continuous security. This means incorporating security practices and testing throughout the software development process. 


The Value of High-Quality Security Testing

A well-conducted security test results in a report that realistically reflects the security level of the application from the perspective of a malicious external attacker. This report enables the development and enhancement of the application's quality and security, which in turn supports the confidentiality, integrity, availability, and traceability of information. 

Recognizing the security level helps in preparation and aids in preventing potential problems.


The Best-Case Scenario

  • The user experience of the application improves, and confidence in the system's reliability increases.
  • Customers and end-users appreciate the transparency about the system's security and the methods used to counter security threats. Preparation is crucial in all aspects.

In simple terms, it is an acid test that reveals how the web application appears from a security perspective when viewed from the outside. 

If the security test report shows a green light, you can rest easier at night, knowing that the security is at least at a good level in these areas.

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