Software vulnerabilities can be devastating to your business. All it takes is one cyber attack or phishing scam to tarnish your reputation, bring your organization to a standstill, and prompt your customers to leave en-masse. After all, consumers want to use software that protects their sensitive information.
Whether you want to improve ecommerce usability or address customer concerns, security testing is essential to find flaws, resolve vulnerabilities, and boost your business reputation.
We’ll look at the importance of security testing and the 9 types of testing you can incorporate into your workflow to find security flaws in your software.
The importance of security testing
Security testing reveals vulnerabilities, threats, and risks in software applications or systems. It’s non-functional software testing that determines if the software is designed and configured correctly.
By using security tests, you identify loopholes, possible cyber attack points, and malicious inputs that expose flaws in your software. It lets you develop solutions and fix security issues to create safe, secure, and reliable applications. Additionally, it provides evidence that your software, web app, or system is safe for consumers to use.
It can be massively important to your business. For instance, a computer virus called WannaCry exploited a flaw in older Windows Operating Systems, bringing organizations to a standstill. It put customer data at risk, damaged reputations, and negatively impacted revenues.
Customer trust is vital for your business to succeed as it builds loyalty and generates referrals. If your customers can’t trust your software applications to protect their sensitive data, they’ll take their business, and recommendations, elsewhere. So, security testing must form a central part of your Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) if you want your business to thrive.
Like any software test, security checks are essential after making any significant changes or new builds are ready to be released. While you can use manual methods, integrating automated tools, like mobile testing services, into your SDLC can ensure regular and comprehensive software assessment to find critical flaws or vulnerabilities.
9 types of security testing to uncover software flaws
1. Vulnerability scanning
Vulnerability scanning is the first step in security testing to identify known flaws and weaknesses in software applications, systems, or physical devices. It detects vulnerabilities from flawed programming and common exploits used by ‘bad actors’ to attack software applications and systems.
It’s performed using automated scanning tools that allow for authenticated and unauthenticated scans. This means it checks for internal and external vulnerabilities. For example, it identifies if a disgruntled employee with valid credentials could exploit a known weakness from inside the company, and if a hacker without valid credentials could do the same from outside.
Some tests of a modern vulnerability scanner include:
- Cross-site scripting
- SQL injections
- Command injections
2. Security scanning
Security scanning is similar to vulnerability scanning, but it analyzes software, systems, and networks for misconfigurations, like insecure server configurations. It’s a crucial part of your testing process as it identifies any human error in configuring your software applications or networks that could leave it open to attack.
Also known as configuration scanning, it typically scans systems according to compliance standards and software or IT best practices.
This type of scanning can be automated or conducted manually. However, automated scanning tools provide a detailed list of misconfigurations and potential solutions to resolve them. It can be invaluable to speed up your testing and development.
3. Penetration testing
Penetration testing involves simulating real-time cyber attacks against a software application, in order to evaluate existing security measures and readiness in the face of an attack. It’s effective at finding zero-day threats and other unknown vulnerabilities of software.
The penetration tests are conducted in a secure environment by a security expert or an ethical hacker in two ways:
- Black-box testing – The attack is simulated to come from outside the company.
- White-box testing – The hacking attack is simulated to come from inside the company, where the attacker knows computer systems and the software under test.
The term penetration testing is a form of ethical hacking, and the two terms are used interchangeably. While the two operate in similar ways, key differences separate them.
Notably, penetration testing focuses on discovering vulnerabilities and taking control of a system through one specific technique. As we’ll see below, ethical hacking uses several techniques to reveal software flaws.
Penetration testing is often quicker than ethical hacking. Although typically conducted manually, automated penetration testing tools have reduced costs and increased frequent testing opportunities.
4. Ethical hacking
Ethical hacking covers broader techniques, tools, and concepts to reveal software security vulnerabilities. It works similarly to penetration testing, but it’s always done manually by a certified ethical hacker, so it takes longer to conduct.
Unlike penetration testing, ethical hackers use the same methods and tools their malicious counterparts do, such as:
- Sending phishing emails to employees
- Brute force attacks
- Taking advantage of misconfigurations
- Breaching a physical workstation
- Using exploits and computer bugs
While their focus is on finding and reporting security flaws, they don’t limit themselves to just software but any dependent technology or application.
For instance, if you’re developing an app for referral programs, an ethical hacker might target a third-party application it connects to or send an employee a phishing email. Penetration testing would limit its attacks to just the software application.
5. Web application security testing
Web or SaaS apps have many advantages, such as 24/7 availability, scalability, flexibility, several recordable SaaS metrics, and automatic upgrades. But, this makes it a prime target for cyberattacks threatening to bring multiple organizations to a standstill.
Web application security testing looks at testing web or SaaS apps to discover possible security flaws, investigate how they’re exploited, and what risk they pose to web apps. It’s essential to know as web apps grow and innovate with new technologies. This testing occurs both manually and automatically.
6. Security audit
A security audit internally reviews software applications to check for security flaws and ensure compliance with regulations or security policy. It includes:
- Line-by-line code inspection
- Analyzing security gaps
- Assessing organizational practices
Audits can occur in-house or independently. It confirms that security practices are up to scratch, and your software complies with set security standards. A successful security audit tells you and your customers that your software development and applications are safe and secure.
7. Risk assessments
A risk assessment identifies, analyzes, and classifies potential future threats. In software development, it refers to security risks in an organization. These are classed as low, medium, or high.
Your software depends on different tools and hardware, like servers, networks, and applications. By creating risk profiles, you can better understand threats to your organizational infrastructure and SDLC. It lets you prepare for and pre-empt potential obstacles for your software.
8. Posture assessments
Risk assessments identify potential risks for your organizational infrastructure, software development, applications, and systems. But, to understand your current organization-wide threats, you have to carry out posture assessments.
Posture assessments combine ethical hacking, security scanning, and risk assessment. It identifies gaps in your security posture, information security environment, and tests resiliency against cyber security threats. Additionally, it provides you with areas of improvement.
Similar to a security audit, it enables you to reassure yourself and your customers that your processes and applications are safe and reliable. It’s vital to building consumer confidence and loyalty.
9. API security testing
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of routines, protocols, and tools used to make a connection between two computers or applications. It works as follows:
- The client application initiates an API call.
- After receiving a valid request, the API calls the external application.
- The external application sends a response to the API with the information.
- The API transfers data to the client application.
It’s like ordering food in a restaurant. You pick what you want from the menu and tell the server. The server checks that the items are available, informs the kitchen, and returns with your food. Here the server is the API, you’re the client, the kitchen is the external application, and the food is the information.
The API is a vital component of the process, enabling two applications to transfer the necessary information to function. This makes it a primary target for malicious attacks to gain sensitive data or entry into an internal system, by:
- Man-in-The-Middle attacks – eavesdropping on API communications.
- Denial-of-service attacks – denying service to users by flooding servers with traffic.
- API injections – injecting the API with malware to enter the internal system.
API security testing is essential to safeguard sensitive customer and business information, like banking details, credit card numbers, or medical history.
As developers don’t need to know how an API works to implement it, this is often an overlooked part of software testing. So, it can be crucial for areas like mobile usability testing, where many elements and third-party apps collaborate.
To mitigate API threats, software processes need strong encryption, authentication, authorization, and sanitization of user inputs to prevent code injection or tampering.
Test early, test often, be secure
Software forms the basis of our daily communication, entertainment, and workflow. Cyberattacks and viruses disrupt this and bring organizations to a standstill. So, solid security testing is the first line of defense to ensure your business and software applications have the resiliency to weather any storm.
Security testing is a vital component of your SDLC. It identifies vulnerabilities and loopholes early, offers potential solutions, and ensures information security.
Through comprehensive testing, you can confirm and evidence that your software is safe, secure, and reliable. It builds customer confidence in your products, drives loyalty, and boosts revenue. When carried out early and often, testing increases conversions, ensures data security, and powers business success.