How to perform web application penetration testing?

A penetration test on a web application is a security assessment that aims to analyze the application and find all the vulnerabilities that can be potentially exploited by hackers.

Why do I need to perform penetration tests on web applications?

With the number of web applications constantly growing, they have become a coveted target for hackers. Given that many applications collect and store sensitive personal information and media, credit card details, etc, it is crucial to protect that information from unauthorized access by ensuring that those applications don’t contain vulnerabilities and security flaws. Penetration tests should also be done as part of SDLC, or software development lifecycle, to minimize the costs and manpower required to mitigate vulnerabilities.

How to perform a web application pentest?

There are four main steps that go into conducting a web application penetration test. It’s important to note that a web app pentest is different from an application pentest.

The first step is reconnaissance, which is when information about the application is gathered. This can be done via passive reconnaissance, which is when information that’s already available on the internet about the application is collected, or active reconnaissance, during which the web application is probed directly via web application fingerprinting, DNS forward and reverse lookups and more. Once the reconnaissance phase is complete, you can use the information you’ve collected to select suitable tools to use in the pentest. Some of the most popular tools for web app pentests include Burp Suite, Metasploit, W3af, Wfuzz, John Ripper, Watcher and others. Once the test is complete, the third step is to generate a thorough report with its results, including discovered vulnerabilities, data that support the findings and recommendations on how to remediate existing security flaws. The last step is to fix security issues either using the efforts of in-house personnel and resources or utilizing the help of third-party cybersecurity companies.

Frequently asked questions about web application pentesting

What is the best penetration testing tool?

There’s no one best penetration testing tool, as different pentesting software is used for different tasks and purposes. The best pentesting software for each project can be selected based on the reconnaissance phase results.

What types of penetration tests are there?

There are four main types of penetration tests: web application pentest, social engineering, internal network pentests and external network penetration test.

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    Vitaly is a principal consultant at Hackcontrol as wall as aa business and IT thought leader. He has over 15 years of experience in consulting, account management and is a specialist in cybersecurity.