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What Is Website Security Testing? How Can You Incorporate It Into Your Site?

Security stands firmly on three pillars: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability, often known as the CIA triad. But the internet comes with threats that can jeopardize these vital pillars.

However, by turning to website security testing, you can uncover hidden vulnerabilities, potentially saving yourself from costly incidents.

What Is Website Security Testing?

Website security testing is the process of determining the security level of a website by testing and analyzing it. It involves identifying and preventing security vulnerabilities, flaws, and loopholes in your systems. The process helps prevent malware infections and data breaches.

Carrying out routine security testing ensures your website’s current security status quo, providing a basis for future security plans—incidence response, business continuity, and disaster recovery plans. This proactive approach not only reduces risks but also ensures compliance with regulations and industry standards. It builds customer trust too, and solidifies your company’s reputation.

But it’s a broad process, that’s comprised of many other testing processes like password quality rules, SQL injection testing, session cookies, brute force attack testing, and user authorization processes.

Types of Website Security Testing

There are different types of website security testing, but we will focus on three crucial types: vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and code review and analysis.

1. Vulnerability Scanning

Close up of a person coding on a laptop

If your company stores, processes, or transmits financial data electronically, the industry standard, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), requires running internal and external vulnerability scans.

This automated, high-level system identifies network, application, and security vulnerabilities. Threat actors also take advantage of this test to detect points of entry. You can find these vulnerabilities in your networks, hardware, software, and systems.

An external scan, i.e. performed outside your network, detects problems in network structures, while an internal vulnerability scan (performed within your network) detects hosts’ weaknesses. Intrusive scans exploit a vulnerability when you find it, while non-intrusive scans identify the weakness, so you can fix it.

The next step after discovering these weak points involves walking a “remediation path.” You can patch these vulnerabilities, fix misconfigurations, and choose stronger passwords, among others.

You run the risk of false positives, and must manually examine each weakness before the next test, but these scans are still worthwhile.

2. Penetration Testing

looking at many screens while coding
This test simulates a cyberattack to find weaknesses in a computer system. It’s a method ethical hackers use and is generally more comprehensive than performing just a vulnerability assessment. You can also use this test to evaluate your compliance with industry regulations. There are different types of penetration testing: black-box penetration testing, white-box penetration testing, and gray-box penetration testing.

Additionally, these have six stages. It starts with reconnaissance and planning, where testers gather information related to the target system from public and private sources. This could be from social engineering or non-intrusive networking and vulnerability scanning. Next, using different scanning tools, the testers examine the system for vulnerabilities and then streamline them for exploitation.

In the third stage, ethical hackers attempt to gain entry into the system using common web application security attacks. If they make a connection, they maintain it for as long as possible.

In the last two stages, the hackers analyze the results obtained from the exercise and may remove the traces of the processes to prevent an actual cyberattack or exploitation. Lastly, the frequency of these tests depends on your company’s size, budget, and industry regulations.

3. Code Review and Static Analysis

code inspector
Code reviews are manual techniques you can use to check your code’s quality—how reliable, secure, and stable it is. However, static code review helps you detect low-quality coding styles and security vulnerabilities without running the code. This detects problems other testing methods may not catch.

Generally, this method detects code issues and security weaknesses, determines consistency in your software design formatting, observes compliance with regulations and project demands, and examines the quality of your documentation.

You save costs and time, and get to reduce the chances of software defects and the risk involved with complex code bases (analyzing the codes before you add them to your project).

How to Integrate Website Security Testing into Your Web Development Process

work meeting around table with laptop and tablet
Your web development process should mirror a software development lifecycle (SDLC), with each step enhancing security. Here’s how you can integrate web security into your process.

1. Determine Your Testing Process

In your web development process, you typically implement security in the design, development, testing, staging, and production deployment stages.

After determining these stages, you should define your security testing goals. It should always align with your company’s vision, goals, and objectives while complying with industry standards, regulations, and laws.

Lastly, you will need a testing plan, assigning responsibilities to the relevant team members. A well-documented plan involves noting down timings, the people involved, what tools you would use, and how you report and use the results. Your team should comprise of developers, tested security experts, and project managers.

2. Choosing the Best Tools and Methods

Choosing the right tools and methods requires research into what suits your website’s technology stack and requirements. The tools range from commercial to open source.

Automation can improve your efficiency while creating more time for manual testing and reviewing more complex aspects. It’s also a good idea to consider outsourcing your website testing to third-party security experts to provide an unbiased opinion and evaluation. Update your testing tools regularly to take advantage of the latest security improvements.

3. Implementing the Testing Process

works' meeting with laptops

This step is relatively straightforward. Train your teams on the security best practices and the ways to use the testing tools efficiently. Each team member has a responsibility. You should pass that information across.

Integrate the testing tasks into the development workflow and automate as much of the process as possible. The early feedback helps you deal with issues as quickly as they arise.

4. Streamlining and Assessing Vulnerabilities

This step involves reviewing all the reports from your security testing and classifying them based on their importance. Prioritize remediation by dealing with each vulnerability according to its severity and impact.

Next, you should retest your website to ensure you have fixed all bugs. With these exercises, your company can learn how to improve while having background data to inform later decision-making processes.

Top Best Practices for Website Security Testing

Woman staring intently at computer screen

As well as noting what types of testing you need and how you should implement them, you should consider general standard practices to ensure your website’s protection. Here are a few top best practices.

  1. Perform regular tests, especially after significant updates to your website, to detect any new weaknesses and to address them quickly.
  2. Use both automated tools and manual testing methods to ensure you’ve covered all grounds.
  3. Pay attention to your website’s authentication and authorization mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access.
  4. Implement Content Security Policies (CSP) to filter which resources can load on your web pages to mitigate the risk of XSS attacks.
  5. Update your software components, libraries, and frameworks regularly to avoid known vulnerabilities in old software.

How’s Your Knowledge of Common Industry Threats?

Learning the best ways to test your website and incorporate security protocols into your development process is great, but understanding common threats mitigates risks.

Having a firm knowledge basis of the common ways cybercriminals can exploit your software helps you decide the best ways to prevent them.


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