What is Security Testing?

Setting up robust data security measures for information systems is not enough to protect a business from today’s increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. In this article we'll discuss why security testing should be part of the software development lifecycle and the different types of tests you can use to secure your business,

Definition of Security Testing

The tools and techniques deployed to determine if systems have any known vulnerabilities and test whether it performs as intended forms part of security testing. The various tenets of data and system security are evaluated to assess whether they hold up under scrutiny and attack. These include:

  • Confidentiality - Only authorized personnel can access respective data.
  • Integrity - Data cannot be altered or deleted by external actors.
  • Availability - Data is available without hiccups or delays to the authorized personnel.
  • Authentication - Knowing who exactly is accessing data to ensure confidentiality.
  • Authorization - This process determines if the authenticated user has permission to access the data requested.
  • Non-repudiation - This term describes undeniable proof of the integrity and origin of data.

Deploying a software service without security testing is like closing the door without locking it properly. It may appear to be safe but likely contains vulnerabilities that can be found easily by those who come looking.

How Do You Perform Security Testing?

Addressing security issues after implementation or deployment will increase the time taken to complete a project and lead to a lot of wasted resources. At the requirement gathering phase of SDLC, security analysis must be conducted in parallel. In the SDLC design phase, a security testing plan must be laid out simultaneously. During coding and unit testing in SDLC, security white-box testing should be carried out. 

Black box testing should be done at the integration testing phase of SDLC. Black box and vulnerability scanning must be carried out during system testing. Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are run in parallel to implement system testing. Security impact analysis is done in the support phase of SDLC. From this, we can see that security testing is a constant process throughout the software development lifecycle and cannot be done in a silo, while vulnerability scanning and continuous monitoring should continue after deployment. 

Techniques & Approaches to Conducting Security Testing

Aspects of security testing are handled by various professionals, each with core strengths. The roles involved in security testing are:

  • Crackers - They stress a system to break it and steal information it holds.
  • Ethical hackers - They do the same things hackers do (try to break into a system without authorization), but ethical hackers do so after receiving explicit permission from the owner of the system with the sole purpose of assessing whether a system is vulnerable to unauthorized access. 
  • Script kiddies or packet monkeys - Novice hackers with limited skills in a programming language who mostly use premade scripts to test are called script kiddies.

Any of these role players can take different approaches to evaluate security. Security testing can be broadly divided into four general approaches.

White Box

In this approach, only the software end of a system is tested. The network and other infrastructure related to data security are not touched. This is purely to ensure the robustness of the written code.

Tiger Box

In the Tiger Box approach, a system or laptop is assessed for vulnerabilities and loopholes. The laptop can be of different operating systems, and different tools can be used to break into the system. Tiger is a free UNIX-based tool that can be used to perform security auditing and building intrusion detection systems.

Black Box

In the Black Box approach, the hacker has the permission and tools to look for vulnerabilities in any part of the system. Software, systems, network, networking devices, etc. can be tested for vulnerabilities. In the Black Box method, the hacker is not given any details regarding the systems and has to attempt to break in with no knowledge.

Grey Box

In this scenario, some information is provided to the hacker. Such scenarios are executed to mimic what an employee with some information on the systems could do with the available information they have.

Security Testing Best Practices

There are many best practices for security testing that have evolved as technology has advanced. Below are a few of the most important best practices and tips for effective security testing.

  1. Look for Anomalies

Security testing is done to find problems in a system, and the normal operation of the software should not be taken at face value by testers. Their task is to find unexpected behaviors that are not in the design or work in a way that contradicts the design consideration. This helps to put pressure on the vulnerable points in the system.

  1. Static & Dynamic Analysis

Static analysis is done on the code when it is not being executed. This must be done as a primary test to see if vulnerabilities can be found just by looking at the code. Dynamic testing is also called penetration testing and is done after static analysis with the application under operation. Hackers should attempt to penetrate and break the system in that state.

  1. Testing Accessibility

Testing accessibility is among the primary things to be covered while attempting security testing. Confidentiality is a central facet of data security. You must test to determine if authorization and authentication methods are working as intended without any vulnerabilities.

  1. Other Tests 

Tests should be conducted to ensure the security of data storage and to identify vulnerabilities, as well as ensure the encryption of data in transit and the ease of decryption to ensure data availability. Other functionalities like payment processing, file upload, etc. also should be tested before deployment. After deployment, vulnerability scanning should be conducted continuously to identify weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers. Addressing these vulnerabilities as they’re identified helps to protect your business against common web application vulnerabilities

Security testing is an integral component of application development and also plays an ongoing role in ensuring the security of existing applications, identifying new vulnerabilities and weaknesses that cybercriminals can exploit to carry out data breaches. Making security testing an ongoing process ensures more robust data security for your business. 

Zeguro is a cyber safety solution and insurance provider for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), offering a comprehensive suite of tools for risk mitigation and compliance, as well as insurance premiums that are tailored to the size, sector and profile of a company.
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Jai Bawa
Written by

Jai Bawa

Content Marketing and Social Media Intern

Student at San Jose State University, fascinated with the world of Digital Marketing. Movie enthusiast. Always curious!

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