The Complete Guide to Web Application Penetration Testing


If you are a web security professional, web penetration tester, or web application developer, this article is for you. This article will help educate and inform you about web application penetration testing (WAPT) tools and techniques; Explain how to test for vulnerabilities in your web applications; Provide tips on how you can improve the security of your web application with WAPT.

Web application pentesting

Web Application Penetration Testing (WAPT) is a method of identifying and preventing web application security problems. WAPT involves using and understanding web application vulnerabilities, tools, techniques and procedures to identify security issues in web applications that can be exploited for malicious purposes by hackers or other unauthorized persons. Web applications are programs designed to run on web servers such as Internet Information Services (IIS), Apache Tomcat, etc. They can range from simple text-based calculators to complex e-commerce solutions like Amazon’s Marketplace platform; which includes many different services running together at the same time: authentication systems, databases, websites and more.

Effective Web Application Pentesting requires a thorough understanding of the technologies used in web applications, such as web servers, web application frameworks, and web programming languages.

What are the benefits of performing web application penetration testing?

Web application penetration testing is the most effective way to detect vulnerabilities and security problems in web applications. With WAPT you can find out if your web applications are hacked or not, that is, if they have vulnerabilities that can be exploited for malicious purposes by hackers or other unauthorized persons; You can test web applications in a secure environment without worrying about crashing production systems during penetration testing; It helps identify problems before attackers do, allowing you to take action before user data is compromised. Web application pentesting can help web security professionals understand how web applications work, what technologies are used in web applications, and what vulnerabilities in web applications are exploited by attackers; It gives you a better understanding of the attack surface of your application so that the appropriate countermeasures can be implemented.

How web application pentesting works:

Web application penetration testing is performed by web security professionals who are responsible for web application security. Web security professionals use various tools and techniques to perform WAPT on web applications; they also develop custom test cases that mimic real-world attacks against web applications with predefined targets.

Web penetration testers typically follow these steps:

Get an understanding of how your target application works (ex: what technologies does it depend on etc) Scan your target application using automatic or manual tools for vulnerabilities in client-side code such as Javascript, Flash objects, content active as cookies etc, when you find a vulnerability, exploit it to get more information about its root cause, try to correct it if possible;

Here’s what web penetration testers typically do:

  • List web applications and web servers;
  • Identify the target application, its technologies (servers, frameworks) and programming languages;
  • Perform a manual penetration test using tools like Burp Suite or Acunetix to find vulnerabilities in client-side code such as Javascript, Flash objects, etc .;
  • Use automated scanners such as Netsparker or HP Web Inspect to identify known vulnerabilities related to the framework and the web server. Automated WAPT tools can also be used to exploit web application vulnerabilities found during the manual testing phase of pentests;
  • To carry out Analysis of the source code of the web application if necessary, so that you can troubleshoot security issues by implementing appropriate filters on the input data before it reaches the web application web servers;

Tools used in the pentesting of web applications:

There are many commercial and open source web application security assessment tools available to perform web application security assessments such as

  1. Acunetix WVS / WVS11;
  2. Netsparker web scanner;
  3. IBM Rational Appscan Standard Edition;
  4. HP Web Inspect Professional;
  5. Paros Proxy, etc.

But manual penetration testing of web applications is another great alternative to these automated techniques that offer more flexibility when running the tests. There are several steps involved when conducting a security assessment of a manual web application. This ranges from reconnaissance to exploitation based on your testing objectives (for example, to exploit vulnerabilities).

How to perform penetration testing of web applications:

Once you have identified the target of your web application security assessment, it is time for reconnaissance. You should do your best to gather as much information about your goal as possible that will help you plan our next steps during the pentest; such as identifying all the public-facing systems, what software platforms are being used, etc., after conducting recognition searches on Google, LinkedIn social media sites, or any other relevant source available online using matching custom keywords Using the name of the application or technologies being used, you should also look for downloadable web application files that contain sensitive information such as user names and passwords.

Now is the time to discover the technologies that are used in your goal by reviewing the source code of the application or other resources available online; This is a very important step as it will help plan our next steps during the penetration testing process, especially if you are using automated tools because they can only detect vulnerabilities based on specific web application frameworks / languages ​​etc. Penetration testing methodology from the outside in (that is, from web servers facing the public), since that way you can see how attackers carry out their attacks and what techniques they use to compromise web applications.

Tips to improve WAPT results:

Web application penetration testing requires a lot of planning and preparation before starting your testing, you also need to understand that web applications are very complex systems consisting of many technologies in use such as web servers / application servers, web application frameworks or languages ​​etc. so it is important to identify what technology is being used in the target web application.

Some tools support only one type of web application technology, for example:

  • Paros supports PHP applications but does not support ASP-based applications;
  • Acunetix WVS it can automatically identify what type of application server (i.e. Apache or IIS) is running on Windows OS based machines, but it does not do this for Linux boxes since they require manual configuration during the installation process, unlike Windows, where everything is detected automatically.

Ariaa already

Ariaa Reeds is a professional writer who curates articles for a variety of online publications. He has extensive experience writing on a wide range of topics including business, education, finance, travel, health, and technology.


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