Software Security Testing: Types, Tools, and Best Practices

Security testing is one of the most crucial processes in the application development lifecycle, though it cannot guarantee that the system is absolutely secure. In this article we will provide a security testing definition, describe where it is applied, and explain its types and principles.
  • 3 months ago
  • 5 min read

What is security testing?

Security testing can be thought of as a controlled attack on a system that identifies vulnerabilities or bottlenecks in the security of the system (in this case, an application). Also known as penetration testing or ethical hacking, security testing aims at assessing the current state of the system. One of the key goals is to identify all the security issues to help ensure that the system does not stop operating. This is where knowledge of testing theory, application behavior, human psychology, and common computer errors intersect.

Security testing is an essential part of software testing, and it is used to:

  • Detect assets. Software or its parts that need to be protected.
  • Identify vulnerabilities and threats. All possible actions that can harm an asset, or weak spots in an asset that may be exploited by attackers.
  • Discover risks. Finding any threat or vulnerability that may negatively impact the system’s operation.
  • Carry out remediation. Discern how to remediate all the weak spots discovered and then verify that they were successfully fixed.

As a rule, the following features and procedures are subject to verification:

Access Control. Testing identifies problems related to unauthorized access of users to information and functions, depending on the granted role.

Authentication. A QA engineer makes sure that there is no way to bypass the registration and authorization procedure, ensures that user data is managed correctly, and excludes the possibility of obtaining information about registered users and their credentials.

Input value validation. QA security testing is used to check data processing algorithms, including incorrect values, before they are referenced by the system.

Cryptography. Testing may detect problems related to encryption, decryption, signing, authentication, including the level of network protocols, work with temporary files and cookies.

Error handling mechanisms. Testing is aimed at checking system errors for the absence of the fact of disclosing information about internal security mechanisms.

Server configuration. A QA engineer searches for errors in multithreaded processes related to the availability of variable values ​​for sharing with other applications and requests.

Integration with third-party services. Security testing verifies that it is impossible to manipulate data transmitted between the application and third-party components, for example, payment systems.

Dos/DDos resiliency check. A QA expert checks the ability of an application to handle unplanned high loads and high volume.

Security testing examples

Let’s consider the value of security testing utilization from the web applications possible security issues.

  • Web applications are designed for mass use, so any failure caused by attackers can have a negative impact on innocent users.
  • Such applications often store sensitive data, and leakage of this data can have serious consequences.
  • Due to uncontrolled access to the application, developers and owners usually cannot control or restrict the actions of suspicious users.
  • The browser and the server exchange data through open channels with open protocols, so it is difficult to control the data transmitted.

Principles of security testing

Security testing for software development

Principles of security testing for software development

QMS compliance

The overall security strategy is based on the following six principles:

Confidentiality

Confidential information is not intended to be passed on to any third parties. Confidentiality aims at protecting the interests of the stakeholders by preventing unauthorized leakage of information.

Integrity

Integrity ensures that the data is accurate and consistent and has not been altered or modified.

Availability

Accessibility refers to the ability to access information any time it is needed. In case of data breach, it is useful to have a data availability plan.

Authentication

Authentication can be thought of as a set of security procedures designed to verify the identity of an object or a person.

Authorization

Authorization is a security mechanism which ensures that authenticated users have appropriate access controls to sensitive systems or data in accordance with their roles or permissions.

Non-repudiation

Non-repudiation is the ability to confirm the identity of the user or process that sent a particular message or performed a particular action.

Types of software security testing

Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability testing is an ongoing process that allows identifying, assessing, reporting, managing, and remediating security flaws across endpoints, workloads, and networks.

Security audit

This is a structured process of checking whether software complies with a specific standard. Audits typically include identifying network and system weaknesses. After the audit is completed, the QA engineer provides solutions for reducing these risks.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing is the process of facilitating real cyberattacks against an application in a secure environment. This can help to assess how the existing security measures will cope with real attacks.

Risk assessment

This testing type involves analysis of security risks observed in the organization. Risk assessment allows classifying security issues as low, medium, and high, and prioritizing their remediation.

Posture assessment

This combines all the aforementioned testing types to discern the overall security posture of an organization and evaluate its effectiveness.

Conclusion

Even after conducting a full cycle of security testing, one cannot be 100% sure that the system is truly secure. But you can be sure that the percentage of unauthorized intrusions, information theft, and data loss will be many times less than it would be without security testing.

Hire a professional team of security testers who know how to perform security testing, identify, and remedy weaknesses before you are attacked. EffectiveSoft offers professional QA and software testing services. Contact us to get a free project estimate.

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