The Basics of Application Security Testing, Part 1: Concepts

For successful security testing, companies may need to take a wide stance, covering as many possible types of attacks as they can for comprehensive protection. PSC is taking a closer look at the fundamentals of testing, so businesses can learn the full breadth of what goes into successful practices. Today, we will look at the general concepts behind testing, as well as essential types of attacks to be aware of.

“Testers should familiarize themselves with the core concepts of application security.”

There are three basic kinds of application testing security methods. While they may overlap and cover similar areas, each has a specific purpose set out by the organization. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) defines them as follows:

  • Information Gathering or System Gathering involves anticipating all possible code paths through thorough research. The goal is an in-depth analysis of the application, with a particular eye for vulnerabilities.
  • Logical testing similarly requires testers to pursue possible flaws that come from users acting “illogically.” Unlike information gathering, this method cannot rely on scanners and needs a live operator to find ways to push the application beyond its boundaries.
  • Injection attacks can use the application as a conduit for a wider impact, modifying language to have a malicious effect on the user.

In addition to understanding these essential categories, testers should also familiarize themselves with the core concepts of application security. Below are six essential factors for secure processes:

Confidentiality

However organizations ensure confidentiality, it’s vital that they maintain the proper limitations on protected information. Only approved individuals should have access to the application’s important contents, and a proper security check will prevent unapproved disclosure. For added assurance, companies can encode information through cryptographic algorithms to best enforce the company’s security policies.

Integrity

This refers to the status of the information transmitted through the application. Ideally, received information will stay consistent and preserved as a check against possible corruption.

Authentication

Just as user identities need approval in a secure application, the information in an application itself should be validated to verify a low risk level. This can extend to messages, transmissions and their sources of origin. When authentication is correctly introduced, it gives the user more confidence about the stability of the application.

Availability

Security can be best enforced when approved users have the necessary information and communication at their disposal. This can also depend on a proper approval process for everyone attempting access.

Authorization

In addition to keeping an accurate list of official users, authorization can also pertain to the degree of control administrators have over who can access relevant systems, services and operations. Authorization is a binary consisting of either approving or denying specific individuals who want to use the application. Properly doing so makes other items on this list more possible.

Nonrepudiation

Under this principle, actions and communications are respected after they are made and can’t be rescinded after the fact. Using authentication and time stamping protocols, the application can once again maintain consistent practices, keeping interactions from retroactive cancelation.

Putting these ideas into play means an application will function better and give users a reliable, safe experience. Contact PSC to learn more about the best application security testing practices.

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About the Author:

Rob Cross is currently an executive with PSC.

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