Penetration Testing Web Application | Vulnerabilities and Benefits

Penetration Testing Web Application

Living in the age of digital technologies, we shift lost of everyday affairs and business online. We use web applications for different aims like storage, sharing, and processing sensitive information. Unfortunately, malicious hackers define and exploit vulnerabilities for the sake of personal gain or just for fun.

Penetration Testing or Pentestare is a commonly used method of testing web application software security. Web Application Penetration Testing simulates external or internal attacks on sensitive data. Web penetration testing helps end-users discover how vulnerable a computer virus can make their web host or website.

What is web application penetration testing?

Web application penetration testing consists of a methodological process involving collecting information on targets and vulnerabilities and evaluating the exploits if the exposure succeeds or compromises the website. They are targeted at assisting and better understanding your web application security level and resistance to cyber-attacks. There are two kinds of penetration testing possible:

  • External penetration testing. It implies the simulation of attacks on web apps or websites in real-time. During this testing, pentester targets IP and domain, simulating the real behavior of hackers. It checks the reliability and security of public web pages involving server software, IDS, and firewalls.
  • Internal penetration testing. It serves to check the internal system. It may happen that people with access to internal security policies and know passwords can perform malicious employee attacks. Users with initial access to the network may perform attacks even if it does not intend to do this. So, internal pen testing can minimize the threat of such security threats from inside.

Web Application Penetration Testing Tools

While the assumption remains that penetration tests must be automated, some parts of the procedure must be manually executed. The best penetration testing combines manual & automated techniques.

Manual testing is usually applied to identify Business Logic vulnerabilities, thus reducing false positives possible using automated tools. So, manual tests define the authenticity of detected vulnerabilities.

The following is a list of the commonly used tools used in pen tests:

Burp Suites

Burp is a popular penetration test toolbox to identify vulnerable web applications. Known as a proxy-based tool, it can intercept communications between browsers and targets. It includes several useful features, such as its ability to generate proof-of-concept CSRF attacks on specific requests, a scanner that has a massive database of vulnerabilities, and a content search tool that automatically finds content that is not visible.

Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)

ZAP is a common open source software application scan feature; OWASP maintains that to detect web application security vulnerabilities. Moreover, ZAP has the main function of being a proxy for the user’s computer and the target application. Therefore, it allows the pen tester to intercept, monitor, and manipulate the communications between the browser and the site.


SQLMap is a powerful tool to find SQL injection attacks and vulnerabilities and takeover database servers. It supports a wide variety of database databases.


Veracode is an effective static analysis solution to detect and address application security vulnerabilities. It analyses major security frameworks and languages without using source code. As a result, the tools are very useful for the software development lifecycle as they help developers write secure software that assesses the security of Web, mobile, and backend applications.


Vega provides a free tool for monitoring web application vulnerabilities. This tool can be applied to detect and evaluate critical problems that could pose a threat. This tool has an interactive interface written in Java. It can support many major operating systems like OSX, macOS, or Windows.

Methodologies Commonly Used for Identifying Threats via Pen Testing

Methodology in the context of web application testing is a set of guidelines in cyber security to identify security loopholes. A list of generally accepted and well-known standards and methodologies applied for web application security testing. However, testers can invent their own methodologies sticking to standards since different web apps require different kinds of tests. Nevertheless, each competent cybersecurity researcher is familiar with the outlined methodology below.

OSSTMM (Open-Source Security Testing Methodology Manual)

Free-source testing for internet security is an ongoing tool for cyber-crime testing, which is updated every six months. This process is an integrated and supervised system to provide reliable data to users and analyze vulnerability red-teaming activities. OSSTMM covers most domains identified by ISC and is divided into five security testing areas:

  • Human security
  • Physical security
  • Wireless communication
  • Telecommunications
  • Data networks

OSSTMM concentrates on defining testing items, the testing process (from the preparation to an outcome), and result evaluations. It comprises the best international practices, ethical standards, regulations, and laws.

OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project)

This OWASP list of 10 threats is regularly revised to highlight what is a critical threat. The OWASP is an entity that helps strengthen software security by identifying the ten most dangerous threats sorted by their level of severity.

  1. SQL Injection
  2.  Broken Authentication
  3.  Valuable Data Exposure
  4. XML External Entities (XXE)
  5.  Broken Access Control
  6.  Security Misconfiguration
  7. Cross-Site Scripting XSS
  8. Insecure Deserialization
  9.  Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities
  10.  Insufficient Logging & Monitoring.

OWASP comprises professionals from various parts of the globe sharing information on the latest threats and attacks.

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

This methodology ensures that any organization handling credit card data maintains a secure environment. In addition, it improves customer trust levels and assists in avoiding data losses caused by unimaginable breaches. It has particular importance in the context of payments aspects. It is considered an international gold standard ensuring payment information is secured as organizations follow these methods.

ISSAF (Information Systems Security Assessment Framework)

A structured process based on nine steps to evaluate application control, system management, and network security (Refs). Web application pentest by ISAF is divided into three stages:

Planning and preparation. Getting initial information and defining the scope of pen testing and agreement of tests are involved in this stage.

Assessment. This stage starts with defining tools and following nine steps:

  • gather information
  • map network
  • vulnerability scanning
  • penetration
  • gain access
  • enumerate further web application exploits and process
  • remote users compromising
  • access maintenance
  • elimination of compromised signs

Reporting and managing detected vulnerabilities. This stage presupposes verbal (mainly urgent or critical issues) or written report (summary of detected vulnerabilities and recommendations on mitigation)

Vulnerabilities Possible to Define during Web App Penetration Testing

Vulnerability scanning allows defining weaknesses in the target website application and defining methods to fix and upgrade security levels by applying simulated attacks. The web app pen test determines whether a target site possesses proper configurations to resist and detect vulnerabilities and whether unauthorized users can access the target web application.

Vulnerabilities defined during testing web applications are of two types: infrastructure and application level vulnerabilities. At the infrastructure level, the pen test may determine:

  • password vulnerabilities;
  • unpatched and outdated applications;
  • misconfigurations.

While at the application level, the web application pen is looking for:

  • injection vulnerabilities;
  • vulnerabilities connected with authentication, encryption, and authorization flaws;
  • business logic vulnerabilities;
  • vulnerable components.

There is no universal method of testing web applications since each company has its own need and security posture. Therefore, each pen test should be well considered and tailored according to the requirements or weaknesses.

Benefits of Web Application Penetration Test

Each testing, scanning, or detection is done for a particular reason. For example, web penetration tests are preventive measures that enable security monitoring of the entire system’s security layer.

So, why is it important to perform testing of web applications:

  • Get close to reality revision of vulnerabilities;
  • Upgrade control of the access;
  • Define vulnerable routes of attack;
  • Detect loopholes that can cause data theft;
  • Check security policies effectiveness;
  • verification of publicly exposed components.

Vulnerabilities detection is a crucial part of the software development life cycle for those who want to build a reliable and secure system.

Wrapping up

Testing web applications before launching them is essential to ensure the security and trustworthiness of your website or application. So, perform application penetration testing, try to appeal to security professionals, and apply advanced tools and methods to detect weaknesses and vulnerabilities that may negatively impact your business.


What are the 5stages of penetration testing?

The logically connected stages of web app penetration testing are information gathering, threat modeling, vulnerability analysis, exploitation, and reporting and debriefing.

What is the importance of web application penetration testing?

Web penetration tests are a tool for the security profession to verify a security vulnerability on the Web. The Penetration Test of Web services is necessary to identify potential vulnerabilities in cyber security implementation.

What is the value of penetration testing?

The price varies depending on the scope and time ethical hackers need to fulfill the task. You have to pay between $700 – 4999$ depending on the pre-agreed pen testing plan.