What is Security Testing?

Businesses and governments are highly impacted by the increasing number of cyber attacks and threats in today’s virtual world. Such attacks mainly target the customers’ data the organization serves. Therefore, there is a constant need to ensure the organization’s security. This is where Security Testing plays a crucial role.

Security Testing is a form of software testing performed to evaluate the security of a system or application. Security testing ensures the system’s safety from hackers, viruses, or cyber threats. Such protection can only be achieved by analyzing the system against all security-related expectations.

Security testing ensures that the application, network, server and/or database is free of security flaws. It is a part of a BlackBox software testing methodology, which uses fuzzing and code reviews. Security testing can be done manually or by using automated tools.

Security testing is an essential part of the software testing process and should not be overlooked. Many vulnerabilities in applications are security-related, resulting in a total loss of information, revenue, reputation, and customers. Security testers mainly focus on finding threats in applications by following various attack models.

Hence, it is essential to understand the basics of security testing, different tools, and techniques, and when and how to use them in different scenarios, to counter any threat and avert harmful exploits by cyber criminals.

Types of Security Testing

There are different types of security testing. However, they all work towards guaranteeing that software programs stay protected from all internal or external threats. After extended use, any program, application, or network can be subject to security threats. Therefore, different types of security testing offer a reliable means for organizations to strengthen the cybersecurity posture.

Here are the types of security testing as put forth by the Open Source Security Testing Methodology:

1. Vulnerability Scanning Test

This test scans a system or network assets, such as servers, routers, and endpoints, to find potential security vulnerabilities. It is a crucial first step in securing a network. Before implementing a countermeasure or control, it is usually performed to ensure the security feature is implemented to address the vulnerability.

A vulnerability scan will look for any missing security patches, weak passwords in the system, malware and report the potential exposure of treasure box when it is scanning.

This type of Scanning is automated and can also be scheduled weekly, monthly, quarterly depending on the organization. SISA is a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) by PSI SSC that provides vulnerability assessment solutions from automation solutions to securing your organization.

2. Security Scanning

Network security scanning is a systematic method to find vulnerabilities in a network, computer, or application. This type of Scanning consists of analyzing the network, operating systems, applications, and even the web servers.

Security scanning usually involves looking for network and system weaknesses and finding ways to eliminate these risks. This is done as part of both manual and automated scanning. Here are some points that need to be considered while performing network security scanning:

  • Security testing should be done on live data as well as test data. The best way to do this is to have a separate set of IP addresses for the test environment.
  • The tests should be done at regular intervals, depending on the risk factor involved. The more a company depends on IT infrastructure, the more frequent will be the scans to stop an intruder at the scanning attempt and firewall level.

3. Penetration Scanning

Penetration testing (Pen Testing) is a type of security testing that attempts to find and exploit potential vulnerabilities in the system. It is primarily required by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). This practice tests for any possible threats by simulating an attack from a malicious hacker.

The purpose of a penetration test is not just to see whether or not specific vulnerabilities exist within a system but also to determine the level of risk posed by these vulnerabilities. Therefore, a penetration test performed by security professionals should reveal all the potential risks and offer mitigation strategies against such threats.

A typical difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing is that vulnerability scan is primarily automated, and penetration testing is done manually by a security professional. SISA provides technical security services with skilled developers and ethical hacking to avoid any data breach for the organization. SISA Penetration testing also follows the industry best practices which include the following procedures:

  • Requirement Analysis
  • Threat identification
  • Vulnerability Evaluation
  • Exploitation
  • Post-Exploitation
  • Reporting

4. Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment is a technique used to identify and prioritize potential risks to an organization or project. Risk assessment is performed by identifying threats that could affect the project’s success.

By performing a risk assessment for an operation, techniques such as threat modeling can be used to determine the capabilities of a threat to exploit weaknesses in the environment. This information can then be used to prevent or mitigate against the most likely threats or accept residual risk from less likely ones. Tasks involved in risk assessment:

  • Identify all potential risks associated with the operation
  • Prioritize these risks based on their likelihood of occurrence and impact if they occurred
  • Perform qualitative risk analysis for high priority risks
  • Perform quantitative risk analysis for medium priority risks
  • Recommend controls and measures to reduce risk appropriately

It is a best practice to perform this assessment regularly. Based on the organization’s size, nature of business, extent of ecosystem interconnectedness etc., the risk continues to emerge, change, and recede. Most services-based companies such as TCS, Wipro, Infosys perform a monthly or quarterly risk assessment to protect the organization from any known vulnerabilities. Doing so improves the organization’s security outlook, which is essential in today’s data insecure world.

5. Security Audit

An internal security audit is an in-depth look at the information security defenses of an organization. For example, a company performing a security audit will protect information from hacking and its systems from malicious code.

Audits can be done regularly to ensure security flaws are easily identified and eliminated. Possible methods include:

  • Code review – Line-by-line inspection of the code and manual checking for security issues, e.g., buffer overflow, SQL injection, crypto weakness, etc.
  • Fuzz testing – Injecting random data to try and find fault in the system, e.g., SQL injection, crypto weakness, etc.
  • Penetration testing – Simulating an external threat by trying to break in using attack vectors such as DDoS attacks or brute force attempts at logins, etc.

Security testing is usually done by independent contractors like SISA or internal staff.

Cybersecurity audits act as a standard that organizations can use to validate their security policies and procedures held for the company. Companies will conduct a security audit that will encompass whether or not they have the proper security in place, ensuring they are compliant with the industry standards.

To prepare for the security audit, the below-stated tasks are to be set right by the organization:

  • Review the compliance standards of the company to make sure the company ensures the compliance policy
  • Detail the network structure of the organization
  • Create necessary knowledge base articles on access and group policies that are applied.
  • Review data and make sure organization-wide data clean-up is done to avoid discrepancies

6. Ethical Hacking

Another type of tool for security testing is ethical hacking. The ethical hacker’s role is critical since it’s impossible to find all the vulnerabilities within a system through technical or manual testing alone. It is vital to have a fresh pair of eyes review a system before it goes live, and hackers are a good bet to exploit any weakness they discover.

The attackers use malicious hacking to steal the user’s private information or change the system’s database. Whereas in ethical hacking, one does not try to damage or destroy anything, and hence it is often known as white hat hacking. Ethical hackers specifically hack into computer systems to expose flaws, not steal, or expose data.

The three types of Scanning in ethical hacking include:

  • Port Scanning
  • Network Scanning
  • Vulnerability Scanning

7. Assessment of Posture

A security posture assessment is a method used to analyze the current state of an organization’s security controls. The evaluation can also help identify existing risk areas and recommend changes or improvements that will improve the overall security of protected assets.

Assessments vary in scope and depth and are usually performed by external security or IT professionals. They can cost a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Security posture assessment is the first step for an organization towards strengthening its security. This assessment analyzes the organization’s current security standards, identifies the gaps (if any), and enlists actions needed to enhance the security strategy.

Performing the assessment is a two-step process: analyzing and reviewing current security controls and then performing a penetration test to invigorate an attack on the organization’s systems. Results are presented in a report form that identifies weaknesses and proposes corrective measures.

Other Types of Security Testing

Apart from the seven types of security testing, there are other specific types of testing.

8. API Security Testing

As the IT industry has shifted towards the cloud, there is an increased use of Application Programming Interface (API) targeting the cloud, bringing new risks for organizations. These risks to API include misconfiguration, exploitation of authentication mechanisms, and API misuse to launch attacks.

That’s why API security testing is crucial. It performs numerous functions that help identify any irregularity in an API. API also covers network security services. They aid in assisting developers in finding vulnerabilities to resolve the existing loopholes. The interfaces provide access to valuable and sensitive data that hackers can use to their absolute advantage.

Hence, developers must use the API security testing tool regularly and rigorously to fight unauthorized access. One of the common attacks API testing tackles is Man-in-the-Middle or MiTM attack. The attack involves hackers hearing or “eavesdrop” on communications to steal sensitive data. Hackers use fictional traffic to attack such interfaces.

9. Mobile application security

Mobile application security covers mobile testing applications from hackers. The first step that this type of security focuses on is understanding the purpose of the application and the type of data they handle. Then, a thorough and dynamic analysis with the help of specific tools helps assess the existing flaws.

Some of the steps involved in mobile application security testing are:

  1. Understanding the nature of the application – how it collects and stores information, and how it transmits the same.
  2. The testing decrypts the encrypted data of the app to get to the base of the application.
  3. The test also involves a static analysis that highlights the weak spots of the app. The results get generated in codes.
  4. Penetration testing helps understand the response of the mobile application when attacked.

There are many ways to decode an attack and resolve the same. However, most of the tools target specific parts of a system. Hence, thorough dynamic testing involving manual and automatic reviews can provide the best outcome.

10. Network Security Testing

Network security testing is a critical component of a comprehensive information security program. It is a broad means of testing network security controls across a network to identify and demonstrate vulnerabilities and determine risks. The testing medium can vary like wireless, IoT, ethernet, hardware, phishing emails, physical access, Dropbox placement, etc.

Network mapping involves creating a visual representation of the network infrastructure and its relationship to each user on the network. This can include identifying unknown devices on the web, analyzing traffic flow, and identifying potential weak points in the system. There are three main tools used to strengthen network security:

Physical Network Security Testing

Physical network security testing is performed by penetration testers who physically visit the site and attempt to access the network. There are various ways to do so:

  • They can try to access a building using a fake ID badge by posing as a delivery man or pretending their car has broken down. This is known as tailgating.
  • They can disguise themselves as telephone engineers or customers and ask for permission to test telephone lines or network equipment faults. This is known as piggybacking or vishing (voice phishing).
  • They can walk through the front door if they pretend to be customers or if there are no signs restricting entry. This is known as crashing the joint or social engineering (social engineering fraud).
  • They can use stolen credentials (stolen passwords, usernames, and/or electronic keys) or buy them from others who have stolen them. This is known as credential harvesting or social engineering (social engineering fraud).

Physical security testing involves looking for material weaknesses in an organization’s defenses against unauthorized access and attacks. However, it should also include checking relevant policies and procedures, including those covering security awareness training.

Technical Network Security Testing

Technical testing is the process of evaluating technical security controls for a system or network. In other words, it is an evaluation of the actual technical protection mechanisms that are being built into the solution to protect it from malicious attacks. It also tests that a security control works as designed and intended.

Technical testing is arguably the most critical aspect of security testing because this is where organizations get the most profound insight into how well their systems will stand up to malicious attacks in the real world. Unfortunately, non-technical tests are often not very useful in uncovering vulnerabilities in deployed systems because they do not consider how an attacker will try to exploit a vulnerability.

Administrative Network Security

The administrative network security tools are used widely to protect confidential data and information from the employees working in the organization.

The security policies are put in place by the company. These policies have been laid out to protect the sensitive data and information of the organization. The employees of the organization must comply with these security policies. In addition, administrative network security tools are used whenever there is a need to monitor and control user behavior.

To get a clearer picture of network security and its tools, here are some ways you can protect your network:

Network Security Firewall

A firewall (a.k.a. packet filter, packet inspection, or network firewall) is a device that enforces an organization’s security policy by blocking unauthorized Internet traffic while allowing legitimate communications to pass unimpeded. This is the first level of security and will stop any unauthorized entry to the organization page.

A firewall usually acts as a barrier between external and internal networks. It can be implemented on computers and routers and between networks at the Internet service provider (ISP) level.

NAC or Network Access Control

With the increasing number of cyber-attacks, network security has become a priority for most organizations. In addition, with the rise of BYOD, it is even more critical to ensure that the organization’s network is protected from devices that are not under your control. Network Access Control (NAC) is a tool that helps with this.

NAC is a comprehensive set of policies that avoid any unwanted influx into your network. These policies ensure that all network layers are protected using different tools. For example, a user can access the network as an administrator, but other folders with sensitive data will remain closed. Therefore, he/she will need access to other authenticating tools to open sensitive folders. In addition, NAC solutions can identify and map the profile to the device and perform health check assessments, enforce access control policies, and conduct remediation tasks in many cases.


Antivirus software is the most common and known network protection tool used. They are computer programs that act as a barrier and prevent numerous viruses like worms, trojans, and ransomware from entering the system’s network. From basic scans to removing such viruses, antivirus software can protect both private and public networks to a significant extent.

Antivirus programs can be either software or hardware based. Software-based antivirus is installed on endpoints and servers to protect them, while hardware-based antivirus is installed on network devices like routers to protect the entire network.

In addition to preventing malicious software from installing or propagating on a system, some antivirus software also offers additional features such as firewalls, password managers, and behavior blockers. However, the main difference between antivirus and network security is that the antivirus deals with the viruses such as Trojan attacks, whereas network security deals with protection against phishing and spyware.

Brief Summary of Security Testing Techniques

Many security testing techniques, application security testing tools, and security testing services prevent any threat to a system and its networks and applications. These techniques involve both manual and automated testing.

  1. SAST or Static Application Security Testing

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) ensures that your application has been developed with security in mind. SAST uses an approach that assesses the application when it’s not being used. This helps to identify any weaknesses in security by finding irregularities in code. In addition, SAST can provide a detailed report about the test, which enables a solution for any issues found.

  1. DAST or Dynamic Application Security Testing

DAST is another technique used for application security tests. DAST or Dynamic Application Security Testing is relatively new, and it is used for checking the application when it’s running, unlike SAST, which is only for static analysis. DAST helps to find flaws in the system or application using mock attacks, thus exposing more and more weaknesses, and resolving them. DAST can also check for flaws and bugs in an application.

  1. IAST or Interactive Application Security Testing

IAST can perform both static and dynamic assessments. The latter turns to a hybrid tool that can identify different vulnerabilities when an application is running. IAST is also dynamic as it uses various techniques and advanced attacks to get an in-depth response from the source.

  1. SCA or Software Configuration Analysis

SCA can manage and make open-source components of an application safe and secure. It can track and detect all vulnerabilities within all components. In addition to identification, the tool or technique also suggests a remedy to resolve the same.

  1. MAST or Mobile Application Security Testing

MAST involves using more than one tool to find vulnerabilities in mobile applications and their components. They include – static, dynamic, and penetration testing to get the best results. The assessment provides a detailed and holistic report that effectively makes the application more secure and safe to use.

There are many commercial mobile application tools. However, they do have a varying degree of functionality. Hence, it is best to use an authorized and dynamic Mobile Application Security Testing tool for a detailed assessment.

  1. RASP or Runtime Application Self-Protection

RASP is another dynamic tool after SAST, DAST, and IAST. The main goal of RASP is to analyze an applications’ traffic when running. User behavior forms a part and parcel of the assessment since it can show any vulnerabilities or external threats.

One of the best tools RASP possesses – its ability to create safe protection when an alert of threat is issued. Hence, it is effective in actively preventing attacks and increasing an application’s security strength.

The Bottom Line of Security Testing

Many applications, networks, and systems are becoming more and more vulnerable every day. With BYOD and IOT, more and more devices are secured apart from organization security. Survey shows December 2021 alone saw 74 publicly disclosed security incidents. For example, reports indicate that extensive systems like the web WordPress saw a notable increase in threats and breaches in recent years.

Most organizations and networks face the following standard security issues:

  • Leaking information stands at the top of the most problems faced worldwide.
  • Quality of the code in the application, especially in mobile applications.
  • Encrypting issues is another direct flaw most networks and applications are trying to battle.
  • Mismanagement of credentials leads to loss of valuable data, time, money, and resources.

However, applications make Scanning mandatory for all systems despite the bleak issues. This is because the scans can perform the essential function of finding threats and diminishing them and improving security after such threats. Unfortunately, challenges are aplenty for security testing and application security testing.

The cybersecurity industry is moving ahead to create a more complex structure to fix issues with minimal losses. In addition, more and more free tools are available for the public to use and manually test their systems. Also, with hybrid working and distributed computing systems the security challenges have only increased.

Apart from application security testing, network security is one of the highest priorities for an organization because they form the base for protecting data and, in turn, assets from any hack and loss. Hence, understanding the dynamics of networks and third-party services, data sharing, and employees’ access can protect the overall integrity of the organization.

As discussed, many tools are available that can help save costs and time. The main goal of security tools is to create a safe and secure space in a boundary-less environment. The benefits of investing in these tools can outweigh the costs and losses arising out of potential attacks.

Application and network security tools are vital in protecting an organization’s data and clients. Different tools can keep all shared data under limited access and prioritize increasing the system’s performance to battle any external threat. A well-designed tool or security application tool can safeguard all personal and organizational systems and networks from all kinds of cyber threats.

Both manual and automatic security tests are required to stay on top of security system. By conducting all types of tests using both methods and leveraging other tools, organizations will have the best chance to eliminate all kinds of threats, both externally and internally.

Now that the importance of security testing is evident, it is time to manage data and leverage the best tools to create a resilient infrastructure to protect your customers’ privacy.

Get in touch with us, SISA. SISA provides a broad spectrum of security services and solutions to help organizations protect their assets and ensure security compliance.

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