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Everything You Need to Know About Web Application Penetration Testing

Posted by Ankit Pahuja. Last Updated on February 24th, 2022 by Editorial Staff |  Reader Disclosure


If you run a web application, you should be familiar with web application penetration testing. Penetration testing is the practice of breaching a system in order to identify security flaws that might be exploited by hackers.

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In this blog post, we will discuss what web application penetration testing is, why it’s important, and how you can perform it using various tools and techniques. We’ll provide you with some ideas on how to make the most of your penetration testing activities as well.

What Is Web Application Penetration Testing?

Web application penetration testing is the process of identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications. This can include finding insecure code, uncovering misconfigurations, and discovering authentication and authorization flaws.

Manual analysis, source code review, vulnerability scanning, and fuzzing are all used by penetration testers to expose these flaws.

Relevance of Web Application Penetration Testing

If you’re responsible for the security of a web application, then you need to be aware of the many potential vulnerabilities that could exist in your system.

A successful attack against a web application can result in the theft or exposure of sensitive data, damage to business reputation, loss of revenue, or even regulatory fines.

That’s why it’s important to routinely test your web applications for vulnerabilities and fix any issues that are found.

Features of Web Application Penetration Testing

There are a number of features that make web application penetration testing different from other types of penetration testing.

Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Focus on web applications rather than networks or systems
  • Use of tools and techniques specifically designed for attacking web applications
  • Ability to test internal systems that aren’t exposed to the internet (by using a VPN)
  • Simulation of attacks by malicious insiders who have access to sensitive data
  • Testing for vulnerabilities in all layers of the application, including front-end code and back-end servers.
  • Examine both the front-end and back-end elements of a web application in this course

Tips for Web Application Penetration Testing

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your web application penetration testing efforts:

  • Start by identifying the business requirements and security goals for the test. This will help you to focus on the areas that are most important to your organization.
  • Use a variety of tools and approaches to discover security holes. This will help you to cover as much ground as possible.
  • Keep an eye on both the front-end and back-end elements of the application. Oftentimes, vulnerabilities can be found in either area.
  • Be prepared to test for vulnerabilities that are not listed in the OWASP Top Ten or other similar lists. There are many potential security issues that could exist on your site, so don’t just focus on known ones.
  • Low-hanging fruit such as misconfigurations and insecure code should be kept in mind. These types of issues can be easily fixed by developers without much effort required from them (or you).
  • Make sure to follow up with development teams after finding any vulnerabilities so they can be addressed appropriately.

Tools For Web Application Penetration Testing

Here are some tools that you can use for web application penetration testing:

  • Burp Suite: This is an intercepting proxy tool with a built-in scanner and manual analysis features; it’s written in Java but runs on Linux, OSX, and Windows machines.
  • OWASP ZAP: This is another open-source scanning tool that also has manual analysis capabilities; it comes preinstalled with many of the most popular scanners such as Nikto, Arachni Scanner, Skipfish, etc. You’ll just need Java installed beforehand. It works well across platforms too because it’s written entirely in Python.
  • Astra’s Pentest: This is a commercial web application security scanner that has both automated and manual scanning capabilities. It’s a well-known and popular scanner on the market, having been around for quite some time.
  • Netsparker: Another commercial web application security scanner with both automated and manual scanning features. This tool is known for its accuracy and ability to find vulnerabilities that other scanners often miss.
  • WebInspect: Yet another commercial web application security scanner, this time from HP. It offers both automated and manual scanning as well as reporting features.
  • AppScan Standard: IBM’s commercial web application security scanner that offers both automated and manual scanning features.

Tools like these are just a small sampling of what’s available out there; you should explore different tools to see which ones work best for you. The important thing is to use one that gives you the most coverage possible.

Resources For Web Application Penetration Testing

Here are some resources that you can use to learn more about web application penetration testing:

OWASP Testing Guide v.13 – This is an open-source guide for both manual and automated testing of web applications; it covers many different types of vulnerability tests including SQL injections, XSS attacks, cross-site request forgeries (CSRF), etc.

Web Security Testing Cookbook by Paco Hope & Ben Walther – This book contains recipes on how to test specific vulnerabilities such as CSRF or XSS attacks using various tools like Burp Suite Pro or Fiddler Web Debugger; it also includes tutorials on how to build custom attack scripts with Python or Ruby scripting languages so you can expand your knowledge base beyond just knowing what types of vulnerabilities exist out there.

Web Application Security Testing Essentials by Adam Gates – This book covers some basic concepts in web application security testing, including how to set up your environment and configure it properly before actually getting into any kind of manual or automated tests; It also gives some tips on common mistakes that people make when doing these kinds of assessments so they won’t happen again later down the road (e.g., you could accidentally delete important files).

The Hacker Playbook: Practical Guide To Penetration Testing by Peter Kim – This is another great resource for learning about penetration testing; It’s geared more towards offensive tactics than defensive ones though because most people want to learn how enemies will attack system before figuring out how to protect against those things.

Penetration Testing: A Hands-on Introduction To Hacking by Georgia Weidman – This book is perfect for beginners who want to learn how to hack; it covers the basics of penetration testing and provides a lot of hands-on exercises so you can put your new skills into practice.

These are just some of the resources that are available out there; I’m sure you’ll be able to find others if you do a quick Google search. The most crucial thing is to begin and continue learning about web application security as much as possible.

Common Attacks In Web Application Penetration Testing

There are many types of attacks and vulnerabilities that you could encounter when doing a web application penetration test. The most common ones include:

  • SQL injections (see OWASP’s SQL injection cheat sheet).
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks (see OWASP’s XSS prevention cheat sheet).
  • Cross-Site Request Forgeries (CSRF), also known as one-click attacks or session riding; can be used to steal cookies from other users who have logged into an online service before visiting your website, which means they’ll get access without having entered their credentials manually at any time during the process.
  • Credential/password stuffing using bots to try different usernames & passwords until something works; this can be done manually but is usually automated using software such as Selenium or PhantomJS.
  • Brute force attacks against web forms with lots of fields that require input before submission, which makes it harder for humans to guess the correct combination and easier for machines (e.g., if a login form requires both username and password then there are two chances instead of just one).
  • Remote File Inclusions (RFI/LFIs) where attackers upload malicious code onto your server by exploiting vulnerabilities in PHP scripts; they may also use these techniques to execute commands remotely without having direct access themselves.
  • Directory Transversal Attacks (DTAs), also called Path Traversal Attacks, occur when an attacker uses directory traversing characters “../” to access directories that are not normally accessible from the current directory.

These are all vulnerabilities that could lead attackers to gain unauthorized entry into websites or applications, so it’s important to learn how to protect against them.

The W3C Validation Standard provides a useful guide to identifying common web application threats. The OWASP Top Ten is an excellent starting point for learning more about some prevalent security concerns in today’s web applications.


This article mentions everything one needs to know about web application testing starting from what it is, its relevance, features, tools, resources, common attacks, and lastly, tips to do web application penetration testing right!

In a nutshell, to guarantee the security and privacy of user data, web application testing is crucial. It should be done regularly by organizations as well as individual users to identify any vulnerabilities that may exist in their systems.

Web application penetration testing can help organizations uncover these vulnerabilities and fix them before they are exploited by hackers.

By following the tips mentioned in this article, you can do web application penetration testing effectively and find all the loopholes in your system before someone else does!

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Author Biography
About Ankit Pahuja (Guest Author)

Ankit Pahuja is the Marketing Lead & Evangelist at Astra Security. Ever since his adulthood (literally, he was 20 years old), he began finding vulnerabilities in websites & network infrastructures. Starting his professional career as a software engineer at one of the unicorns enables him in bringing “engineering in marketing” to reality.

Ankit Pahuja is a guest author on IQBrain Technologies.

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