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Swapnil Bains

May 05, 2016 / In Web Development

Surviving on copious amounts of coffee while occasionally rambling about digital marketing.

6 best practices for application security testing

Every application, regardless of its platform, is susceptible to cyber-attacks, even if it has been built using the best security and defensive coding practices. Despite these measures, applications require quite a lot of testing before they can be released.

This testing can be routine testing for picking out general susceptibilities or it can be security-focused pen testing. Either way, following best practices is crucial for finding and fixing the problems before launching the SDLC.

Here are 6 best practices for application security testing that you can follow:

1) Looking for the Unexpected Things

Implementing testing to see whether your code does what it’s supposed to do is expected but it won’t help you much. Instead, look for functionality that should not be there in your code, such as unexpected side effects and behaviour that has not been included as part of the design. In doing so, you will be able to detect hidden liabilities that could be exploited by potential hackers.

2) Excluding Public Interfaces for Testing Inputs

More often than not, during security testing, inputs tend to arrive to an application through its API and other public interfaces. These end up outnumbering inputs that arrive from the network and file system, which, as a result, are more prone to attackers looking for sensitive data. Therefore, it is important to test inputs from other interfaces as well.

3) Static Analysis

Static analysis allows you to thoroughly inspect every aspect of the software's source code while it is at rest, i.e. it is not being executed. The key is to program static analysis tools in such a way that they are able to look for flaws or back doors which you may not have noticed while coding.

4) Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic analysis follows static analysis, with dynamic testing being done in a runtime environment and security analysis done while the application is in operation. Dynamic testing tools can uncover hidden problems that may be too subtle or complicated for static analysis to detect, like memory manipulation or file access, which are not visible in plain view in the application's API.

5) Testing the Deployment Environment

It is absolutely crucial to check for configuration errors before deploying, as even a single misconfiguration or mistake in the setup process can leave an otherwise secure application exposed. If you are deploying an application to a server, scan the server for open ports, review configuration files, and ensure that attackers can't gain access to sensitive files or directories via the server.

6) Testing Procedures for Incident Response

Make sure that your incident response procedures are up and running properly, rather than waiting for a security attack to find out. Run breach simulation exercises during security testing which identify high-priority vulnerabilities to test your reactions. This will enable you to be aware about fixing the problem, and developing and implementing the security patch.

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