Importance of Application Security Testing in Today’s Scenario
According to the 2016 Internet Security Threat Report published by Symantec Corporation, “Symantec discovered more than 430 million new unique pieces of malware in 2015, up 36 percent from the year before.” The report further adds, “Vulnerabilities can appear in almost any type of software, but the most attractive to targeted attackers is software that is widely used.” As per a report posted on SecurityIntelligence.com,”Financial markets continued to take the largest percentage of attacks along with computer services and governments. “
The research conducted by several companies indicates that each software application nowadays is vulnerable to targeted malware attacks. Also, the cyber criminals execute advanced tools and innovative techniques to hack web-based applications. Hence, it becomes essentials for enterprises to perform elaborate security testing. A business can even consider embedding security and penetration testing into software development lifecycle seamlessly.
Why Application Security Testing needs to be Elaborate and Continuous?
Emergence of New Malware
The 2016 Internet Security Threat Report published by Symantec Corporation indicates that cyber criminals create and distribute unique pieces of malware on a regular basis. Hence, each application is vulnerable to a variety of attacks. Often the malware attack websites and web applications through loopholes in input validation, authentication, authorization, exception management, and login system. The QA professionals need to perform a variety of security and penetration tests to identify and eliminate these loopholes that make the application vulnerable to targeted malware attacks. Also, they need to repeat certain tests during various phases of development to make the web application secure.
Growing Instances of Data Breach
According to the 2016 Internet Security Threat Report published by Symantec Corporation, “At the close of 2015, the world experienced the largest data breach ever publicly reported. An astounding 191 million records were exposed. It may have been the largest mega-breach, but it wasn’t alone.” Most organizations nowadays collect a variety of personal data of users through their websites and mobile apps. So they must keep the personal data of each user fully secured, along with eliminating chances of identity threats and financial frauds. The QA professionals can use advanced security testing tools to identify the loopholes facilitating such data breaches.
Steady Increase in Number of Ransomware
To quote from the 2016 Internet Security Threat Report published by Symantec Corporation, “Crypto-style ransomware grew 35 percent in 2015. An extremely profitable type of attack, ransomware will continue to ensnare PC users and expand to any network-connected device that can be held hostage for a profit.” As malicious software, ransomware is designed to blocking the access to a computer, and compelling users to pay a specific sum of money to access their computers. The advances ransomware can also be used to block access to both computers and mobile devices. However, the ransomware takes advantage of the loopholes in the operating system or applications to restrict access to a device. Hence, it becomes essential for QA professionals to identify the loopholes that make the software vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
Keeping the Application Functional and Live
Many large companies failed to protect their websites and mobile apps from new denial of service attacks despite using advanced encryption techniques and latest security tools. Before a few months, a denial of service attack compelled HSBC to shut down its personal banking website and mobile app temporarily for several hours. Hence, such denial of service attacks can affect the reputation of the business and credibility of its application in the longer run. The testers must perform security testing continuously to identify the loopholes that make the application vulnerable to denial of service attacks.
Quality of Code Differs
To reduce development time, organizations often divide large applications into smaller modules and assign individual programmers to specific modules. But the programming skill and expertise of each code writer differ. Hence, the quality of individual pieces of code also differs. Often the weaker pieces of code or minor flaws in the code make the application vulnerable to targeted malware attacks. That is why; testers perform elaborate source code review as part of security testing. They assess the quality of individual pieces of code, and remove the pieces that affect the security of the software adversely.
Avoid Issuing Emergency Security Patches
It is a common practice among companies to issue emergency security patches to fix the zero-day vulnerability identified in their applications. But often QA professionals find it daunting to create emergency security patches within a shorter amount of time. Also, the business has to incur additional expenses to create and release an effective emergency security patch. On the other hand, the code writers always find it easier to repair the security vulnerabilities in an application identifies during the development process. That is why; a business must perform security testing throughout the software development lifecycle to reduce maintenance cost and avoid issuing emergency security patches.
Identify Hidden Security Vulnerabilities in the Application
Often testing professionals have to assess all aspects of a software application within a stipulated amount of time. So they often fail to identify the hidden security issues. Also, the testers must think and act like real hackers to identify such hidden security issues in the software. As part of security testing, the QA professionals perform elaborate penetration testing. Penetration testing emphasizes on assessing the security of the entire IT infrastructure including application, server, network and operating system. Hence, it becomes easier for testing professionals to identify these hidden security issues in the application much before its release.
However, an enterprise also needs to explore ways to protect its application from emerging security threats. It must assess the overall security of the application, server, infrastructure and network consistently to identify and eliminate all security vulnerabilities. Each business must implement a comprehensive security testing strategy to launch a secure application, and keep it secure in the longer run.