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Bridging the gap between pentesting and automated scanners with business logic assessments

Vishrut Iyengar

Oct 23, 2023 / 7 min read

The digital realm is an ever-expanding universe, and web applications serve as the gateway to valuable customer data, sensitive information, and financial transactions. Threat actors and cybercriminals are constantly devising new techniques to exploit vulnerabilities within these applications. Further, data privacy is a paramount concern, and organizations are entrusted with safeguarding information. It goes without saying that security breaches can severely damage an organization's reputation and erode the trust of its customers.

Traditional security measures such as penetration testing and automated scans provide valuable insights, but they often fall short of detecting intricate business logic vulnerabilities that lie hidden within the application's core workflows.

Let's understand what business logic is and why business logic assessments are critical to your application security program.

What is business logic

Business logic refers to the set of rules, calculations, and processes that dictate how an application operates and performs its specific tasks, based on business requirements. It essentially represents the core functionality and decision-making logic of an application, guiding how data is processed, stored, and manipulated to achieve specific outcomes.

A business logic assessment (BLA) focuses on understanding the application's logic and workflows to identify security and functional issues that require a deeper understanding of the application's intended behavior. Automated scans such as dynamic application security testing (DAST) are well-suited for quickly identifying common vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in an application, making it better suited for regular security testing and larger-scale assessments. Synopsys strongly advises a combination of both approaches to provide comprehensive security coverage for your applications.

BLAs categorizes business logic into five main segments.

  • User roles and permissions: Ensuring that users have appropriate access rights and privileges to perform their intended actions without unauthorized access to sensitive functionality or data
  •  Transactional integrity: Verifying that financial or critical transactions are executed accurately and securely, preventing fraud or data manipulation
  • Workflow analysis: Identifying potential flaws in the application's workflow that could lead to security vulnerabilities or misuse by attackers
  • Validation of user input: Assessing how user input is validated and processed, ensuring protection against injection attacks, like SQL injection or cross-site scripting (XSS)
  • Security during state changes: Examining how the application handles state changes (e.g., changing user roles) securely and without unintended consequences

Now let’s see how business logic dictates the way an example eCommerce application processes user inputs, performs calculations, and enforces certain rules to deliver a seamless and efficient user experience.



Business logic


User registration and login

When a user registers on the website, the application checks if the provided email address is unique and not already registered. If it is unique, the user's information is stored in the database, and they receive a confirmation email.

If a user attempts to register with an email address that is already in use, the application will display an error message, asking the user to use a different email.

Shopping cart management

When a user adds items to their shopping cart, the application calculates the total price of all the selected products and displays it to the user.

If a user adds a t-shirt priced at $20 and a pair of jeans priced at $30 to their cart, the application will display a total of $50.

Order placement

When a user places an order, the application verifies the availability of the products in the inventory and deducts the quantity ordered from the available stock.

If a user places an order for three t-shirts and there are only two t-shirts available in the inventory, the application will inform the user that only two t-shirts can be delivered, and they need to update their order quantity.

Payment processing

When a user proceeds to checkout, the application securely processes the payment, verifies the payment details, and confirms the successful transaction.

If a user enters incorrect credit card information, the application will prompt them to re-enter the correct details before proceeding with the payment.

Discount calculation

During promotional periods, the application applies discount codes entered by users to calculate the final price of their order.

If a user applies a 10% discount code to their cart with a total price of $100, the application will deduct $10, resulting in a final price of $90.

Properly defining and implementing business logic is crucial to ensuring an application functions correctly, securely, and in accordance with the organization's security objectives.

BLAs: Your application security program’s new best friend

As a market leader, Synopsys advocates for best practices in application security. BLAs represent a cutting-edge approach that not only ensures the highest level of security for web applications but also empowers organizations to stay ahead of adversaries. By conducting BLAs, organizations can demonstrate their dedication to safeguarding customer data, ensuring secure code practices, maintaining compliance, and fortifying their resilience against ever-evolving cyberthreats.

BLAs are a structured and a comprehensive approach to testing and evaluating the logic, functionality, and security of web applications. Unlike traditional penetration testing (pen testing) or bug bounty programs, BLAs go beyond merely identifying common vulnerabilities like SQL injection or cross-site scripting. Instead, it delves into the application's workflows, business rules, and underlying logic to uncover vulnerabilities that might otherwise remain hidden.

Embracing BLAs is a proactive step toward safeguarding both the organization and its valued customers from potential security breaches.

Cyberthreats are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the lack of secure coding practices can expose web applications to significant risks. BLAs offer a powerful solution by delving into the application's core logic, identifying vulnerabilities, and ensuring secure coding practices are followed from the onset. By prioritizing BLAs, organizations can bolster their web application's security, protect their customer's data, and build a reputation as a reliable and security-conscious entity in the digital landscape and protect themselves from potential security breaches. Some of the benefits of BLAs include

  • Comprehensive coverage: BLAs ensure a thorough examination of an application's logic, ensuring that all critical areas are tested for vulnerabilities and providing organizations with a holistic view of their security posture. 
  • Risk mitigation: By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in the application's logic, BLAs help mitigate potential risks and prevent security breaches that could lead to data leaks, unauthorized access, or other malicious activities.
  • Professional and structured approach: Unlike bug bounties, BLAs follow a standardized methodology with consistent policies and processes. They ensure that assessments are conducted professionally by experienced assessors, reducing the risk of overlooking critical vulnerabilities.
  • Predictable low costs: BLAs provide a clear understanding of the costs involved, allowing organizations to budget accordingly. Unlike bug bounties, where the costs can quickly escalate based on the number of vulnerabilities found, BLAs offer predictable pricing.
  • Secure coding practices: BLAs offer a valuable learning opportunity for developers. The insights gained from these assessments help developers understand the significance of secure coding practices and how they can be effectively implemented. This knowledge fosters a security-conscious culture within the development team, encouraging best practices in every stage of an application's life cycle.
  • Expert assessors: BLA teams consist of experienced security experts who undergo extensive training. Their expertise ensures a high-quality assessment that identifies complex vulnerabilities that might be overlooked by less experienced professionals or processes (i.e., bug bounty hunters).

What makes BLAs so powerful

Synopsys provides BLAs that are carried out by qualified, security engineers on web applications that use the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) on the application layer and have an underlying transmission control protocol (TCP) transport layer. Our comprehensive coverage extends to the base application URL and authorized connected host name URLs.

Our team of security engineers is composed of hand-picked experts who are rigorously trained in manual testing. Each engineer undergoes a meticulous evaluation period spanning several weeks, and most have extensive experience and have completed hundreds of manual assessments.

These security engineers analyze the business model of the application to determine its intended design and purpose. They record dynamic application functionality and workflows in a site map, and review and define user roles and permissions. They also identify the underlying technologies for the application. 

When conducting BLAs, our security engineers dig deep into the application's business model to understand its intended design and purpose. They create a site map, recording dynamic application functionality and workflows, while meticulously defining user roles and permissions and identifying the underlying technologies.

Safety is paramount in our approach. We strictly avoid any testing that could lead to a denial of service or harm the application. Every BLA is conducted with strict enforcement to ensure consistent and reliable results. Our engineers perform thorough vulnerability testing, paying special attention to issues that automated scanners might miss, such as those listed in the OWASP Top 10, WASC 2.0, and CWE Top 25. Our testing procedures are continuously updated with the latest information from OWASP, other standards, and our own independent investigations.

Upon completion of the BLA, findings are made available to the client, complete with a customized description and instructions on how to reproduce the issue. The results are presented alongside an icon indicating the need for a manual retest in the WhiteHat Dynamic platform. Our vulnerability assessment system seamlessly integrates DAST results and BLA findings, ensuring a cohesive and efficient testing process without requiring any changes.

With Synopsys BLAs, organizations can rest assured that their web applications receive the highest level of scrutiny, expert analysis, and protection against potential vulnerabilities. Our dedication to security excellence empowers businesses to strengthen their application security posture and safeguard their valuable assets in an ever-evolving threat landscape.

BLAs vs. bug bounty programs

A BLA and a bug bounty program are two distinct approaches to application security testing, each with its own set of advantages. While both aim to identify vulnerabilities in applications, there are reasons why organizations may prefer a BLA over a bug bounty program.

While bug bounty programs involve a diverse talent pool who may readily help identify security issues, they also lack the level of consistency as a BLA. Further, bug bounties often have unpredictable costs, depending on the severity of discovered vulnerabilities. They also make an application available to a larger group of external testers, potentially exposing it to unintended consequences.

BLAs ensure more comprehensive, consistent, and controlled security testing. However, some organizations may choose to complement BLAs with bug bounty programs to maximize the identification of potential vulnerabilities. By using a combination of these approaches, organizations can strengthen their application security and proactively protect their critical assets from cyberthreats.


BLAs offer a comprehensive, professional, and cost-effective approach to identifying and mitigating potential security risks. By embracing BLAs, organizations can strengthen their security posture, build customer trust, and safeguard their valuable data in an ever-changing threat landscape.

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