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Web application penetration testing is the practice of simulating attacks on a system in an attempt to gain access to sensitive data, with the purpose of determining whether a system is secure. These attacks are performed either internally or externally on a system, and they help provide information about the target system, identify vulnerabilities within them, and uncover exploits that could actually compromise the system. It is an essential health check of a system that informs testers whether remediation and security measures are needed.

What are the benefits of web application penetration testing?

There are several key benefits to incorporating web application penetration testing into a security program.

  • It helps you satisfy compliance requirements. Pen testing is explicitly required in some industries, and performing web application pen testing helps meet this requirement.
  • It helps you assess your infrastructure. Infrastructure, like firewalls and DNS servers, is public-facing. Any changes made to the infrastructure can make a system vulnerable. Web application pen testing helps identify real-world attacks that could succeed at accessing these systems.
  • It identifies vulnerabilities. Web application pen testing identifies loopholes in applications or vulnerable routes in infrastructure—before an attacker does.
  • It helps confirm security policies. Web application pen testing assesses existing security policies for any weaknesses. 

Penetration Testing: A Buyer's Guide

This guide details the benefits of pen testing, what to look for in a pen testing solution, and questions to ask potential vendors.

How is penetration testing performed for web applications?

There are three key steps to performing penetration testing on web applications.

  • Configure your tests. Before you get started, defining the scope and goals of the testing project is important. Identifying whether your goal is it to fulfil compliance needs or check overall performance will guide which tests you perform. After you decide what you’re testing for, you should gather key information you need to perform your tests. This includes your web architecture, information about things like APIs, and general infrastructure information.
  • Execute your tests. Usually, your tests will be simulated attacks that are attempting to see whether a hacker could actually gain access to an application. Two key types of tests you might run include
    • External penetration tests that analyze components accessible to hackers via the internet, like web apps or websites
    • Internal penetration tests that simulate a scenario in which a hacker has access to an application behind your firewalls
  • Analyze your tests. After testing is complete, analyze your results. Vulnerabilities and sensitive data exposures should be discussed. After analysis, needed changes and improvements can be implemented. 

What tools are used for web application penetration testing?

There are open source and commercial tools available to perform pen testing. You can also perform web application pen testing manually. 

Web Application Penetration Testing | Synopsys

How can Synopsys help?

Synopsys offers on-demand expertise to help you manage your risk. With managed pen testing services, you can perform exploratory risk analysis and business logic testing, helping you systematically find and eliminate business-critical vulnerabilities in your running web applications and web services, without the need for source code.

Resources to manage your AppSec risk at enterprise scale