OWASP Web Application Security Testing – Everything You Need To Know

OWASP

OWASP is an open-source organization that helps organizations find and fix security vulnerabilities in their web applications by providing documentation, software tools, conferences, and training. This article provides an overview of OWASP web application security testing guidance for both testers and project stakeholders. It includes the following sections:

What is OWASP Web Application Security Testing?

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) gives a document to guide testers in finding and reporting vulnerabilities. This document, called The Testing Guide or “the guide,” delves into details for performing manual penetration tests on modern web applications by following five high-level steps:

These five steps are described below. They form a logical order, but it should be noted that each step may also involve activities from other steps. In addition, there can also be some overlap between two or more areas during an assessment to help find problems faster and with a greater success rate when compared to doing only one thing at a time such as using either automated tools or manual techniques.

What Are The Five Steps For OWASP Web Application Security Testing?

The five steps for OWASP Web Application Security Testing are:

Step One: Plan and Prepare

This step is essential to ensure that the tester has a solid understanding of the application, its vulnerabilities, and the business requirements. The goal is to focus on areas most likely to cause harm if attacked. This information can be gathered from various sources such as technical specifications, design documents, source code reviews, interviews with developers and stakeholders, and penetration tests of previous versions of the application. Documentation should be created detailing everything needed, including diagrams of how the application works and flows.

Step Two: Identify Assets and Threats

In this step, testers identify what they are trying to protect and what could potentially harm the organization. This step is crucial because it helps to prioritize which areas of the application should be tested in greater detail. Testers should also identify who would be interested in attacking the application and why.

Step Three: Design Test Cases

This step entails designing a comprehensive set of test cases that will exercise all aspects of the application. The goal is to find vulnerabilities and confirm whether they have been fixed by developers. Attack scenarios are created based on information gathered in steps one and two. These attack scenarios will help testers verify that security controls are effective and mitigate potential risks. Manual testing, automated scanning, and fuzzing can be used as part of this process.

Step Four: Execute Test Cases and Analyze Results

This step is where the tester performs the tests. Testers should employ black-box, white box, and gray box testing techniques. They should also leverage both automated and manual tools. The goal is to find vulnerabilities and confirm whether developers have fixed them. This step produces a wealth of information that needs to be analyzed and saved.

Step Five: Report Findings and Recommend Solutions

The final step is to present the findings of the assessment clearly and concisely. This includes describing the vulnerabilities found, how they were exploited, what business impact they could have, and recommended solutions. Stakeholders need to understand the severity of these issues so that they can prioritize the necessary corrective actions. This step is important because it ensures that action items are tracked and completed by stakeholders who may not have been involved in testing.

OWASP’s Testing Guide has an English-only policy, which means all documentation must be written only in English and no other languages allowed:

This project prefers to use a single language for ease of communication between testers and developers as well as with upper management when discussing issues related to software security. It also helps ensure better quality control over writing since using one primary language limits translation errors during review phases such as those found on Wikipedia pages (en) or OpenStreetMap wiki (el). Many software projects within OWASP already follow this practice, so we wanted our web application security testing guide to follow suit.

What Is OWASP Top Ten?

The OWASP Top Ten is a classification of the most common attacks on the web. It has been published as a guide to help build secure applications. The OWASP top ten are-

  • Injection
  • Sensitive data exposure
  • Authorization
  • Insecure direct object references
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS)
  • Security misconfigurationBroken authentication
  • Session management
  • Sensitive data exposure
  • Broken authentication
  • Session management
  • Cross-site request forgery (CSRF)
  • Business logic errors

Why is OWASP Web Application Security Testing (WAST) Better Than Other Methodologies?

OWASP WAST adds value to the software development life cycle (SDLC) by providing detailed information on potential threats. This allows developers and security professionals to make informed decisions about how these issues should be remediated. Developer-focused methodologies like unit testing and code review are important, but they do not provide the same level of detail about potential security risks. Static analysis tools can be helpful, but they also have their limitations. Penetration testing is useful for identifying vulnerabilities, but it often provides a high-level view that may not be as actionable as WAST findings.

What is OWASP Application Security Framework?

The OWASP Application Security Framework is a comprehensive guide to developing, deploying, and measuring the security of web applications. The framework provides organizations with a set of best practices for securing their applications, which can help reduce the risk of attacks and data breaches.

The OWASP application security framework includes:

  • The OWASP Top Ten: General security vulnerabilities found in web applications.
  • The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS): Guide that verifies the security of web applications.
  • The OWASP Secure Coding Standard: A guide to writing secure code.
  • The OWASP Testing Guide: A guide to test the safety within web applications.
  • The OWASP Security Principles: A guide to secure application development.

The framework also includes some other resources, such as checklists, templates, and training materials, which can help organizations develop a comprehensive application security program.

Tools You Can Use To Conduct OWASP Web Application Security Testing

Multiple numbers of tools that organizations can use to conduct OWASP web application security testing includes:

  • Burp Suite: A tool for intercepting and manipulating traffic between a browser and web server and testing vulnerabilities.  
  • Acunetix Web Vulnerability Scanner: A tool for scanning web applications for vulnerabilities. Acunetix scans for vulnerabilities like injection and cross-site scripting.
  • Astra Pentest: A comprehensive web security testing tool that offers vulnerability scanning and management dashboard. 
  • Nessus: Detects vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting.
  • OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP): A tool for testing the security of web applications. 
  • Mantra: Tests the security of web applications. Mantra is used to test for common vulnerabilities. 
  • OWASP Security Knowledge Framework (SKF): A framework for managing application data, including OWASP project documentation, threats, attacks, mitigations, code examples, and more.

Conclusion

OWASP web application security testing is the best way to ensure that your organization’s applications are secure and compliant with the standards set by your field. By following the OWASP framework and tools to test for common vulnerabilities such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting, organizations can help ensure that their apps are secure. It can also be the make or break difference in your organization’s security detail.

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Varsha Paul

Varsha Paul

Varsha Paul is a marketing specialist at Astra Security. She is a keen security enthusiast, loves playing with data, and has a passion for writing about technology.