What is Web Penetration Testing?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, cybercriminals have become increasingly bold. In 2021 alone, ransomware attacks caused roughly $6 trillion in damages. Despite running up-to-date endpoint protection, 75% of businesses were infiltrated, making web penetration testing imperative to company security.

Misconfigured web servers can cause significant revenue losses—so how do you increase confidence in web application security? Read on to find out how web penetration testing can help you prevent attacks and threats to your business.

Web Penetration Testing Defined

A web penetration test (sometimes referred to as a pen test) is a simulated cyberattack performed on your system to identify vulnerabilities. Penetration testing typically helps to augment a web application firewall (WAF).

There are a few types of web penetration testing.

  • External testing: Testers target company assets visible on the internet. These assets include websites, emails, and domain name servers (DNS). Ethical hackers must determine how far they can penetrate the system remotely.
  • Internal testing: Testers simulate cyberattacks meant to get behind company firewalls. These insider hacks involve penetrating staff accounts that have been compromised by phishing attacks. Internal testing allows users to determine the damage caused by employees with administrator rights.
  • Targeted testing: Testers and security personnel work simultaneously to get real-time feedback and determine the most effective security strategies.
  • Blind testing: Testers perform cybersecurity attacks with only the knowledge of the company name. They do not receive any background information.
  • Double-blind testing: Testers and defending organizations are not informed of the attack. This simulates a real-world cyber attack, similar to when clinical trial participants do not know whether they are receiving treatment or a placebo.

What are the Benefits of Web Penetration Testing?

Cybercrime occurs every 32 seconds at any given time, making your business just as vulnerable as others. Fortunately, web penetration testing can help prevent the impact of potential threats and provide the following benefits.

Exposing Vulnerabilities

Performing a web penetration test is an excellent way to discover system weaknesses in your web applications and network infrastructures. These tests can determine areas that are most at risk of infiltration and even pinpoint user habits that might contribute to poor security.

Determining System Strengths

Not only do web penetration tests identify your system’s weak points—but they also highlight database strengths. Depending on the results of your penetration test, it can underscore implemented security methods that pay off and that you can further utilize in other applications. 

Ensuring Business Continuity

Successful businesses must have 24/7 network availability. You risk losing any number of potential customers during even the quickest outage incidents. Penetration tests can help you prevent unexpected downtime and accessibility loss.

Protecting Data

Nowadays, consumers value data protection more than ever before. Not keeping your company and consumer information secure can put you at risk of significant breaches and cause potential customers to lose trust in your business at best, or costly lawsuits at worst.

Improving Compliance

Meeting federal regulations and compliance standards is a must for any business. Through penetration testing, you can flag any areas of your system that may not adhere to local laws and correct them as soon as possible.

Providing Cyber Chain Mapping

Penetration tests simulate real hacks, which allow analysts to determine the most likely path a hacker will take into your system. By mapping this entire route, you can pinpoint robust security methods and what areas need strengthening.

Designing Smarter Security Budgets

While investing in your cybersecurity system is essential to keeping your business up and running, you don’t want to allocate what you can’t afford. Web penetration tests can tell you how many employees it takes to keep your system secure and whether you need to invest in more robust security systems.  

Increasing Consumer Trust

As we mentioned, poor data protection can be a deciding factor for potential consumers interested in investing in your business. If you want consumers to trust you, you must reassure them that their information is safe. 

How to Perform a Web Penetration Test

When performing a successful web penetration test, keep these steps in mind.

Pre-Engagement Planning

Before structuring your web penetration test, you’ll have to determine the scope of work and your objectives. By defining security goals, you can assign the appropriate testing methods.

During this stage, testers will also identify the virtual and physical assets that require testing.    

Scanning and Information Gathering

The intelligence-gathering stage is typically divided into the passive and active phases. During the passive phase, testers gather publicly accessible information regarding your business without directly interacting with your systems.

Then, during the active phase, testers use these target systems to extract information about your business. Testers use this information for fingerprinting, performing DNS lookups, and examining source codes, among other things.

Testers will also have to determine how specific applications might respond to intrusion attempts. Testers use two types of analyses to resolve this.

  • Static: Testers inspect application code to determine how it would behave once it goes live. Static tools scan all your code in a single pass.
  • Dynamic: Testers inspect application code while they’re running in real-time to provide a more accurate look at how it performs. This type of testing determines URL redirection, SQL injection, and other irregularities immediately.

Exploitation Phase

Finally, it’s time to perform web application attacks like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and backdoors to determine your system’s weak points. Once your tester identifies system vulnerabilities, they determine how much they can exploit them by stealing data, escalating privileges, and intercepting traffic.

Through these tests, you can determine whether vital company information is at risk and why that might be the case. 

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Analysis, Configuration, and Remediation

After performing a web penetration test, testers compile this information into an in-depth analysis of your systems and configurations. This report will typically include the following information.

  • Probable threats identified
  • System areas exploited
  • Sensitive data accessed
  • Risk scorecard of each threat
  • Amount of time tester had to spend to exploit systems successfully

Testers can then provide recommendations and configure your enterprise’s WAF settings through this analysis. 

The Bottom Line

Growing businesses are often subject to cybersecurity attacks, and while cybercriminals are evolving rapidly, regular web penetration testing can help your company mitigate these risks. Are you looking to build a state-of-the-art, hyper-secure web application? Igloo creates websites that fascinate, convert, function, and satisfy. Book a consultation with our specialists to find out how we can build a website that keeps your company data safe and best represents your brand.


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