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What is Web Application Penetration Testing?

Is your company in the process of developing a new application? Whether it’s an internal app intended for employee use or a public-facing external web app, there’s a lot of work that goes into creating and rolling out a cutting-edge application. 

In fact, your company may invest hundreds or thousands of hours designing and developing this new application—  so it’s no wonder that once it’s ready for launch, you want to immediately use it.

But now that you got the app to function as intended, it’s time to focus on its security. Cybercriminals are always hunting for ways to exploit flaws in apps' functionalities, stealing precious data or using it as a doorway into your network at large. Do you know whether your app can withstand cyberattacks? 

If you’re not sure, what you need is a web application penetration test


What is a Web Application, Exactly?

A web application is any computer program that performs a specific function by using a web browser. 

While that sounds very tech-talk heavy, it means a web app is an application that runs off of internet access on a web server— vs. a computer-based software program that may run locally on one single device. Web applications are accessible through a web browser with a network connection, not merely accessible by one operating system.  


Why Are Web Applications Vulnerable?

Because web applications are connected to web servers, they are vulnerable to cyber attacks— just like anything with a link to the internet. 

According to one 2019 study, one in every five tested applications contained vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to attack a user session. Security-related weaknesses like these are often caused by errors in the app’s program and are all too often used by bad actors as a foothold into a company’s private servers at large. 


Why Are Web Application Penetration Tests Necessary?

Attackers are always targeting web applications, knowing that the private data they house often leads to uncovering even more sensitive information beyond the app itself. 

Prior to launching a new application, app developers typically run standard scans to detect major security problems, but these high-level screenings often only capture “low-hanging fruit” in software code and miss critical vulnerabilities.

Companies can benefit from moving beyond the automated robo-crawl to a more sophisticated kind of security testing: a manual examination of your web app’s security performed by professional penetration testers. 


How Do Web Applications Tests Work?

Web application pentesters use software to screen your app for vulnerabilities. The difference between standard screenings you could find online and a professional pentest is that pentesters don’t just run the app through one tool and hand back an auto-generated report. Instead, they analyze those flaws and then try to exploit them! Pentesters use their expertise to try and break into your app’s private data and move through your wider network.

When you opt for a web application penetration test, you’re paying for the expertise of professional pentesters to attempt to breach your system. 

Because it’s in a contained environment, there’s no risk of your data actually being compromised. Instead, the testers compile a penetration test report with the vulnerabilities they found, how they exploited them and how they ultimately got in. From there, the testers make personalized recommendations for improving your security. 


How Often Should You Run a Web App Pentest?

We recommend running a penetration test shortly after launching a new/majorly updated web application or every year. An annual test acts as a preventative measure to detect flaws as they occur. It’s better to catch them early than to try and clean up the mess of a breach later!


Threat Prevention Beyond the App

Caring about the security of your web application is undoubtedly important, but your organization could have vulnerabilities beyond your web app.

Download 5-1/2 Easy Steps to Avoid Cyber Threats to improve your company’s security posture at large.

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Topics: penetration testing, penetration tests

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