What Type of Application Security Testing Do I Need?

Mar 16, 2022 2:07:00 PM / by Ted Harrington


Types of Application Security Testing You Need

We’ve all had a moment when we woke up at night wondering if we’re really secure. Is the front door locked? Did I remember to turn on the car alarm? Why is the dog barking?

But what about cybersecurity?

If you’re an IT manager, chief technology officer, or otherwise tasked with ensuring your organization’s security stance, you may spend a lot of sleepless nights worrying about security, and rightly so.

You need to know if your business applications are secure. Or maybe your job is to prove they’re secure, but you’re not sure what type of application security testing is worth the money and can 100% confirm this for your stakeholders. How to conduct a security assessment is on the minds of many IT professionals in this age of constant, pervasive threats. Read on to learn how ISE’s application security test protocol can help you establish complete confidence in your cybersecurity defenses.


What Is an Application Security Test?

An application security test, also called an application security assessment, is an umbrella term that involves an effort to identify and isolate security vulnerabilities in a testing laboratory instead of waiting for bad actors to locate and exploit them in the real world. Whether your product is already widely used and successful or it’s still being designed and built, don’t dismiss the importance of a sound security model.


Commodity penetration testing isn’t going to cut it. Tools alone aren’t enough, and you certainly don’t want to be in the position of avoidance or faking results to satisfy your stakeholders. You can’t just run some software you found online and say you’ve covered all the bases. You must discover the vulnerabilities that have gone undetected to stay one step ahead of those who seek to exploit them.

What Is the Result or Goal of an Application Security Assessment?

So why do we need security testing? An application security assessment will provide you with confidence that business-critical applications are working as they’re designed to and configured in a way that meets your organization’s security best practices. Whether it’s based on web, enterprise, or client-side applications, a security assessment provides insight into the current state of your application security.

The general steps involved in an application security assessment include:

  •       Defining your organization’s security goals and objectives
  •       Establishing a threat model
  •       Learning and understanding your business and systems
  •       Running automated scans to identify and isolate easy-to-find threats
  •       Investigating previously known vulnerabilities
  •       Performing a detailed manual assessment and digging deeper to locate unknown vulnerabilities
  •       Daisy chaining the vulnerabilities
  •       Reporting the findings back to your organization
  •       Helping you mitigate and verify threats
  •       Performing regular reassessments

Types of Application Security Testing

Application security testing is focused on finding weaknesses that exist in various types of software. The purpose is to identify any unexpected or undiscovered scenarios that may result in software failure and cause an organization’s security to be violated. There are many types of application security testing, so let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Vulnerability Assessments

A vulnerability assessment seeks to identify system weaknesses. It may also involve quantifying and prioritizing/ranking these vulnerabilities. It often means a heavy manual effort along with custom exploit development that includes abusing system functionality to achieve controlled malicious results. At ISE, we’ve established a time-tested, proven methodology for conducting vulnerability assessments.

Why a Business Would Need It

Tools are great, but they aren’t enough to keep you safe. A commodity security approach typically uses only tool automation, which is fast and inexpensive but doesn’t understand how your system as a whole works and so it only looks for known vulnerabilities. That means it probably isn’t detecting true threats that exist below the surface. Your organization needs to move beyond the basics of commodity security to detect and mitigate key vulnerabilities that could compromise you in major ways, and this involves a thorough, manual vulnerability assessment.

Penetration Testing

There’s a term in the tech world called “ethical hacking,” which involves mimicking the strategies and actions of malicious hackers but in an authorized way that’s designed to gain access to an application, computer, server, or key data. With penetration testing, we simulate an attack exercise to prove whether your defenses can withstand it. This time-constrained effort is designed to produce a simple yes or no answer, such as whether an attacker can change user privileges to full administrative rights. There’s no other possible outcome beyond yes or no, and either one leaves you better informed of your security.

Why a Business Would Need It

Sometimes referred to as a “pen test,” this is used on very mature, robust, hardened systems that have already undergone thorough testing, because if it hasn’t, then the penetration test won’t deliver the results you seek. You need to know if there’s an avenue to exploitation and this type of testing is designed to determine whether expert hackers (the unethical kind) can break into your system. All that matters is yes or no … did they or didn’t they?

Network Penetration Testing

This isn’t as simple as “how do you check for website vulnerability?” This kind of testing involves your organization’s entire network. Maybe you’ve seen some large financial companies in the news whose network security was embarrassingly breached by malicious hackers? If you have sensitive information that needs protecting, with many users spread out over a large geographic area with access to multiple systems through various devices – some business and some personal – it’s imperative that you perform manual network penetration testing to verify you aren’t at risk and to remain secure.

Why a Business Would Need It

The best way to protect your sensitive, business-critical information is through network penetration testing. Your systems must stay up and running or your organization suffers, because every minute of downtime prevents you from conducting business or limits your employees’ productivity. Organizations much larger than yours with more money, resources, and IT staff wind up in the news with breached network security. You don’t want to join this dubious club, so focus on network security now and make the most of network penetration testing.

Cloud Security Assessments

If you have applications deployed in the cloud, they must be secure. But how do you know that security is set up correctly? While it’s true that cloud hosting has many inherent security benefits, major hosting companies like Google and Amazon are unlikely to give you access to their platforms to test their security. Cloud security is based on a “shared responsibility model,” so it doesn’t mean very much if your organization’s security isn’t built on top of it. Our security approach for cloud apps involves a skilled team of SysOps administrators, cloud practitioners, solutions architects, and others acting as security engineers so you can make the best possible decisions.

Why a Business Would Need It

The most robust cloud security will deliver a better, more secure product, earn the trust of your customers, and support your organization’s sales mission. Configuration matters most of all, so we check your overall setup, review the results, prepare a detailed report we share with you, and make valuable recommendations you can immediately act on. We’ve spent years helping major cloud platform providers beef up their security and develop hardening guidelines, so we’re experts at understanding how to set up their services in a way that ensures you’re capturing all the cloud platform security benefits.

Vulnerability Scanning

Mostly everyone uses some form of virus scanning software on their computer. This is a tool that works well to scan and detect the simple stuff. Vulnerability scanning is similar in that this automated process finds common, known vulnerabilities, but it’s not a substitute for finding and mitigating critical threats lurking behind the scenes. However, it’s very useful for finding common or unpatched vulnerabilities, collecting important information to be used for a broader security assessment, and limiting time, effort, and cost with the understanding you’re not digging as deep as might be necessary.

Why a Business Would Need It

This is a good solution when you need to discover basic system vulnerabilities, but your time is limited. You also know you must do it frequently, so you’re worried about cost. It’s particularly valuable if you’re unsure of what kinds of cyberattacks or other threats you might face. To understand where your organization’s security stands now, you should utilize a vulnerability scan to shed light on what’s needed. We make it easy by setting it all up for you and troubleshooting, eliminating the unimportant data. Our professional security analysts get it done right the first time, and we analyze the results for you to remove any false positives, so your time isn’t wasted. We then give you the best advice so you can take immediate action without ambiguity.

ISE’s Process for Application Security Testing

Our multi-faceted methodology for application security testing has been revised and proven over many years. ISE’s white-box perspective to security assessments looks for all possible ways an asset could be compromised. Here’s a summary of our approach:

  •       Objective: We determine the scope of security exposures including assets, threats, workflow, system configuration, and defensive posture, work to understand the risks, and then mitigate them.
  •       Threat modeling: You can’t have a security plan without a threat model, so we work with you to build this by identifying three primary components – assets, adversaries, and attack surface.
  •       Manual assessment: While running automated tools is typically the first step a bad actor would employ in an attack, we perform manual investigations to emulate the kind of true dedication an adversary might employ so you can defend against more sophisticated, custom attacks.
  •       Custom tests: All systems are custom and so is our security hardening process. We design custom tests based on design documents, firewall rules, workflow diagrams, and other important documentation. Once we understand how your system operates, we can custom-tailor tests specific to your organization’s security needs.
  •       Mitigation roadmap: Our goal isn’t just to find problems — it’s to help you fix them. Our proven mitigation strategies specifically align with your business needs, and we work closely with client engineers to make sure they’re fully understood, implemented correctly, and don’t introduce new vulnerabilities.

Does Your Organization Need Application Security Testing? Trust The Best In The Industry.

There are many types of application security testing, so how do you know which is right for your organization’s needs? Just because you haven’t been hacked yet, doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. You don’t leave your front door unlocked, so don’t take a chance with your organization’s security either. Our long list of clients includes Google and Netflix, and we work with everyone from new startups to Fortune 10 enterprises. So contact ISE, the industry leader in application security assessments and mitigation strategies and let us find (and fix) your vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can. Let us keep your applications safe and secure.

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