What is Security Testing in Software Testing? [Definition + Types]

What is Security Testing?

Security testing is a process used to identify vulnerabilities, risks, and threats in a software system. Before you deploy your software system into live servers, it is important to examine your application or software program to ensure its data and resources are protected from potential breaches.

By conducting application security testing, you aim to reveal flaws in the system’s security mechanisms that could lead to a loss of information, revenue, or reputation. In addition, security testing is performed throughout the entire software development life cycle.

Generally, security testing is conducted before unit, integration, and functional testing. However, while following DevSecOps or shift-left approaches, security testing is integrated with these forms of software testing.

Having a basic understanding of software testing and knowing about the main types of software testing helps you to gain proper knowledge about security testing. This is why you must use this guide on software testing types if you are unaware of software testing, its methods, and its core types.

Let’s learn the importance of security testing.

Why is Security Testing Essential?

Ask yourself this, would you want your personal information or business data exposed to cyber-attacks? The answer, of course, is a resounding ‘no.’

Security testing acts as a guard and allows you to protect your systems against various security risks and threats which are as follows:

  • Unauthorized access
  • Data breaches
  • Loss of sensitive data
  • Injection attacks
  • Security misconfiguration
  • Unvalidated redirects and forwards
  • Server-side request forgery
  • XML external entity attacks
  • API security threats

Next, you must know about the core concepts of security testing.

Which are the Six Concepts of Security Testing?

Here are six basic concepts that should be addressed during security testing.

  1. Confidentiality

    The concept of confidentiality itself explains that sensitive information should be accessible to only an authorized set of users. Security testing should confirm that data confidentiality is maintained and that unauthorized users cannot access sensitive data.

  2. Integrity

    Integrity is about ensuring the accuracy and completeness of data. In short, while conducting security testing, there should not be any unauthorized modification or deletion of data. A few of the best practices followed for integrity during security testing are using test data, backup data regularly, limiting access, data validation checks, and data anonymization.

  3. Authentication

    This concept ensures that users on your platform are who they claim to be. Security tests should verify the effectiveness of authentication mechanisms like passwords, two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication, software tokens, and single sign-on (SSO).

  4. Authorization

    As your users are authenticated, they must be granted the right level of access – no more, no less. Testing should verify that the system implements access controls effectively and that users can only perform actions they’re authorized to do.

  5. Availability

    This concept is about ensuring that your system is always accessible to the users when they need it. Security testing should simulate DoS (Denial of Service) or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks to check how your system handles them.

    So, you can save your system from various types of attacks that could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. As one of the important non-functional testing, security testing allows you to protect your software system from unauthorized access as well as cyberattacks by identifying and resolving the core issues.

    You can read more about non-functional testing here and why it is important during testing your software.

  6. Non-repudiation

    Non-repudiation ensures that a party to a contract or a communication cannot deny the authenticity of their signature on a document or the sending of a message. Security testing should validate the system’s ability to keep and present proof of transactions or interactions.

What are the Different Types of Security Testing?

Let’s learn about the core types of security testing that should be conducted during your software testing.

  1. Vulnerability Scanning

    An automated process that scans a system to identify vulnerabilities in the system that could be exploited. Tools like Nessus and OpenVAS are often used for this purpose.

  2. Security Scanning

    This involves both manual and automated scanning of the system to identify network and system vulnerabilities. It also provides solutions for mitigating risks like configuration errors, outdated software, malware, insecure network connections, unsecured sensitive data, and weak authentication. Generally, this is network security testing.

  3. Penetration Testing

    Also known as ethical hacking, penetration testing involves simulating a cyber-attack on the system to check for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an external threat.

  4. Risk Assessment

    Risk assessment has several processes: risk analysis, categorization, and mitigation. With each of these processes, you identify, evaluate, and prioritize potential risks and threats to the system.

  5. Security Auditing

    An internal inspection of applications and operating systems for any security flaws. Security auditing could include checking configuration management processes, operational processes, or even inspecting the code itself.

    Besides security testing, you can also perform performance testing to ensure that your software functions at an optimum level as well as secured. To know more about performance testing, you could check our brief article on what performance testing is.

3 Best Practices to Follow for Security Testing

When conducting security testing, there are several best practices that can help make the process more effective and robust. Let’s check the five core best practices.

  1. Regular and Continuous Testing

    Security is not a one-time thing. It’s vital to perform security testing on a regular basis as new vulnerabilities may emerge over time. With continuous testing, you can promptly identify and rectify security issues, thus maintaining the integrity of your system.

  2. Comprehensive Testing Approach

    Make use of different types of security testing methodologies such as penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and security auditing. Each has its strengths and can help uncover different kinds of issues.

  3. Prioritize to Resolve the Potential Risks

    All vulnerabilities are not equal. After identifying potential risks, prioritize them based on the extent of damage they could cause. Critical vulnerabilities that could lead to significant data loss or system downtime should be addressed first.

In conclusion, security testing is an important process that identifies vulnerabilities within a system to ensure its security and integrity. With continuous and comprehensive testing, you can conduct effective security management.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies (Canada). He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311

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