Understanding Security Software Testing
Kris Nicolaou, January 27, 2023
When humankind created technology, it was all for the best. They made hardstone tools that served them well for centuries, cutting trees, breaking animal bones for marrow fat, and whatnot. To say technology has come a long way today is an understatement, but sadly, it also comes with a price.
At least 15 million expensive data breaches were recorded worldwide in the third quarter of 2022. We saw the ransomware attack on Australia's private health insurer, Medibank, with losses estimated at $25 to $35 million before customer compensation and other costs.
A month later, the Costa Rican government went into a state of emergency after a similar attack prevented it from paying its workers on time. Canada had its share of IT scares last year, including the attacks on SickKids, a Toronto children's hospital, and the Vancouver Film School.
The increasing sophistication of cybercrimes is undeniable, even as rogue and ethical hackers continue to butt heads over precious data. On the user level, basic protections remain helpful, including security software testing.
- The rising incidences of data breaches make security software testing crucial to businesses and organizations.
- Developers may perform different types of security software testing to ensure the software is safe before deployment.
- Security software testing must follow certain principles that ensure accuracy and maintain ethical standards.
Understanding Security Software Testing
Security software testing may take several forms, but all of them seek to discover functional and security loopholes, risks, and weaknesses in the code. The goal is to protect data and users.
Performed multiple times, security software testing is a requirement for software publishing, but users can implement the process regularly for their protection. Besides its role in IT maintenance, security software testing is often performed after changes to an existing system or before new software is deployed.
Security testing methodologies have evolved over the years as new security threats surface. To ensure globally consistent testing standards, developers refer to the Open Web Application Security Project® (OWASP) as a guidebook.
Security software testing is a complex process aimed at assessing software vulnerabilities and protecting users. However, developers usually aim for three other objectives when performing these tests:
- Asset identification. The process entails inventorying all assets, such as software and computing infrastructure, that require safeguarding from known or potential vulnerabilities or threats. Developers generally perform this task before testing to ensure all assets are protected by the end of the process.
- Risk identification. Identifying risk goes beyond pinpointing asset threats and vulnerabilities. It studies them, analyzing their potential severity and anticipated impact. Developers can then devise an airtight strategy based on the identified problems, ensuring they address all risks.
- Remediation and evaluation. After determining software threats and vulnerabilities, developers recommend solutions to exposed issues. They also evaluate the testing results using metrics for software and network security, including the safety of the process and users.
Security software testing is all in a day's work for developers, and each is most likely to have a unique approach to the process. How they tackle testing can also depend on their knowledge, experience, as well as their specific goals. Some of the most common approaches to security software testing are the following:
- Architectural analysis. Some developers begin testing by analyzing the structural components of the software to determine whether the user's predefined requirements are satisfied.
- Grouping threats. Developers may tackle security testing by dividing problems into sets and listing down the risk factors to be tested for each group.
- Testing. With this approach, the developer lists down all known or suspected threats to the software and tests it according to those vulnerabilities.
- Collecting testing tools. Security software testing involves several tools. One of the most crucial steps is identifying the right tools before starting the project.
- Reporting. At the end of the process, the developer writes a report that details all the tests performed, issues discovered, and proposed solutions.
Types of Security Software Testing
Hackers can employ tactics that stupefy even the most brilliant IT virtuosos of our time. To provide appropriate, multiple layers of data and user protection, experts have developed various methodologies to cover all bases during testing. Below are the most common types of security software testing performed today:
Static code analysis
Static code analysis is the oldest type of software testing done manually before its automation. It is a software debugging system that examines codes without actually running them. The method best detects programming errors, syntax errors, undefined values, coding standard noncompliance, and overall system vulnerabilities.
Generally used by software development and quality assurance teams, static code analysis also helps address source code security issues that can cause buffer overflows, a known software weakness.
Load testing is one of the final testing methods developers use before deploying web-based software or applications. It determines the program's readiness for real-world scenarios by identifying its typical, peak, and breaking point conditions.
The primary purpose of load testing is to ensure the software meets development objectives. In security, it measures the program's ability to survive DDOS (distributed denial of service), a cybersecurity attack that floods websites with requests, leading to a crash.
In penetration testing, also known as pen testing, developers simulate hacks using security testing tools and methods employed by attackers. The idea is to pinpoint areas that outsiders can exploit from both authenticated and unauthenticated positions and with system roles.
Specifically, a pen test scans for system weaknesses, validates controls, checks for data privacy and regulatory compliance, and creates reports that include recommendations for security posture improvements and budget priorities.
SQL injection testing
SQL injection is a common cyber-attack that injects tricky SQL codes to get unauthorized access and manipulate databases. An SQL attack allows hackers to bypass authentication; steal, alter, or destroy data; enter random codes; and gain root user access.
In SQL injection testing, developers enter user input to create SQL queries without proper authentication. The process determines how permeable a system is under this attack and recommends prevention measures.
Risk assessment involves investigating and measuring the security risks that come with using the software. Unlike the straightforward function tests in traditional software testing, risk assessment scrutinizes code violations that can compromise its stability, security, and performance.
Software posture assessment and security auditing call for code analyzers to perform vulnerability scanning procedures on the software and interacting units. Once developers identify and evaluate transactions, they can implement structural rules to determine where the security flaws are and which ones are the top priority.
Origin analysis testing
Nowadays, developers are known to incorporate open-source code into their applications, but this can be risky with origin analysis testing. The process examines the code for security vulnerabilities or violations of internal security standards and applies necessary interventions.
Another purpose of origin analysis testing is to check for licensing considerations. Some third-party codes come with licenses, and developers must follow them when incorporating these external codes into their projects.
Black and white box testing
In black-box testing, developers test software or systems without knowing how they work. The tester simply enters input and watches its real-time impact. White box testing is more traditional, with the tester having prior knowledge of the subject under test.
Black box testing allows the team to determine responses both from expected and unexpected user actions and how much time it takes for those reactions to set in. Additionally, it reveals problems with usability and reliability.
Importance of Security Software Testing
Security software testing is generally useful because it prevents the introduction of malware in the software and the system in which it runs. Of course, the most important reason is still user protection, and here are specific scenarios proving the importance of the process.
Mounting reliance of businesses on software
The global business software and services market accumulated a value of USD 474.61 billion in 2022. It proves the increased reliance of businesses on software today and suggests the possibly catastrophic impact of code vulnerabilities. Through security testing, companies can protect themselves against the continuing emergence of data security hazards.
More aggressive and destructive attacks
Data breaches are increasing in frequency and becoming more virulent than ever. No example could top Russia's cyber attacks on Ukraine, which led to blackouts, stolen data, and a nationwide malware rollout. It may take another Russia to protect Ukraine, but for most of us, even basic security software testing goes a long way in user protection.
Cheaper cost of security testing vs. breaches
According to IBM's latest report, the global average cost of a data breach is USD 4.3 million, but there are other costs as well. These include reputation damage, compliance upgrades, and reduced stock value, to name a few. A pen test, one of the most reliable software testing methods today, only costs up to the thousands.
A legal requirement for consumer data protection
Canada has a robust legal landscape in terms of consumer data protection. The primary federal law governing personal information handling is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The legislation covers the use of software by businesses and organizations, which also means security software testing is a legal requirement.
Security Software Testing Principles
The fundamentals of security software testing are in place to keep the process true to its purpose. In guiding testers, these fundamentals help ensure that goals are met without compromises to the software or its users.
Here are the six principles of security software testing developers uphold when performing the task:
At the core of data security is confidentiality, or the obligation to keep information private. Confidential information is any information intended to escape the knowledge of third parties to protect the stakeholders' interests.
Availability refers to the accessibility of information during and after security testing. Creating a data availability test plan is a good practice and ensures an organization's data will remain intact and accessible to intended users.
Integrity is another fundamental concept in data security. It is a file's state of purity, of being unmodified by an unauthorized party. In software testing, developers must ensure the processes do not negatively impact the data's integrity.
Authorization determines the levels of access or privileges given to users. The process requires predefining who will get access to the software and its features, the system, or data. It also determines what actions users or clients are authorized to take.
In data security, non-repudiation is the ability to determine the identity of a user who performed a specific action. Proof of non-repudiation is necessary to protect businesses and organizations from fraud and establish trust in a particular system or user.
Authentication is a validation process that accepts or rejects data properties believed to be valid by a particular entity. In security software testing, it is a series of steps that confirm or deny the claimed identity of an object or individual.
Did you know?
SickKids, the Toronto-based children's hospital attacked by ransomware group Lockbit, received an unexpected apology from its hacker, plus a free decryptor returning access to its data. Lockbit said it was the first time they had ever apologized to a victim.
Only a Reputable Company for Your Security Software Testing Needs
According to the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigation report, four of the five data breaches are products of organized crime. The statistic further highlights the need to perform software or application security testing.
Then again, security software testing is not for amateurs. Picture-simulated attacks in penetration testing have gone wrong, leaving code vulnerabilities that open doors for actual attacks from real cyber thugs. Hence, it's best to partner with a reputable specialist like Brain Box Labs.
Software security is important in keeping your organization's user data and systems protected. Brain Box Labs can provide you with the necessary security solutions, so you don't have to take any chances. Contact us today.