Software Security Testing: Approach, Types, Tools

In today’s interconnected world, where everything is ruled by technology and the internet, software security is of paramount importance to users, and even more to the businesses. In order to build secure applications, it is imperative to consider web application security testing throughout the software lifecycle.

“The number of serious vulnerabilities in open-source software and third-party libraries, continues to increase at a rate that makes remediation nearly impossible for teams that don’t adopt measures for tracking third-party component use.” – WhiteHat Security

Thus, it’s more critical now than ever before that businesses work towards a powerful web application security testing approach for their apps and any other digital product that has the capability to receive critical data from customers, clients, and partners.

What is Software Security Testing?

“Testing is an infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous in order to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous.”— James Bach

Software security testing is a type of software testing process that ensures the software is free of any kind of potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses, risks, or threats so that the software might not harm the user system and data.

Performing software security tests, often multiple times, is essentially a prerequisite of publishing software today.

Why is Software Security Testing Required?

None of the users, businessmen, entrepreneurs or organizations want to lose any information or data due to the security leaks of software in use. Just because a piece of software meets quality requirements related to functionality and performance, it does not necessarily mean that the software is secure. Software testing, in today’s scenario, is a must to identify and address application security vulnerabilities in order to maintain the following:

  • Security of information, databases, data history, and servers
  • Customers’ trust and integrity
  • Protection of web applications from future attacks

Software Security Testing: The Approach

Wish it was that easy.

While preparing and planning for security tests, a developer can take the following approaches:

  • Architecture Study & Analysis: The first step is to understand whether the software is compliant with the requirements.
  • Classify Threats: All potential threats and risks factors that need to be tested should be listed.
  • Test Planning: Based on the identified threats, vulnerabilities and security risks, tests are to be run.
  • Testing Tool Identification: All software security testing tools for web applications; the developer needs to identify the relevant tools to test the software.
  • Test Case Execution: After performing a security test, the developer should fix them either manually or using any suitable open-source code.
  • Reports: A detailed test report of performed security tests should be prepared that would contain a list of the vulnerabilities, threats, and the issues resolved and the ones that are still pending.

Types of Software Security Testing

Types of Security Testing

Security tests are continually evolving. The most common types of software security tests used just a few years ago, might not be much effective today. Let’s take a look at the different types of security tests that are relevant in the current times. Most of the time a number of web application security testing types are followed simultaneously.

1. Static Code Analysis: This is the oldest type of approach and the first type of security testing most developers performs. This test can be performed manually, and developers can read through the code to find any potential security flaw.

2. Compliance Testing: It’s important for software to meet a client’s predefined policies. To ensure this, a compliance test is run. Compliance tests analyze a piece of software by comparing the software with the actual configurations that are considered safe.

3. Penetration Testing: This type of testing involves simulation attacks against newly designed software in order to identify the weak points. Once detected, a developer fixes the bugs within the codes.

4. Load Testing: This test measures how a piece of software performs under heavy load. The reason behind this test is Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS), an attack that aims to disrupt application availability by application or its host infrastructure with traffic or other requests.

5. Origin Analysis Testing: The popularity of open-source software has grown in the past few years. This type of testing helps developers and security admins determine where a given piece of code originated from. Such testing becomes relevant when some of your source code has come from a third-party project or repository.

6. SQL Injection Testing: SQL Injection test can be done for apostrophes, brackets, commas, or quotation marks. These simple errors lead to attacks by spammers. SQL injection attacks are very critical because attackers can enter the server database and get vital information.

This is not a conclusive list of security tests, there are other types of security tests too that enterprises might perform like Risk Assessment, Posture Assessment, Security Auditing, and even Ethical Hacking.

Tools for Security Testing

Software security tools for testing are widely available in the market today. In fact, these security test tools are software in themselves. Some of the tools are also open-source.

1. Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP): It is a multi-platform, open-source security testing tool for web application, developed by Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)

Key features of ZAP:

  • Automatic scanning
  • Easy to use
  • Multi-platform
  • Rest-based API
  • Support for authentication

2. Wfuzz: This tool is developed using Python and it has no GUI in its interface. One problem of this tool is that this is usable only via command line.

Wfuzz tool for security testing

Key features of Wfuzz:

  • Authentication support
  • Cookies fuzzing
  • Multi-threading
  • Multiple injection points
  • Support for proxy and SOCK

3. Wapiti: It is one of the easiest tools to operate on for newcomers. Wapiti is one of the leading web application security testing tools, free of cost and an open-source project in SourceForge.

Wapiti injects payloads to check whether the script is vulnerable or not. Users can find a whole lot of information and instructions in SourceForge.

Wapiti tool for security testing

Key features of Wapiti:

  • Supports both GET and POST-HTTP methods for attacks
  • Can give colors in the terminal to highlight vulnerabilities
  • Has different levels of verbosity
  • Fast and easy way to activate/deactivate attack modules
  • Adding a payload can be as easy as adding a line to a text file

4. W3af: It is another very popular tool which is built with python. This tool is specifically very good for web applications. W3af can detect over 200 types of security issues.

w3af tool for security testing

Besides, it can detect:

  • Blind SQL injection
  • Buffer overflow
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Insecure DAV configurations

5. SQLMap: It is entirely free to use the tool and allows automating the detection of a vulnerability in a website’s database. With the help of a very powerful testing engine, SQLMap can detect various security threads.

SQLMap for security testing

Key features of SQLMap:

  • Automates the process of finding SQL injection vulnerabilities
  • Can also be used for security testing a website
  • Robust detection engine
  • Supports a range of databases, including MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL

There are other tools too for software security testing process which are not so efficient but can be used for cross-testing – Arachni, Grabber, Nogotofail, SonarQube, and IronWasp are worth mentioning.


The prime objective of security testing is to forecast how vulnerable a system may be and determine whether its data and resources are protected from potential intruders. Security testing software services help in the identification of implementation errors that were not discovered during the code reviews.

Thus, it becomes crucial to team up with a Digital Experience Agency that can help build and grow your organizations’ reputation, customer confidence, and trust by providing a thorough software security analysis. Remember to support it by exhaustive reports and dashboards, rendering remedial measures for your data security challenges.

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Ramanpreet Singh

About the Author

Designation: Software Test Lead
Forte: Functional and Non-Functional Software Testing
Likes: Cooking for his family
Dislikes: People who do not keep a clean kitchen
Claim to Fame: Cooked a meal for a professional chef and he liked it
Biggest Tech Blunder: Automated all testing thinking that will be the end of it and manual testing would not be needed
Wannabe: Professional Chef

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