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Software development: is automated testing enough?

Software development companies are often targeted by cyber-criminals because they are considered high-value targets. Attackers may attempt to steal valuable source code, intellectual property, or use the software to gain access to other organisations.

Software development companies are responsible for creating and maintaining software applications that are used by individuals and organisations.

As applications often store confidential information, including personal and financial data, the stakes are high if an app is breached. If data is compromised, it can result in identity theft, financial loss, and irreparable damage to a company’s reputation.

Having strong Cyber Security measures can protect your company assets and reputation from attacks.

This should include:

  • Implementing robust security protocols.
  • Regularly updating software and systems.
  • Testing the security of applications with regular application penetration testing.
  • Training employees on Cyber Security best practices.

By prioritising Cyber Security pen testing, you can demonstrate to clients that you can be trusted to handle sensitive information.

Octopus providing a cyber threat

Is your penetration testing supplier just running automated scans?

Penetration testing is an essential component of any comprehensive Cyber Security strategy. It can help identify security issues in your applications, so you can mitigate them before they have chance to cause client side disruption.

However, not all penetration testing is created equal. Automated scans can identify common vulnerabilities, but often can’t detect more complex and sophisticated threats.

This is where manual penetration testing is required. In-depth manual software penetration testing requires a human tester’s expertise and creativity to identify potential flaws that automated scans cannot. It involves skilled security professionals actively attempting to breach the system by using various techniques used by real-life hackers.

Testing of this kind can give a more precise evaluation of your security status. It can also demonstrate how you would manage a genuine attack.

Automated scans may detect common security loopholes. However, software development firms need a penetration testing supplier that can carry out extensive manual penetration testing.

This is to expose intricate and advanced threats.

A supplier with a team of skilled security professionals can ensure thorough and targeted testing. 

These professionals have experience with a variety of:

  • Industries
  • Technologies
  • Types of applications
  • Attack techniques
  • Types of vulnerabilities

This means remediation steps taken will be effective, and you will build stronger applications.

Collaborating with a top penetration testing company can give application developers confidence that code is secure. This can help to minimise the risk of a breach.

The top 6 reasons why software development companies need more than automated testing:

1. You need to think like an attacker:

With manual security testing, you need to think like an attacker. This means simulating different attack scenarios in order to uncover potential vulnerabilities, and using creativity to identify and exploit security flaws.

Automated scans, on the other hand, follow a set of rules and cannot adapt to new or unexpected situations. They can miss certain vulnerabilities, such as those requiring a precise sequence of actions or specific conditions to exploit. 

2. Identify unknown vulnerabilities:

Automated scans can only detect known vulnerabilities. To identify unknown vulnerabilities, a skilled manual tester is needed.

Ethical hackers can detect issues that automated scans cannot. For example, they may identify vulnerabilities in custom-built applications that don’t have known vulnerabilities in databases.

3. Get broader security insights:

Manual testing helps gain broader security insights. It covers the entire system, such as technical and non-technical components, including user behaviour, policies, and procedures.

Automated scans focus only on technical aspects of a system. They may overlook potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses in non-technical components. Reviewing policies can be an important part of of your Cyber Security.

Examples of policies that should be reviewed include:

  • Password management
  • Access controls
  • Data backup and recovery
  • Incident response

These measures can help protect the security of code and applications.

4. Interaction with other systems:

Interaction between different components of the system need to be tested manually. 

For example, a web application might interact with a database to store and retrieve information. The application must be properly designed and configured to protect against SQL injection attacks. An attacker can inject malicious SQL code into a user input field, gaining access to the database.

A manual tester can identify vulnerabilities by investigating the code. They can also test different inputs to observe how the application and the database interact.

5. Input validation:

To ensure thorough input validation testing, it is ideal to use a combination of both manual and automated testing. Manual testing should focus on detecting complex vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may not be picked up by automated testing.

Examples include input fields that are vulnerable to SQL injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. Manual testing can also help identify issues related to business logic, which automated testing may not be able to catch.

Automated testing should be used to detect common vulnerabilities. These include input fields that fail to validate user input and fields without input length restrictions. Automated testing can also help ensure consistent testing across multiple input fields and reduce the risk of human error.

6. In depth reporting:

Manual web application security testing provides a comprehensive and detailed report of vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This report also includes recommendations for improving software security.

Automated scans generate generic reports. These reports are not tailored to the system being tested. This makes it harder for software development firms to fix the vulnerabilities.

Secure your software: Do you want to improve your web application penetration testing strategy?

Both automated and manual penetration testing is an important practice for application development companies. Together they help identify both known and unknown security vulnerabilities, so you can improve web app security.

However, if you or your penetration testing supplier are just using an automated code security scanner, you’ll know that they don’t give the most useful outputs.

At Equilibrium Security, we don’t just search for dangerous strings. Our penetration testers test things from a human perspective and offer better advice because of it.

Do you want to chat to our team of experts about how we can improve your web application code security, and build more secure applications?

You can call us on 0121 663 0055, start a live chat or email

Ready to achieve your security goals? We’re at your service.

Whether you are a CISO, an IT Director or a business owner, Equilibrium has the
expertise to help you shape and deliver your security strategy.

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