A Complete Guide to Application Penetration Testing for Startups and Enterprises | SecurityWall
25 Oct 2023

A Complete Guide to Application Penetration Testing for Startups and Enterprises

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A Complete Guide to Application Penetration Testing for Startups and Enterprises

Uncover Vulnerabilities Early and Avoid Devastating Hacks

Applications provide convenience but also introduce risk if not properly secured. This is where application penetration testing comes in. Often shortened to pen testing or app pen testing, this process evaluates an application's security by safely attempting to compromise its defenses. This makes application and cloud penetration testing key for organizations handling sensitive data in the US, UK and EU especially.

For modern businesses, customer-facing mobile apps, cloud services, and public APIs are attractive targets for cybercriminals. Their public availability and frequent customer access make them tempting entry points for hackers. While essential for enabling digital experiences, these digital assets also expand the attack surface.

The goal is to uncover vulnerabilities threat actors could exploit so they can be fixed before attackers find them. In this brief guide, we cover everything you need to know about application pen testing cost, methodology and deliverance.

What Application Penetration Testing mean for Startups and Enterprises?

We’ve heard and learn a lot about Penetration testing as it finds weaknesses before attackers exploit them for financial gain or disruption but For startups and enterprises, pentesting helps ensure security is baked into the product design from day one. Long-running apps that have evolved over many releases tend to accumulate security debt. Pentesting surfaces those weak spots so they can be addressed before launch.

It also instills security-minded thinking into developers early on. While startups may have limited budgets, the ROI from pen testing is high when you consider the risks it can fix whereas Enterprises recognize that smart pentesters can find holes that automated scanners cannot detect.

Application penetration testing examines web, mobile and cloud apps for security weaknesses and includes:

  • Customer-facing web applications (Public Applications Pentesting)
  • Internally-used enterprise apps (Private & Internal Applications Pentesting)
  • Mobile apps for iOS, Android and other platforms (Mobile Applications Pentesting)
  • Cloud-based or SaaS applications (Software-as-a-services Pentesting)
  • APIs (application programming interfaces) (Interconnected and Externally API Pentesting)

The goal is to uncover flaws like injection attacks, broken authentication, sensitive data exposure and more as outlined in the OWASP Top 10.

Penetration Testing and Cyber Security Audit Compliance Standards in US, UK and EU

Startups and enterprises alike face elevated risks even with security teams in place. The application layer remains prone to vulnerabilities like injection flaws, improper authentication, and misconfigurations. With remote work and complex cloud architectures, security gaps can slip through even in regulated environments. Proactive pen testing reduces risks of outages, stolen data, compliance failures and reputation damage from attacks. It is a must for securing sensitive data in the US, UK and EU.

  • PCI DSS - Required for organizations handling credit card data. Failure to comply leads to fines and loss of ability to process payments.
  • HIPAA - Pen testing required to meet security standards under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
  • GDPR - While not an explicit requirement, pen testing demonstrates security due diligence under GDPR in the EU.
  • FedRAMP - US government cloud security framework recommends continuous pen testing.
  • NIST - US National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines advocate regular pen testing.
  • UK NCSC - UK National Cyber Security Centre advises pen testing to prevent breaches.

Why Application Penetration Testing Matters?

Applications underpin key business functions but also introduce risks. App pen testing provides an objective assessment of vulnerabilities threat actors could exploit. Once hackers infiltrates, they can stealthily move laterally to access sensitive data or pivot to more critical systems. And without robust monitoring, data exfiltration via these channels could go undetected. The resulting data breaches lead to compliance failures, financial fraud, reputational damage, and substantial recovery costs.

The risks arise because the application layer has broadly expanded the digital footprint while also increasing complexity.Legacy security strategies focused on the network perimeter are inadequate for API-driven architectures and cloud-native apps. Modern application security practices are essential, but require extensive expertise and resources to implement pervasively.

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Benefits of regular or continuous application penetration testing:

  • Meeting security compliance requirements like PCI DSS, SOC 2, ISO 27001 etc.
  • Vigilance over internal cyber security team to conduct a 3rd party audit.
  • Checking for OWASP Top 10 and other critical risks
  • Identifying unknown “zero day” flaws or business logical flaws
  • Demonstrating security due diligence to customers
  • Audit of each code layer and feature of the application despite automated scan.
  • Enhancing secure development practices
  • Improving incident response readiness

Overall, proactive pen testing reduces the risk of damaging breaches by strengthening application defenses.

Methodology for Application Penetration Tests

Skilled app pen testers follow a standardized methodology focused on apps vs networks. Main phases are:

  • Planning – Meet with client and the scope, objectives and rules of engagement
  • Discovery – Gather information through recon and printing techniques to explore the exposed entities.
  • Mapping – Catalog all parts of the application ecosystem
  • Vulnerability Analysis – Check for injection flaws, improper access controls, misconfiguration, etc.
  • Exploitation – Demonstrate vulnerabilities through authorized attacks
  • Analysis – Document successful tests and steps needed to remediate
  • Reporting – Summarize findings, priorities and recommendations
  • Fixing – The end party start fixing the identified issue
  • Retesting – Pentesting partner run a new test after fixing

Proper planning ensures safe, authorized and effective testing aligned to client goals. Discovery reveals the app landscape while mapping catalogs all components. Vulnerability analysis and exploitation uncover flaws that could equate to real business risk. Detailed analysis and reporting give clients actionable results.

Choosing the Right Application Penetration Testing Partner

When selecting an application penetration testing partner, you want a firm that combines technical expertise with a consultative approach. The ideal partner goes beyond simply identifying vulnerabilities, providing actionable insights tailored to improving your organization's security posture.

  • Experience within the technology you’re interested to conduct pentesting against.
  • Check previous clientage.
  • Relevant pen testing certifications like OSCP and eWPT etc.
  • Utilization of the latest tools and tactics but not limited to commercial approach.
  • Methodical approach based on established pen testing frameworks.
  • Detailed reporting with risk ratings and remediation guidance
  • Competitive pricing tailored to your needs
  • Fixing – The end party start fixing the identified issue
  • Responsiveness, support and professionalism

Look for a partner motivated and recognized among top tier customer base to improve your infrastructure security posture through collaborative testing. At SecurityWall we take security of our clients seriously and follow global framework within process while our testimonial and previous clients vouch for us including Fortune500.

Key Application Penetration Testing Certifications

While cyber security experts are more focused on hands on experience and certifications are optional still validation of certification for app pen testing certifications can you give you more information regarding their technical knowledge within the field. Industrial recognized credentials validate expertise. Leading Application and Cloud Pen Testing Certifications :

  • OSCP – Offensive Security Certified Professional
  • OSWP – Offensive Security Web Expert
  • CRT - Certified Red Team Professional
  • CC – Certified in Cyber Security
  • CVA - Certified Vulnerability Assessor
  • eJPT - eLearnSecurity Junior Penetration Tester
  • CEH - Certified Ethical Hacker
  • ECSA - EC-Council Certified Security Analyst
  • eWPTX - eLearnSecurity Web Application Penetration Tester eXtreme
  • NSE - Network Security Expert
  • API Security Certification

SecurityWall team equipped with top notch certifications which are globally approved and recognized and we’ve also utilized our skills with Silicon Valley based companies previously, they speaks for us.

How much an Application Penetration Testing Costs?

The cost of a penetration test scales with the size and complexity of what is being tested. Large sophisticated environments with expansive cloud architectures, complex applications, numerous endpoints and APIs require more time, tools, and expertise to test thoroughly. 

Retests tend to cost less than initial tests and normally included in the initial agreement but Testing human elements like social engineering and onsite assessments involves additional effort and expenses compared to remote technical testing. The agreed upon scope also impacts costs, with wider testing of multiple segments and components incurring greater time requirements. 

Highly experienced penetration testers demand higher rates due to their specialized skills. Ultimately reputable firms will evaluate the specifics of your environment including infrastructure scale, application sophistication, and type of testing needed to provide an accurate quote tailored to your needs. The more in-depth and rigorous the testing, the greater the investment required.

General Application, Cloud and API Penetration Testing Requirements

Penetration testing requirements vary significantly based on the specific platforms, frameworks, technologies and architectures involved. However, requirements can generally be summarized as: 

  • Defined scope and objectives
  • Testing approach as BlackBox, WhiteBox or GreyBox
  • Inventory of systems in scope
  • Point of contact for authorization and communication
  • Sharing of credentials/privileges
  • Access to environments being tested
  • Timeframes for testing 
  • Non-disclosure agreement

Proper planning and preparation ensures testing is safe, authorized, and aligned to goals.   

How Long Does Vulnerability Assessement or Penetration Testing Take?

The VA/PT duration varies substantially based on the environment's size and complexity. The general timeframe can be: 

  • Small business networkpentest - 1-3 weeks
  • Medium business network pentest - 2-4 weeks
  • Large enterprise network pentest - 4-8 weeks
  • Web app pentest - 2-4 weeks per target
  • Mobile app pentest - 2-4 weeks per OS
  • Cloud pentest - varies based on configuration

Testing typically involves planning, scanning, enumeration, vulnerability analysis, exploitation, reporting, and retesting. Engage an experienced penetration testing partner to determine an appropriate timeline for your environment.  

Value of Proactive & Continuous Pen Testing

In today’s threat environment, application penetration testing is a must for any organization handling sensitive data. App pen testing pinpoints vulnerabilities before attackers exploit them for financial gain or disruption.

For any high-growth company, ensuring security is built architecture without hindering innovation is a major challenge. But given the wealth of sensitive data passed through these channels, securing these pillars against constantly evolving threats remains mission critical, even if difficult to perfect.

Essentially, Finding and fixing flaws reduces risks of stolen data, outages, compliance failures and reputation damage. By implementing ongoing application penetration testing, you gain assurance your apps and APIs withstand attacks. Partner with a trusted provider to evaluate new applications and retest existing ones.

Stay a step ahead of attackers targeting your applications and cloud infrastructure. Our team at SecurityWall performs rigorous pen testing aligned to industry standards worldwide. We leverage the latest tactics along with recognized certifications and industrial experts with 7+ years of experience and recognized certifications.

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Read about : SaaS Platforms: The New Cybersecurity Battleground