What Are the Key Steps Involved in Web App Penetration Testing?

What Are …

Pen testers (also called “ethical hackers”) use advanced tools and techniques to mimic real attackers and test the defenses of the app against cyber threats. Web app penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a process of simulated cyberattacks against an application or network to check for security vulnerabilities.

Common Vulnerabilities found in Web Applications:

  • Misconfigurations
  • Broken access controls
  • Outdated software
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS)
  • SQL injection
  • Cryptographic failures
  • Identification and authentication failures


Benefits of Web Application Penetration Testing

  • Identify security vulnerabilities before hackers do.
  • Enhance the security of the app.
  • Comply with industry regulations like ISO 27001, SOC 2, and PCI DSS.
  • Build user trust and maintain reputation.
  • Prevent data breaches and other cyberattacks.


Web App Penetration Testing Steps

Web app pen testing usually starts with gathering information on the target applications and ends with the production of the security certificate. Here are all the steps included in the process:

1. Information Gathering

The 1st step of web app penetration testing includes collecting details about the application, including its architecture, technologies used, and potential entry points. This helps the testers understand the application's structure and identify possible vulnerabilities that could be exploited during the penetration test.

2. Planning/Scoping

The 2nd step includes defining the objectives, scope, and boundaries of the pen test. Here the testers determine which systems are to be addressed in the test and establish the rules of engagement. This ensures the testing is conducted within agreed-upon parameters.

3. Automated Vulnerability Scanning

This step involves using automated tools to scan the web application for known vulnerabilities. These tools can quickly identify common security issues, such as misconfigurations, outdated software, and weak passwords.

4. Manual Penetration Testing

Next comes testing the web app manually. The expert testers use their manual pen testing skills to identify and exploit the vulnerabilities found and missed by the tools. This is the most accurate practice to detect the security issues present in the app that could lead to cyberattacks.

5. Reporting

After the test is complete, the testing team generates a detailed report. This report includes the vulnerabilities found, their impact level, steps for reproduction, and remediation recommendations. This initial report is shared with the development team so that they make the necessary fixes.

6. Remediation

The development team applies the necessary patches and code changes as suggested in the report. If needed, the testing team will help the developers locate the vulnerabilities they found over consultations calls, or emails.

7. Retesting

After remediation is done, the testing team retests the app to ensure that the vulnerabilities have been successfully fixed. This also ensures that no new issues have been introduced and confirms security improvements.

8. LoA/Security Certificate

Finally, the penetration testing service provider issues a letter of attestation or security certificate to prove that web app pen testing has been completed. This certificate can be used to ensure compliance with industry regulations and maintain the trust of stakeholders.


Tools Used in Web Application Penetration Testing

There is a wide range of automated scanning tools that can be used to identify vulnerabilities in web apps. However, here are the most used web app pen testing tools:

  • Burp Suite
  • Netsparker
  • W3AF
  • SQL Map
  • Nmap
  • Nikto
  • Open SSL
  • Metasploit



Web application penetration testing is a crucial process for identifying security vulnerabilities and enhancing the defenses of a web app. By simulating real attacks, pen testers use a combination of automated tools and manual testing techniques to thoroughly assess the application’s security measures. The process involves meticulous information gathering, careful planning, automated scanning, detailed manual testing, thorough reporting, and retesting. For companies looking to prevent cyberattacks and data breaches in their web applications, penetration testing is a must.

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