The world is driven by technology and applications are at the forefront. You see them as corporate site, blogs, business critical applications and on the Internet of Things devices. Some are publicly available, others only available on the internal network. So which ones need to be tested for security?
The simple answer: All of them.
But is it really that simple? Of course, you have to prioritize your focus when performing security testing. There isn’t a strict formula that defines your specific priorities. Lets walk through a few scenarios and think about the potential impact.
Business Critical Applications Exposed to on the Internet
Due to the criticality of these applications, they should be higher on the priority list. Often times, these applications will contain sensitive information, of some sort. This data may be passwords (for login), credit card info, health info, financial info, or other information considered sensitive. Not only do you have a duty to protect your user’s information, you may also be under regulatory oversight.
These critical applications are an obvious target for hackers. These systems are typically public facing, however they require valid user accounts for full access. You shouldn’t assume that because the application requires a login, it isn’t public facing. Due to the availability and criticality of the functionality, these are the most commonly tested types of applications.
Business Critical Applications on the Intranet
Many organizations have applications that are only available on the local network. Like the internet exposed applications, these can still contain sensitive information and be a high priority for the organization. These applications often receive less attention from a security standpoint because they are not publicly available. While the exposure to potential hackers is reduced, these applications should not be completely overlooked due to the risk of an insider threat.
That Marketing Site Hosted by a Third Party
Almost all businesses have some form of marketing site. It is the corporate landing page to provide basic information to potential visitors. Often times these sites are even hosted externally, by a third party. This doesn’t mean they don’t present a risk. One example of this is a watering hole attack. In this scenario, an attacker may take advantage of a benign website that is frequented by a specific group of people. Once the potential victim loads the page, a malicious application may be planted and the user infected.
The risk here may be very different than the attack on business critical applications. Even a full compromise of the site would not be a direct link to business critical/sensitive information. It still must be realized that it does maintain a certain level of risk.
The market is seeing a lot more devices that have internet capabilities. This goes from kids toys, televisions, all the way to automobiles. These types of devices present a different level of risk. You must understand what its availability is: Internal or External. What can the device do if it were to be remotely attacked? What type of data does it handle, and are you protecting that data in both transit and storage?
What Type of Testing Do I Need?
Depending on your risk level, the level of testing may vary. For example, those business critical applications should have an in-depth test performed. This includes both manual penetration testing as well as secure code reviews. For those sites that are at a much lower level, automated testing may be the right start. Application security is about understanding and managing the risks presented. Remember that all applications, no matter their size or functionality, could be a target.
No matter what type of application it is, or what type of testing may be required, a secure development process should be followed. Testing is great for finding flaws after the fact, but it is much better to not introduce them at all. This is done by having application teams that are aware of the types of security issues effecting their applications. This includes training for the teams, secure coding techniques, security testing and secure design. When these things are baked into the process, the external security testing becomes a formality and a last chance effort to find anything overlooked.
Jardine Software helps companies get more value from their application security programs. Let’s talk about how we can help you.
James Jardine is the CEO and Principal Consultant at Jardine Software Inc. He has over 15 years of combined development and security experience. If you are interested in learning more about Jardine Software, you can reach him at email@example.com or @jardinesoftware on twitter.