Introduction / Definition
Security testing aims to identify and address potential vulnerabilities, risks, or threats in software systems. The goal of security testing is to ensure that the software is resistant to attacks, such as unauthorized access, modification, or data theft. By conducting security testing, organizations can identify weaknesses in their software systems and take corrective action to improve the security of their software products.
Security testing can be performed at different stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), depending on the organization’s needs and preferences. In many of these stages it is important to bring in the organization’s security professionals to leverage their expertise.
- Requirements Gathering: Security testing can begin during the requirements gathering stage, where potential security risks and threats can be identified and documented. This can help to ensure that security is built into the software design from the beginning.
- Design and Architecture: Security testing can also be conducted during the design and architecture phase, where potential security risks can be identified and addressed before the coding stage. This can help to ensure that the software is developed with security in mind.
- Development and Testing: Security testing can also be performed during the development and testing phase, where the software code is tested for security vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This can include techniques such as code reviews, penetration testing, and vulnerability scanning. Tests can be implemented as part of the build pipeline for the system, thus ensuring that security testing is continuous throughout the releases of the system.
- Deployment and Maintenance: Security testing can also be performed after the software has been deployed, to ensure that it continues to meet security standards and to identify any new security risks that may arise during maintenance and updates.
Benefits & Examples
There are several reasons why an organization would choose to perform security testing for software:
- Protecting User Data: Security testing helps to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive user data. By performing security testing, organizations can ensure that their software systems are designed to protect user data from such threats.
- Meeting Regulatory Requirements: Many industries are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate specific security standards for software systems. By conducting security testing, organizations can ensure that their software meets these requirements and avoid legal penalties or fines.
- Minimizing Business Risks: Security breaches can have significant financial and reputational consequences for organizations. By performing security testing, organizations can reduce the risk of security incidents, minimize potential losses, and protect their reputation.
- Ensuring Compliance with Security Policies: Many organizations have internal security policies that require regular security testing. By conducting security testing, organizations can ensure that their software systems meet these policies and avoid any potential conflicts or security incidents.
Drawbacks / Gotchas
Security testing is essential for ensuring the security and safety of software systems, but organizations should consider the impact that it has on software development. Here are some common impacts:
- False Positives: Security testing can produce false positives, where a test identifies a vulnerability or weakness that is not actually exploitable. Teams are not at liberty to choose which potential security issues that they are willing to address and should devise plans and procedures for how to verify issues that are raised in the security testing process.
- False Negatives: Conversely, security testing can also produce false negatives, where a vulnerability or weakness is missed, and remains exploitable. This can leave the software system open to security threats and attacks if an organization is not committed to adopting and maintaining their security testing tools and processes.
- Cost and Time: Security testing can be time-consuming and expensive, particularly for large and complex software systems. This can be a challenge for organizations with limited resources and may lead to prioritization of testing efforts based on perceived risk.
- Limited Scope: Security testing can only identify known vulnerabilities and threats and may miss unknown or emerging risks. This can lead to a false sense of security and may require additional testing and updates in the future. (see also Fuzz Testing)
- Impact on Development: Security testing can also impact the software development process, particularly if testing identifies significant vulnerabilities or weaknesses that require significant changes to the software system. This can lead to delays, additional costs, and disruption to the development process.
Quality Assurance (QA) through software testing has cemented its position as a fundamental part of the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). Organizations that are embracing or exploring Quality Engineering (QE) should consider Security Testing as part of their software development strategy.