My articals on “international penetest magazine”, on the topic of how to keep web applications safe by performing penetration tests with well known and best of the free tools to scan, analyze, code review and protect web applications on your own.
Everything You Need to Keep Web Applications Safe
Front facing web segments are always the target of malicious
hackers. This article explains about how to save web
applications by using various tools and techniques. Pentesting
web applications from hacker’s perspective reveal the pesky
applications to the web that could be targeted by bad guys.
The most common web application security
weakness is the failure to properly validate
input coming from the client or environment
before using it. This weakness leads to almost all
the major vulnerabilities in web applications, like
cross site scripting, SQL injection, interpreter injection,
locale/Unicode attacks, file system attacks,
and buffer overflows. Data from an external entity
or client should never be trusted, since it can be
arbitrarily tampered with by an attacker. “Accept
known good and reject known bad, this technique
must be followed.” That is rule number one. Unfortunately,
complex applications often have a large
number of entry points, which makes it difficult for
a developer to enforce this rule. I will describe latest
tools and techniques that will evaluate the security
issues into web applications.
• There are lots of open source and paid web
application auditing frameworks.
• Top 5 tools will be discussed here that I personally
use for pentesting.
At first, one of my favorite tools for auditing web
applications is Burp Suite from Port swigger.
Burp Suite is an integrated platform for performing
security testing of web applications.
Its various tools work seamlessly together to
support the entire testing process, from initial
mapping and analysis of an application’s attack
surface, through to finding and exploiting
Burp Suite contains many key features:
• An intercepting proxy, which lets you inspect and modify traffic between your browser and the target application.
• An application-aware spider, for crawling content and functionality.
• An advanced web application scanner, for automating
the detection of numerous types of vulnerability.
• An intruder tool, for performing powerful customized
attacks to find and exploit unusual vulnerabilities.
• A repeater tool, for manipulating and resending
• A sequencer tool, for testing the randomness
of session tokens.
• The ability to save your work and resume
• Extensibility, allowing you to easily write your
own plug-ins, to perform complex and highly
customized tasks within Burp.
Setting Up Intercepting Proxy for Nonproxy-
Sometimes when testing web applications, you
may find yourself in such position that you need to
use a thick client that runs outside of the browser.
And hence, many of these clients do not let you
configure an HTTP proxy, because it connects directly
to the web server hosting the web application.
At this stage, it will stop you from using an interception
proxy to modify the requests.
Figure 1. Burp Suite – Editing request through intercepting proxy on the fly
Burp Suite gives you some features that will letyou continue at this stage. To do this, you need to follow these steps:
Just modify your OS’s host file to resolve the
address used by application to the localhost
(127.0.0.1), for example 127.0.0.1 http://www.grayhat.in.
This will tell the thick client to redirect the traffic
to your system.
Now configure the Burp Proxy listener on port 80
or 443 (according to the port used by the application)
of your loopback interface, and set the listener
to invisible proxying. The invisible proxying
means that the listener can accept the non-proxy
requests sent by the thick client, which have been
redirected to your loopback address.
Invisible mode supports both HTTP and HTTPS.
You will get certificate issue with this kind of features.
It becomes necessary to configure invisible
proxy listener to give an SSL certificate with a specific
hostname which matches what the thick client applications expects.
You can find these settings under: Connections -> Hostname Resolution.
It will let you define mappings for domain names
to IP addresses to override your computer’s own
DNS resolution. this causes the outgoing requests from Burp to be directed to the correct
destination server. (if you not follow these steps, requests would be redirected to your localhost in an infinite loop).
During a pentest of web applications I have used
this tool that supports large amount of features.
Arachni is a full- featured, high-performance Ruby
framework that helps penetration testers and administrators
evaluate the security of web applications.
Unlike other scanners, Arachni supports the dynamic
nature of web applications and can detect
changes made while passing through the paths of
a web application’s cyclomatic complexity.
This way attack/input vectors that would otherwise
be undetectable by non-humans are seamlessly
handled by Arachni. Arachni can do a huge
amount of jobs in pentesting web applications like:
• For forms, links, and cookies auditing.
• A wide range of injection strings/input combinations.
• Writing RFI, SQL injection, XSS, and others
happens in fraction of seconds.
Figure 2. Modules in Arachni
• Some of the more advanced Recons supported
by Arachni are:
• Allowed HTTP methods
• Back-up files
• Common directories
• Common files
• HTTP PUT
• Insufficient Transport Layer Protection for
• WebDAV detection
• HTTP TRACE detection
• Credit Card number disclosure
• CVS/SVN user disclosure, Private IP address disclosure
• Common backdoors
• .htaccess LIMIT misconfiguration
• Interesting responses
• HTML object grepper
• E-mail address disclosure
• US Social Security Number disclosure
OWASP Zed Attack Proxy Project
Auditing web applications becomes easy when a
lot of tools with a lot of features are in the toolbox.
One of those full featured tools is OWASP project
Zed Attack Proxy.
The Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is an easy to use
integrated penetration testing tool for finding vulnerabilities
in web applications.
ZAP provides automated scanners as well as a
set of tools that allows you to find security vulnerabilities
Figure 3. Zed Attack Proxy
It is designed in such a fashion by people with
a wide range of security experience, and as such
is ideal for developers and functional testers who
are new to penetration testing. ZAP supported features
• Intercepting Proxy
• Automated scanner
• Passive scanner
• Brute Force scanner
• Port scanner
• Dynamic SSL certificates
• Beanshell integration
Web applications are always a main target of malicious
hackers. In this era, almost everyone is
going to be more dependent on the web from netbanking,
social networking, online shopping, and
so on. That attracts web application security experts
to focus on security of that frontend web.
Reputation plays a critical role mostly in business.
Obviously, there is no doubt that web application
security is a current and critical subject. For businesses
that collect increasing revenue from Ecommerce,
for users who trust web applications
with sensitive information, and criminals who can
make big money by stealing payment details or
compromising your bank accounts. Some of them
want to do business with an insecure website, so
few organizations want to disclose details about
their own security vulnerabilities or breaches.
Hence, it is not 100% secure and sure that web
application you are relying on is not vulnerable.
With a simple and powerful tool like burp suite
attackers can manipulate the entire validation
scheme that resides at client side.
ATUL TIWARI – Penetration tester, EThical hacker
Atul Tiwari is the founder of an ethical
hacking and information security training
and service provider company “gray
hat (P) Ltd Ranchi (India).” He is currently
working for his own company and has
been working for innobuzz knowledge solutions.
He is has been information security
and web app pentesting for 5 years and holds many certifications
including “Diploma in Cyber Laws, GLC Mumbai,” Certified
Ethical Hacker, CCNA, CISSP, web application security analysts. Atul is
reachable at email@example.com.