Website Penetration Testing: Meaning, Importance, and Step-by-step Process

Securing your website against cyber threats has never been more critical than it is now. According to Forbes, around 30,000 websites get hacked every day. And because of increasing cyber threats, businesses are consistently looking for new ways to protect their website.

Website penetration testing has become a crucial part of website protection strategy in 2022. Still, a lot of entrepreneurs have little idea about website penetration testing and why it is vital to protect their website, customer information, and critical financial data.

In this blog, Techosquare will tell you everything about site penetration testing. From meaning, importance, and how penetration testing is done, we will cover all important aspects.

Let’s understand the meaning of website penetration testing first!

What is Website Penetration Testing?

Website penetration testing, as the name itself suggests, is an imitative hacker-style attack against a website or web application that helps web developers evaluate the security and find existing vulnerabilities and faults. Its methodological series of steps provides insights to developers and allows them to fine-tune the website security policies and patch detected vulnerabilities.

Also known as a web pen test, website penetration testing is generally divided into five stages, namely:

  • Planning and reconnaissance (defining scope and goals; gathering intelligence for better understanding of site)
  • Scanning (analyzing website code in both static and dynamic ways)
  • Gaining access (executing cyber attacks on website and exploiting its vulnerabilities)
  • Maintaining access (imitating threats to achieve persistent presence on a website)
  • Analysis (creating a report about website vulnerabilities, accessed data, and total time tester was to remain unchecked while breaching its security)

Why is Website Penetration Testing Performed?

Let’s say a thief tries to enter your house to rob you. It is obvious that you will do your best to stop him ASAP and take strong security measures so he won’t be able to enter your house, right? Website penetration testing is similar to making sure that you have all your house windows and doors closed and security alarms and CCTV cameras in place.

It is really essential to identify your website’s loopholes so that you are never caught off guard by hackers, malware, and other cyber threats. Website penetration testing will let you and your partner developers predict possible stumbling blocks to be removed before something worse happens. This will let you manage the risks better for your website.

We know some of our readers are thinking, “Okay, it might be good for big websites. Mine is small. Do I also need to run website penetration testing?” The answer is YES!

According to a report by Astra, 60% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses. There is a strong possibility your website security may take a fatal blow by cyberattacks if the right security measures are not taken.

By performing a website penetration testing, you can:

  • Identify and fix security flaws in your website
  • Get a holistic view of misconfigured integrations
  • Emulate real-life attack scenarios and mitigate risks
  • Achieve certain website compliance requirements like GDPR, ISO 27001, PCI-DSS, etc
  • Prepare your business for facing a real-life online attack
  • Uncover potential vulnerabilities in your website
  • Save your business from legal consequences and heavy penalties under online data security policies

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What are the Steps Involved in Website Penetration Testing?

Remember we talked about the stages involved at the beginning of the article? It’s high time to talk about those steps in detail! Testing a website or web application usually starts with collecting public information about the site or web app and mapping out networks involved within their hosting.

Let’s understand one step at a time:

#1 Information gathering

Would you buy a $1000 smartphone without learning about its specifications and capabilities? Obviously no! Gathering information is the most important part of the whole pen testing process. Collecting information will help you make an informed decision about your website security and will lead you to the best outcome.

Now there are two ways of gathering information about website security:

  • Active reconnaissance
  • Passive reconnaissance

In passive reconnaissance, research is usually done using the information already available on the internet, without directly interacting with the target system. It involves using Google syntax, and numerating website subdomains, links, and other resources.

Active reconnaissance, on the other hand, asks you to directly investigate the target system and retrieve the output. Information is usually gathered from nonintrusive network scanning, DNS forward and reverse lookup, and social engineering.

After gathering the information using the aforementioned methods, penetration testers scheme out the website’s attack surface and possible vulnerabilities. Talking about the difficulty, gathering information using active and passive reconnaissance can either be as easy as booting up your computer or as difficult as assembling a PC from scratch.

#2 Scanning

In the next step, your hired developers will try to understand how your website or web application is behaving while facing multiple intrusion attempts. They will examine the target website or web app for weaknesses, including open services, security issues, and open source vulnerabilities.

They will use multiple security tools such as online scanners and search engines that will help them passively collect information about your target. Some of the popular tools used during website penetration testing are:

  • W3af
  • Burp Suite
  • SQLMap
  • Hydra
  • John Ripper
  • Ratproxy
  • Wfuzz
  • Watcher
#3 Gaining access

Now here comes the main part! The testers, after completely examining the target website or web application, use attacks such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, session fixation attacks, binary attacks, and backdoors to uncover their vulnerabilities.

And that’s not it! Developers also zero in on attack vectors they’ll encounter during the website penetration process. They try to exploit vulnerabilities by intensifying privileges, stealing data, and blocking traffic to figure out the damage that cyber-attacks can cause to your business website or web application.

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#4 Maintaining access

In the next step of website penetration testing, developers check if the vulnerability can be acclimated to attain a persistent presence in the exploited website’s system. In simple words, they imitate and check how long hackers can stay inside the system of a website or web application and accomplish their goals of exfiltrating and modifying data or abusing functionality.

#5 Reporting and Recommendation

After gathering information, scanning, gaining, and maintaining access, developers compile the results of website penetration tests into a detailed report. They cover:

  • Specific vulnerabilities that were exploited
  • Sensitive data that was accessed
  • Total time taken by testers to stay undetected in the system

Developers and testers keep the structure of the report clear and concise with adequate amounts of data to support their client’s findings. By doing so, they will help your business focus on efforts in fixing the most critical part of its website’s system. 

Above are the steps involved in the website penetration testing process. A lot of modern-day websites focus more on design and development and less on security. No wonder, they carry vulnerabilities in their code, design, and configuration that malicious hackers can find and exploit. The penetration testing process will help you in validating the security of your business website and find weaknesses before the criminals do.

In case you want to integrate additional layers of security into your website, get in touch with our team of experienced developers and cybersecurity experts. Our team has helped hundreds of websites and applications securely process millions of dollars and billions worth of user data.

Got any queries to ask? Send them to and have them answered by our experts.

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