For quality assurance specialists who spend most of their time analyzing applications for performance-related defects, security testing can pose a bit of a problem. Ensuring high-quality security within a piece of software is becoming more important with each passing day. Cybercrime has never been a greater concern to software developers, and QA teams need to do their part by identifying critical vulnerabilities before an app is pushed to release. Because this may be uncharted territory for some software testers, it's absolutely essential that QA leaders brush up on security testing best practices and encourage their team members to adhere to them.
Getting the ball rolling
If QA managers are relatively unfamiliar with security testing, just knowing where to get started can be a major chore. Security testing encompasses a large number of approaches and strategies, which can seem daunting to the uninitiated. Security testing veteran and TechTarget contributor Kevin Beaver suggested beginning with the basics and focusing on identifying existing weaknesses within in-development software. This can be achieved by implementing penetration and vulnerability testing, which entail probing various defenses, components and environments for exploitable access points.
"Vulnerability assessments take an inventory of a system's security readiness and seek to find ways to mitigate risks," Beaver wrote. "Penetration testing is the active process of simulating a cyberthreat in order to find and remediate weaknesses."
Automated testing tools can be major assets here, as they are able to scan code and identify issues faster than manual processes. QA teams can even go one step further and deploy test management software to upload and disseminate these tools with other testers and project stakeholders.
Remove testing from a vacuum
One issue that QA teams may run into when conducting security testing is reconciling theoretical events with real-life scenarios. Just because an app appears to be secure in a lab environment doesn't mean that it will hold up against an actual breach attempt. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium urged software testers to run security assessments in states that accurately replicate real-world conditions.
"At a bare minimum, tests for common software vulnerabilities, such as overflow and injection flaws, and testing the behavior of software to unexpected and random input formats (fuzz testing) should be conducted in testing environments that emulate the configuration of the production environment," an (ISC)² report stated.
QA teams have long had to cope with the challenges of waterfall development processes, often finding themselves tasked with running performance and functionality tests at the tail end of the development cycle. The proliferation of agile methodologies has helped to include QA earlier in the production process. These efforts should include security testing as well. Cybersecurity firm McAfee argued that security testing should be conducted at every stage of the development life cycle, from initial planning to deployment. Once an app has been released, QA specialists must continue to support it by identifying lingering vulnerabilities and helping developers to release patches and security updates.
There's no time like the present to begin adhering to security testing best practices. Although user experience remains perhaps the most critical element to determining the success of an application, a single security flaw could derail even the most beloved piece of software.