Performing application security testing and safety testing, are two important aspects of software development for successful product development.

What is Safety Testing?

The goal of software safety testing is to optimize system safety in the design, development, use and maintenance of software systems and their integration with safety-critical hardware systems in a production environment.

Safety testing verifies and validates all testable significant software security requirements through software development and system integration testing, which is performed to verify the implementation of mitigating measures, detect security anomalies and identify solutions to threats. Safety testing ensures that working software does not create threats and that monitoring systems work flawlessly.

  • Example: a security system is designed to implement security measures that comply with applicable regulations, e.g. the backup computer should automatically start when the primary computer fails.

The importance of safety testing

Safety testing in software systems is extremely useful for a variety of reasons. It provides a proper analysis of the system and its design, features, data and other elements that may or may not cause a security crisis or software failure. Here are some of the most common failure mechanisms that should be evaluated during the safety analysis process:

  • The software fails or is unable to perform the required function, that means that the function is either never executed or no response is generated.
  • The software performs an incorrect function or a function that is not required. For example, receiving incorrect answers, giving incorrect management instructions, or performing the correct action but under inappropriate conditions.
  • Failure of the software to recognise a safety-critical function and trigger an appropriate fault-tolerant response.
  • There is a timing or sequencing problem in the software and it cannot ensure that two things happen at the same or different times as well as in a certain order.
  • There are specification errors that are a major cause of system or software failures or errors. These include incorrectly stated, omitted, misunderstood or incorrect specifications and requirements.
  • Design and coding errors: this error, usually introduced by the programmer, can result from specification errors and is a direct consequence of poor structured programming techniques. These errors can consist of incomplete interfaces, timing errors, incorrect interfaces, incorrect algorithms, logic errors, insufficient automated tests, overloading errors, infinite loops and syntax errors.
  • Although not as common as others, errors caused by hardware or computers do exist. There is also a possibility of random power transients, hardware failure modes that are not identified or corrected by software to return the system to a safe state.
  • Insufficient or incomplete documentation can be a major cause of errors due to miscommunication, which can further lead to the above software errors.
  • Errors caused by debugging or changing software: These errors can be traced to programming and coding, poor structuring techniques, poor documentation, as well as poor specification requirements. Errors caused by a software change help in verifying the need to configure the software.

Software safety planning and management

The most important step, which precedes all other phases of the security program, is software safety planning and management. Safety planning should be used to establish provisions in order to accommodate security in advance of the start of each of the phases of the software lifecycle, such as requirements, design, programming, and in-cycle testing.

By executing detailed planning prior to executing test cycles, the programmer can ensure that critical interfaces and program support are identified and that formal lines of communication are established between disciplines and engineering functions. Provisions that can ensure the best results should also be planned . To help out the programmer in carrying out these aspects, we provide a checklist of things to look for when planning to test the security of a software system.

  • The software security organization is properly written and a security team is assigned at the beginning of testing or programming.
  • Acceptable levels of software risk are defined consistently with the risks defined for the whole system.
  • The interfaces between the software and other system functions are clearly defined and understood.
  • Software application concepts are examined to identify hazards/risks within safety-critical software functions.
  • Requirements and specifications shall be examined in terms of hazards (e.g. identification of hazardous commands, processing limits, sequence of events, time constraints, fault tolerance, etc.).
  • Proper integration of design and implementation into software security requirements.
  • Testing plans and procedures can achieve the intention of software security verification requirements.
  • Satisfactory software security verification results.

Security testing – definition

Security testing is a type of software testing that detects system vulnerabilities and determines whether the system’s data and resources are protected from potential intruders. It evaluates the security of a system or application.

Security testing focuses on finding all possible gaps and weaknesses in the system that could lead to loss of information or the organization’s reputation.

Importance of Security Testing

The goal of security testing is to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats and to ensure that the system is protected against unauthorized access, misuse, data leakage and other security-related issues. Helps developers troubleshoot problems through coding.

Other objectives of security testing:

  • Identify vulnerabilities: security testing helps identify system vulnerabilities such as weak passwords, unauthorised software and misconfigured systems that attackers could exploit.
  • Evaluate the system’s ability to withstand an attack: security testing evaluates the system’s ability to withstand different types of attacks, such as network attacks, social engineering attacks, and application-level attacks.
  • Compliance Assurance: security testing helps ensure that the system meets relevant security standards and regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOC2.
  • Providing a comprehensive security assessment: security testing provides a comprehensive assessment of the security level of a system, including identification of vulnerabilities, assessment of the system’s ability to withstand attack and compliance with relevant security standards.
  • Helps organisations prepare for potential security incidents: security testing helps organisations understand the potential risks and vulnerabilities they face, enabling them to prepare and respond to potential security incidents.
  • Identify and fix potential security issues before deployment to production: security testing helps to identify and fix security issues before the system is deployed to production. This helps reduce the risk of a security incident occurring in a production environment.

Main areas of Security Testing

  • Network security.
  • System software security.
  • Client-side application security.
  • Server-side application security.
  • Authentication and authorization: testing the system’s ability to properly authenticate and authorize users and devices. This includes testing the strength and effectiveness of passwords, usernames and other forms of authentication, as well as testing access control mechanisms and system permissions.
  • Network and infrastructure security: testing the security of the network and system infrastructure, including firewalls, routers and other network devices. This includes testing the system’s ability to defend against common network attacks such as denial of service (DoS) and man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks.
  • Database security: database security testing of the system including testing for SQL injection, cross-site scripting and other types of attacks.
  • Application security: system application security testing, including testing for cross-site scripting, injection attacks and other types of vulnerabilities.
  • Data security: testing the data security of the system, including testing data encryption, data integrity and data leakage.
  • Compliance: testing system compliance with relevant security standards and regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS and SOC2.
  • Cloud security: cloud security testing.

Security testing types

Types of security testing diagram
Security testing types
  • Vulnerability Scanning: vulnerability scanning is performed using automated system scanning software to detect known patterns of vulnerabilities.
  • Security Scanning: security scanning is the identification of network and system vulnerabilities. Later, it provides solutions to mitigate these deficiencies or risks. Security scanning can be carried out in both manual and automated ways.
  • Penetration Testing: penetration testing is a simulation of a hacker attack. It involves analyzing a specific system to examine potential vulnerabilities from a malicious hacker attempting to hack into the system.
  • Risk Assessment: risk assessment testing analyses the security risks observed in an organisation. Risks are classified into three categories, i.e. low, medium and high. In this type of testing, controls and risk minimisation measures are approved.
  • Security Audit (Risk Assessment): a security audit is an internal review of applications and operating systems for security vulnerabilities. Auditing can also be done by checking the code line by line.
  • Ethical Hacking: ethical hacking is different from malicious hacking. The goal of ethical hacking is to expose security vulnerabilities in an organization’s system.
  • Posture Assessment: is a combination of security scanning, ethical hacking and risk assessment to provide an overall security posture of the organization.
  • Application security testing: application security testing is a type of testing that focuses on identifying vulnerabilities in the application itself. This includes testing the code, configuration and dependencies of the application to identify any potential vulnerabilities.
  • Network security testing: network security testing is a type of testing that focuses on identifying vulnerabilities in the network infrastructure. This includes testing firewalls, routers and other network devices to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  • Social engineering testing: social engineering testing is a type of testing that simulates phishing, baiting, and other types of social engineering attacks in order to identify vulnerabilities in the human element of a system.

Tools such as Nessus, OpenVAS and Metasploit can be used to automate and simplify the security testing process. It is important to ensure that security testing is carried out regularly and that any vulnerabilities or threats identified during testing are immediately removed to protect the system from potential attacks.

Benefits of Security Testing

Vulnerability identification: security testing helps identify system vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit, such as weak passwords, unpatched software and misconfigured systems.

Improving system security: security testing helps improve overall system security by identifying and fixing vulnerabilities and potential threats.

Compliance Assurance: security testing helps ensure that the system meets relevant security standards and regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOC2.

Risk Reduction: security testing helps reduce the risk of a security incident in a production environment by identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities and potential threats before the system is deployed into production.

Improving incident response: security testing helps organisations understand the potential risks and vulnerabilities they face, enabling them to prepare and respond to potential security incidents.

Disadvantages of Security Testing

Resource-intensive: security testing can be resource-intensive because it requires significant hardware and software resources to simulate different types of attacks.

Complexity: security testing can be complex and requires specialized knowledge and expertise to set up and execute tests effectively.

Limited testing scope: security testing may not be able to identify all types of vulnerabilities and threats.

False positives and negatives: safety testing can produce false positives or false negatives, which can lead to confusion and wasted effort.

Time-consuming: security testing can be time-consuming, especially if the system is large and complex.

Difficulties in simulating real attacks: it is difficult to simulate real attacks and it is difficult to predict how attackers will interact with the system.

Safety testing vs Security testing

Safety testing: safety testing refers to protection against both intentional and unintentional threats such as accidents, damage or incidents, etc.

Security testing: security testing refers to protection against internal/intentional threats to the system.

Below are the differences between safety and security testing:

Safety testing is designed to protect software from external or unpredictable threats, while security testing is designed to protect software from intentional threats.

Safety testing is performed to ensure that all data is safe by ensuring data integrity, backups etc.

While security testing is performed to ensure that the software is secure and functions properly even under attack. This can be achieved by using good programming techniques such as verifying inputs from trusted/untrusted sources.

Security testing is the most important application testing and verifies that confidential data remains confidential. In this type of testing, the tester plays the role of an attacker and plays with the system to find security-related vulnerabilities.

Security testing automation tools

1. Acunetix

Invicti’s intuitive and easy-to-use Acunetix helps small and mid-sized organizations secure their web applications from costly data leaks. It does this by detecting a wide range of web security issues and helping security and development professionals act quickly to resolve them.


  • Advanced scanning of more than 7,000 web vulnerabilities, including the top 10 OWASP vulnerabilities such as SQLi and XSS.
  • Automatic discovery of web assets to identify abandoned or forgotten websites.
  • Advanced browsing of the most complex web applications, including multi-format and password-protected areas.
  • Combined interactive and dynamic application security testing to uncover vulnerabilities that other tools overlook.
  • DevOps automation through integration with popular issue tracking and CI/CD tools.
  • Reporting on compliance with regulatory standards such as PCI DSS, NIST, HIPAA, ISO 27001 and more.

Visit Acunetix on their website.

2. Intruder

Intruder is a powerful, automated penetration testing tool that reveals security flaws throughout your IT environment. Intruder offers industry-leading security controls, continuous monitoring and an easy-to-use platform that keeps businesses of all sizes safe from hackers.


  • Best-in-class threat coverage with more than 10,000 security checks.
  • Checking for configuration weaknesses, missing patches, application weaknesses (such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting), and more.
  • Automatic analysis and prioritization of scan results.
  • Intuitive interface, quick setup and start of first scans.
  • Proactive security monitoring for the latest vulnerabilities.
  • Connections to AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.
  • API integration with CI/CD pipepline.

Visit Intruder on their website.


3. Teramind

Teramind provides a comprehensive insider threat prevention and employee monitoring package. It improves security through behavioural analysis and data loss prevention, ensures compliance and optimises business processes. Its customizable platform meets a variety of organizational needs and provides actionable insights that focus on increasing productivity and ensuring data integrity.


  • Prevention of insider threats.
  • Business process optimization.
  • Monitors employee productivity, safety and compliance behavior.
  • Helps manage compliance with a single scalable solution suitable for small businesses, enterprises and government agencies.
  • It provides evidence to enrich incident response, investigation and threat management.
  • Monitors and protects against potential loss of sensitive data.
  • Analyzes detailed data about customer behavior in applications to gain insights.
  • Allows you to customize monitoring settings to suit specific use cases or implement predefined rules.
  • It provides an overview and usable information on staff activities through a comprehensive dashboard.

Visit Teramind on their website.

4. Owasp

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a global non-profit organization dedicated to improving software security. The project has several tools for pen testing different software environments and protocols.


  • Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP – integrated penetration testing tool).
  • OWASP Dependency Check (scans project dependencies and checks for known vulnerabilities).
  • OWASP Web Testing Environment Project (a collection of security tools and documentation).

5. WireShark

Wireshark is a network analysis tool that was formerly known as Ethereal. It captures packets in real time and displays them in a human-readable format. Basically, it’s a network packet analyzer – which provides small details about network protocols, decryption, packet information, etc. It is open source and can be used on Linux, Windows, OS X, Solaris, NetBSD, FreeBSD and many other systems. The information obtained through this tool can be displayed through the GUI or the TShark Utility in TTY mode.

6. W3af

W3af is a framework for attacking and auditing web applications. It has three types of plugins: discovery, audit and attack, which communicate with each other to find any vulnerabilities on the web, for example the discovery plugin in w3af looks up different URLs for vulnerability testing and forwards them to the audit plugin, which then uses those URLs to find vulnerabilities.

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About the author

Michaela Kojnoková

Agile Test Engineer

Po štúdiu informatiky na ŽU a TUKE som sa najviac ponorila do oblasti automatizácie testovania. Okrem toho sa venujem tvorbe webov, databázam, dátovej analytike, umelej inteligencii a strojovému učeniu. Mám rada cestovanie, šport a najviac si užívam čas strávený v prírode s mojimi blízkymi. LinkedIn

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