ZAP - Dynamic Application Security Testing to detect vulnerabilities in web applications

ZAP - Dynamic Application Security Testing to detect vulnerabilities in web applications


Penetration testing (otherwise known as pen testing, or the more general Dynamic Application Security testing) is the process of testing your applications for vulnerabilities, and answering a simple question: “What could a hacker do to harm my application, or organisation, out in the real world?”

Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is one of the most widely used tool in the OWASP community. Its main goal is to allow easy penetration testing to find vulnerabilities in web applications. It is ideal for developers and functional testers as well as security experts. Let’s check out how ZAP penetration testing works.

Installation and configuration of ZAP:

Download Link: (Windows, Linux and MacOS supported)

Adding a site to the testing scope

By telling ZAP what the target site is, ZAP can limit the scope of the scan and only scan the target site for vulnerabilities.
  1. Open the web application that you want to test.
  2. In Zap you will find your website/application displayed under sites.
ZAP will spider that URL, then perform an active scan and display the results.

Zap runs on proxy, to set up the proxy in ZAP

Close all active Firefox browser sessions
ZAP tool -> Tools Menu -> Options -> Local Proxy -> Change Address = Port = 8080.
Mozilla browser -> Tools Menu -> Options -> Advanced tab -> Network -> Settings -> Select Manual Proxy configuration:- HTTP Proxy = Port = 8080.

Now try to connect to your application using your browser.
If you can’t connect to it then check your proxy settings again. You will need to check your browser’s proxy settings, and ZAP’s proxy settings. It’s also worth checking that the application that you are trying to test is running!

When you have successfully connected to your application you will see one or more lines in ZAP’s Sites and History tabs.
Note that most of ZAP’s tabs provide additional functionality that could be accessed via ‘right click’ menus.

Right click on the HTML -> Attack -> Active scan
ZAP will perform active scan on all the pages and display the results.

Save the ZAP Session

Once you have manually explored the application it would be a good time to save the ZAP session so that you can look at it again.
If your application has multiple roles then you should explore it with each role and save the sessions in separate files.

Generating the Report

ZAP tool -> Report -> Generate HTML report (Any other options listed) -> Save and share the report.

Authentication , session and User management using ZAP
  1. Context: Represents a Web application
  2. Session Management Method: How are the web Sessions identified by the server and handle requests
Example: cookie based using query parameters
  1. Authentication Method: How is a new session established? It could be either Form based authentication method, HTTP based or oath methods.
  2. User Management: Handling users of web application that could be used for executing actions. Example: user name/password pair.
Steps to follow:

1) Set proxy in local browser/access url:
Now include web app in context.

Context includes:

  1. Authentication
  2. Session Management
  3. User Management

Context: Form based authentication

  1. log-in from target url:
  2. Login Request POST Data: username={%username%}&password={%password%}&proceed=login
  3. Set params as: username =password
  4. Include regex pattern for logged in or logged out response
Regex pattern for logged in response :- \Qa href=”\E

Context: Session Management

Context: User management

For user management, we can add 2 users, one valid user let it be the “Existing user” here “superadmin” in our example and other is “Test User” invalid user.

Spider url attack applied to “Test user”

If spider url attack applied to the Test user returns get_login.php (error_message), also once spider attack completed “Test User” accesses home url only. uri’s covered: 31 is shown in the screenshot, where as only scan through

Spider url attack for existing valid user “Superadmin”

Here spider url attack applied to the Existing valid user. That is user with super admin logged in credentials.

In the attached screenshots returns “POST login.php (request _url) if selected, returns Uri’s covered 182 for the valid user. He can access all sites.

NOTE: Registered PWSLab users can automate the entire heavy-lifting process of Dynamic Application Security Testing through ZAProxy by Automated Testing in Virtual Docker containers leveraging PWSLab CI/CD pipelines.

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