Black-box security testing refers to a method of software security testing in which the security controls, defences and design of an application are tested from the outside-in, with little or no prior knowledge of the application’s internal workings. Essentially, black-box testing takes an approach similar to that of a real attacker.

Since black-box security testing does not assume or have knowledge of the target being tested, it is a technology independent method of testing. This makes it ideal for a variety of situations, particularly, when testing for vulnerabilities that arise from deployment issues and server misconfigurations.

In addition, it offers the opportunity to cover a wide test coverage with a very low false-positives rate when compared to other testing methodologies.

An automated web application black-box security test would start by collecting information about the target. This is typically accomplished by crawling the web application for all links, taking a note of all inputs present on a page, as well as attempting to fingerprint specific technologies the web application is making use of.

The crawling stage is imperative to an automated black-box security test since this is where the black-box scanner will identify what inputs to test. A black-box security scanner will typically use a mixture of passive (typically, during the crawl) and active (typically, post-crawl) vulnerability testing techniques.

Alerts raised by a black-box security scan will then provide detailed information about vulnerabilities discovered, as well as remediation advice.

black-box security testing

Beyond one-off black-box security tests and PDF reports, automated black-box security testing tools are commonly integrated with issue trackers such as Atlassian JIRA, GitHub and Microsoft TFS; as well as Continuous Integration (CI) platforms such as Jenkins.

Ian Muscat

Ian Muscat used to be a technical resource and speaker for Acunetix. More recently, his work centers around cloud security and phishing simulation.