Top five Web security assessment tools

Top five Web security assessment tools
Scanning websites is an entirely different ballgame from network scans. In the case of websites, the scope of the scan ranges from Layer 2 to 7, considering the intrusiveness of the latest vulnerabilities. The correct approach for scanning websites starts from Web-level access, right up to scanning all backend components such as databases. While most Web security scanners are automated, there could be a need for manual scripting, based on the situation.


Let’s start with this tool because of its feature set. This open source tool is widely used to scan websites, mainly because it supports HTTP and HTTPS, and also provides findings in an interactive fashion. Nikto can crawl a website just the way a human would, and that too in the least amount of time. It uses a technique called mutation, whereby it creates combinations of various HTTP tests together to form an attack, based on the Web server configuration and the hosted code.
Thus, it finds critical loopholes such as file upload misconfiguration, improper cookie handling, cross-scripting errors, etc. Nikto dumps all findings in a verbose mode, which helps in knowing more about the Web vulnerabilities, in detail. However, it can also result in too many things getting notified, some of which may be false alarms. Hence, care should be taken while interpreting Nikto logs.

Samurai framework

Once a baseline check is performed by Nikto, the next step is to take the “deep-dive” approach. Samurai is a framework — a bunch of powerful utilities, each one targeted for a specific set of vulnerabilities.
It comes as a Linux distribution, purely focusing on penetration-testing tools such as WebScarab for HTTP mapping, W3AF plugins for application-based attacks, and it also has tools to test browser-based exploits. It is amazing to note that the most recent version can find vulnerabilities that are usually not detected even by a few commercial software products.

Safe3 scanner

While the first two tools are good for static websites, for portals needing user ID and password, we need something that can deal with HTTP sessions and cookies. Safe3 scanner is a fantastic open source project, which has gained momentum and fame because it can handle almost all types of authentication, including NTLM.
It contains a Web crawler (a spider like that of search engines) capable of ignoring duplicate page scans and yet detect client-side JavaScript vulnerabilities. Safe3 scans also detect the possibility of the latest AJAX-based attacks and even report vulnerable script libraries. It comes with a user-friendly GUI and is capable of creating nice management reports.


Though very similar to Samurai, Websecurify also brings application-level assessment into play. In case of a large Web farm where code is maintained by a team of developers, following standards can sometimes yield insecure code like passwords mentioned in code, physical file paths in libraries, etc. Websecurify can traverse code and find such loopholes swiftly.
A nice feature is that it allows you to create screenshots of the problem areas automatically, which helps in preparing audit reports. It is one of the very few platform-independent tools and also supports mobile coding, which is helping it get more popular in the cyber-security assessment world.


Unless I mention a tool to detect SQL-injection attacks, this article would not be complete. Though this is a very old “first-generation” type of attack, many public websites still fail to fix it. SQLmap is capable of not just exploiting SQL-injection faults, but can also take over the database server. Since it focuses on a specific task, it works at great speed to fingerprint databases, find out the underlying file system and OS, and eventually fetch data from the server. It supports almost all well-known database engines, and can also perform password-guessing attacks. This tool can be combined with the other four tools mentioned above to scan a website aggressively.
A vulnerability assessment tool should include network scanning as well as website vulnerability exploitation. Open source software is prone to attacks too; hence, network administrators must know about the reputed scanners and use them in their daily tasks to make their infrastructure secure and stable.

Hardeep Singh aka cyb3r.gladiat0r


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