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Map execution paths through application (OTG-INFO-007)
This article is part of the new OWASP Testing Guide v4.
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Before commencing security testing, understanding the structure of the application is paramount. Without a thorough understanding of the layout of the application, it is unlkely that it will be tested thoroughly.
Description of the Issue
In black box testing it is extremely difficult to test the entire code base. Not just because the tester has no view of the code paths through the application, but even if they did, to test all code paths would be very time consuming. One way to reconcile this is to document what code paths were discovered and tested.
There are several ways to approach the testing and measurement of code coverage:
- Path - test each of the paths through an application which includes combinatorial and boundary value analysis testing for each decision path. While this approach offers thoroughness, the number of testable paths grows exponentially with each decision branch.
- Data flow (or taint analysis) - tests the assignment of variables via external interaction (normally users). Focuses on mapping the flow, transformation and use of data throughout an application.
- Race - tests multiple concurrent instances of the application manipulating the same data.
The trade off as to what method is used and to what degree each method is used should be negotiated with the application owner. Simpler approaches could also be adopted, including asking the application owner what functions or code sections they are particularly concerned about and how those code segments can be reached.
Black Box testing and example
The demonstrate code coverage to the application owner the tester can start with a spreadsheet and documenting the links discovered by spidering the application (either manually or automatically). Then the tester can being looking more closely at decision points in the application and investigating how many significant code paths are discovered, documenting them in the spreadsheet with URLs, prose and screenshot descriptions of the paths discovered.
Gray Box testing and example
Ensuring sufficient code coverage for the application owner is far easier with the gray and white box approach to testing. Information solicited by and provided to the tester will ensure the minimum requirements for code coverage are met.
- Spreadsheet software
- Diagramming software