What is Web Application Scanning & What are its Types?

What is Web Application Scanning & What are its Types?

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In today’s digital age, data breaches have become regular and must be avoided at all costs. If not avoided, this can damage trust and reputation among the business user base. Web applications have become an essential part of our lives. Whether it’s banking or shopping for your favorite items online. The growing usage of web applications to perform these tasks has also increased the chances of potential risks happening. This is where web application scanning comes to the rescue of businesses and firms.

This blog aims to provide a comprehensive guide on web application scanning, its benefits, challenges, and the tools used.

An Introduction to Web Application Scanning

Web application scanning is a process in which automated tools identify and pinpoint potential risks in web applications that cyber criminals could exploit. It is important to mitigate these risks, especially before the web application is introduced in the market. This helps the business maintain trust and reputation. This is also needed for businesses to avoid any kind of data theft on the internet.

A cybersecurity firm scans and recommends various steps to mitigate these potential risks in a report. Vulnerabilities like SQL injection and misconfigurations affect web applications and cost money to businesses and firms.

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What does Web Application Scanning Do?

It is a process that involves scanning web-based applications to identify their security posture and mitigate potential risks. Here is what web applications do:

1. Identifies Vulnerabilities

During a web application scanning, various vulnerabilities are uncovered and these vulnerabilities could potentially harm the application. Here are some vulnerabilities that could affect the applications:

  • SQL Injection
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • Insecure Configurations
  • Outdated Software

2. Simulates Attacks

The automated scanning tools simulate real attacks on the web app. This means it shows hackers and cyber criminals could potentially exploit the gaps and weaknesses. This helps in identifying how the application would respond to the attacks and thus a solution could be devised and improve the security of that application.

3. Provides Detailed Reports

After simulating the attacks, the automated tools provide detailed reports of the application’s security posture. This report generally includes the below-stated information.

  • Description of the Vulnerability
  • Severity Levels
  • Recommendations for remediation

4. Helps Ensure Compliance

Various industries require various compliance requirements like GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, etc. To get these compliance certifications, industries, and businesses need to conduct regular security assessments. Web application scanning helps firms with compliance requirements and meet specific standards.

5. Supports Continuous Security

With the continuous increase in rising vulnerabilities, there is also an evolving need for security measures for web-based applications. To counter-attack these vulnerabilities continuous web application scanning is necessary.

The Benefits of Web Application Scanning

This scanning method offers various benefits that help businesses and firms protect their web applications from potential security risks. Here are some key benefits:

Benefit Description
Early Detection of Vulnerabilities Identifies security issues early, allowing them to be fixed before exploitation.
Cost-Effective Security Prevents costly incidents by addressing vulnerabilities during development.
Enhanced Security Posture Maintains strong security by regularly identifying and fixing vulnerabilities.
Compliance with Regulations Helps meet industry regulations requiring regular security assessments.
Protection of Sensitive Data Safeguards personal and financial information by addressing vulnerabilities.

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The Challenges for Web Application Scanning

It is an essential process that helps organizations build their security posture but it also comes with various challenges. The challenges for web application scanning include:

  • False Positives and Negatives: Scanners may incorrectly identify vulnerabilities. Thus, leading to inefficient reports and potential threats unresolved.
  • Complex Web Applications: With the continuous evolution of web applications, they have become dynamic and complex. Thus, making it difficult for scanners to identify all the vulnerabilities in the application.
  • Performance Impact: Scanning can sometimes slow down web application performance, which can be disruptive to users and operations.
  • Frequent Updates: Continuous updates and changes to web applications require frequent rescanning, which can be resource-intensive and challenging to manage.
  • Custom Code: Unique, custom-built features of a web application may not be effectively scanned by automated tools, necessitating manual review.

Web App Scanning vs. Web Vulnerability Scanning

The basic difference between the two scanning methods is based on the environment in which it is done. During a Web application scanning the application is scanned for vulnerabilities and potential security flaws.

While a web vulnerability scanning is a process that is based on the web environment to find flaws. The web environment includes servers, networks, and databases. Here is a list of differences between web application scanning and web vulnerability scanning:

Aspect Web Application Scanning Web Vulnerability Scanning
Scope Focuses on identifying vulnerabilities specific to web applications. Focuses on vulnerabilities in web applications, servers, networks, and other components.
Purpose Its purpose is to secure web applications by detecting flaws and security risks. Provides a complete security scan of vulnerabilities associated with web applications.
Common Tools OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, and Metasploit. Nessus, OpenVAS, and Qualys.
Types of Vulnerabilities Vulnerabilities include SQL injection, XSS, and misconfigurations. Includes web-specific vulnerabilities as well as network and servers.
Depth of Analysis Provides in-depth analysis of application-specific vulnerabilities. Provides an analysis of the security posture, and vulnerabilities.
Automation vs. Manual This process uses automated tools. It is usually done using automated tools but manual testing could also be done.
Output Detailed reports on application vulnerabilities. Comprehensive security reports.

Common Web App Scanning Tools

There are various types of tools available for scanning. These tools are used for various purposes and the scope of the testing that is required. Some of the web application scanning tools are listed below:

  • Burpsuite
  • Netsparker
  • W3af
  • SQLMap
  • Nmap
  • Nikto
  • Open SSL
  • Metasploit

Types of Web Application Scanning

Web application scanning can be typically categorized into two types, which are:

1. Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

SAST analyzes various aspects of the application. These aspects include source code and bytecodes of the application that’s being tested. It is termed a static tool because these tools perform the analysis without executing it.

It scans for security flaws during the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). The vulnerabilities often include coding errors and flaws.

  • Purpose: Find vulnerabilities in the code during development.
  • Benefits: Helps developers fix issues before the application is run, making it more secure from the start.
  • Examples: Checkmarx, Fortify, Veracode.

2. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

DAST identifies vulnerabilities in the web application effectively. The tool finds these vulnerabilities by simulating attacks on the application and analyzes how the application responds. This is helpful for attacks such as SQL injection and Cross-site scripting (XSS).

  • Purpose: Detect vulnerabilities that can be exploited from outside the application.
  • Benefits: Identifies security flaws that appear when the application is live and running.
  • Examples: OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, Netsparker, SQL Map, etc.

How to Choose Web Application Scanning Tools

All web vulnerability scanners offer similar features: automated scans, an interface to monitor scans, a vulnerability scan report, and some help with fixing vulnerabilities.

How to Choose Web Application Scanning Tools

1. Integration with CI/CD Pipeline

The web app scanner must fit into the firm’s continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. This allows the firm to automate vulnerability scans whenever there’s a code update, in addition to regularly scheduled scans.

2. Centralized Control Dashboard

Web application scanning provides a comprehensive dashboard that manages every step of the vulnerability process. Through the dashboard, firms can do the following process:

  • Monitor vulnerabilities
  • Update their statuses
  • Assign them to team members
  • Discuss them with security experts

3. Actionable Vulnerability Reports

A good vulnerability report should be easy to understand. A firm or business needs to opt for scanners that provide risk scores and video proofs-of-concept (PoCs) to help you quickly address issues.

4. Compliance-Specific

Preparing for compliance audits can be challenging. Hence, businesses should choose a scanner that runs compliance-specific scans and tells the firm, what needs to be fixed to meet audit requirements.


In conclusion, web application scanning is essential for ensuring the security of web applications. By opting for this process firms can safeguard their web applications and the customer’s data from potential cyber-attacks and data thefts. This process needs to be done regularly so that their web applications’ security is up to date. As a result, it strengthens the security posture of the web application.

Qualysec is a leading cybersecurity firm that provides web application scanning services to businesses and firms. Our team of cybersecurity experts evaluates risks and generates reports of all the vulnerabilities found. We use automated tools and manual techniques for this process. Additionally, we also provide services such as manual penetration testing to our clients. Most importantly, we create an environment where web applications are more secure than before.


Q. What is a web application scanning?

A: It is a process where automated tools are used to identify and pinpoint potential risks in applications that cyber criminals could exploit. It mitigates these risks before the web application is introduced in the market.

Q. What are the two types of Web application scanning?

A: The two important types of scanning tools are DAST and SAST. These stand for static application security testing and dynamic application security testing.

Q. What should I look for in a web application vulnerability scanner?

A: When choosing a web application vulnerability scanner, look for features such as integration with CI/CD pipelines, a centralized control dashboard for managing vulnerabilities, etc.

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