Imagine a castle under siege; the walls are high and the moat is deep, but what if the gatekeeper fell asleep at his post? That’s where quality assurance comes in, like a trusty watchman constantly patrolling the wall of our digital fortress. In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber security, QA plays a critical role in ensuring the reliability and stability of our systems, networks, and data.
QA must be integrated seamlessly into the security process to ensure that security measures are updated and effective. The importance of regularly testing and auditing security systems cannot be overstated.
In this blog, we will deep dive into the various responsibilities of QA professionals in the cyber security world to ensure the protection of critical information and systems from cyber threats.
We live in a data-driven world where privacy and security of information are major concerns. Million of data that were meant to be private is now available in the public domain due to data breaches and cyber-attacks. This has led to serious consequences, including identity theft, financial fraud, and damage to reputations and careers.
In order to protect the data, cyber security plays a crucial role. Cyber security is the practice of protecting all digital devices, networks, and sensitive information from unauthorized access. There are many malicious users who try different types of attacks on these systems to gain access. Some of the common attacks are DDOS, Malware, man in the middle, phishing, are several other tactics to exploit the data.
Cyber security ensures that sensitive information is kept safe by following various practices and providing a seamless experience and building trust for the user.
Quality assurance, on the other hand, is an extra layer of protection, ensuring the quality and security of the product. QA helps to identify and resolve risks or vulnerabilities that exist in the system in order to reduce the chance of security breaches or failures. We will explore specific techniques and best practices used by QA teams in testing and verifying the security of software and systems in the later sections.
Preventing security breaches is an essential aspect of cyber security, one simple flaw can cost millions of dollars in damages and compromise privacy and trust. Even tech giants like Meta were affected by security breaches, and millions of data were leaked.
These incidents indicate the importance of QA in ensuring the security and stability of software applications. The QA process helps to prevent future security breaches in several ways:
As we said in the earlier session, QA ensures the security and reliability of the software systems. There are several key steps involved in achieving that, including:
Requirements Gathering: In this stage of QA, we gather all the requirements for moving forward with the process. It’s basically like making a checklist of all the information we need to know about how the software works and what it does. Think of it as laying the foundation for the whole QA process.
Testing and validation: Testing and validating is one of the most important parts of the QA process, where several types of tests are done, including functional testing, compatibility testing, performance testing, and all other types of tests that are used to identify and resolve security issues.
Documentation: After we test the product, we document all the results and organize the information. This includes things like what security protocols were used, the software specs, and their dependencies. This documentation is super helpful for future reference.
Vulnerability scanning: Vulnerability scanning is the process where the QA team finds security problems in computer systems and software to protect against any security issues.
Maintenance: Maintenance is another aspect of the QA process that performs several updates to address the vulnerabilities. We cannot build systems that are completely safe, so we must keep the system secure by keeping it up-to-date and constantly maintaining and improving it.
Continuous Monitoring: We cannot build systems that are 100% safe, so we must constantly monitor them in order to ensure the system is protected from any new forms of threat. This can be done by implementing various security measures like putting API limits, setting up firewalls, etc.
These processes are cyclic in nature, meaning the systems are improved over time. This makes our application secure and up-to-date.
The QA team is responsible for implementing several security measures to detect any issues that exist. Despite the fact that their roles and responsibilities vary from one project to another, there are many common responsibilities and standards they need to follow.
In the earlier section, we discussed the different QA assurance processes like testing, validation, monitoring, etc. Apart from that, there are other specific roles and responsibilities that the QA team must fulfill in order to ensure the security of the software and systems.
Some of the roles and responsibilities include:
There will be several other responsibilities that the QA team should fulfill, depending on the scope of the project. Apart from this, some of the standards that are to be followed are:
ISO 27000 series
The ISO 27000 series is a set of standards for information security management that are internationally accepted. The QA team is responsible for following the standards that are mentioned in order to ensure that the software and systems they work on are secure and comply with industry best practices for information security.
The ISO 27000 series include different types of standards, including
NIST Cybersecurity Framework
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology published the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which is a set of recommendations for reducing organizational cybersecurity risks based on current norms, policies, and practices. It helps organizations in identifying, assessing, and prioritizing their cybersecurity risks, as well as in implementing appropriate risk management measures.
PCI (Payment Industry Data Security) standards are IT security standards used to handle payment cards (credit cards). The QA team is responsible for ensuring that the software and systems they develop comply with the PCI standards and that sensitive information is kept secure.
WASC (Web Application Security Consortium) is a non-profit organization that provides various guidelines, best practices, and resources for web application security. It regularly shares technical information, security tips, and articles on security. These materials are used by corporations, governments, app developers, security experts, and educational institutions to enhance web security.
OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) is another non-profit organization that works on improving web security. It provides several guidelines, educational materials, and even community-led open-source projects to educate and improve web security.
The OSSTMM (Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual) is a security testing manual maintained by ISECOM. It’s updated regularly to stay current with security testing. The goal of OSSTMM is to provide a scientific approach for evaluating the security of operations, used for penetration testing and ethical hacking.
Just like we have to do math problems to learn math, we have to simulate real-world attacks through penetration testing to learn about and improve our cyber security. Penetration testing is actually an assessment method that is used to test the security of the system in a way to simulate real-world attacks.
One advantage of penetration testing is that we can discover security flaws and loopholes in our application that a malicious user could exploit. There are several types of penetration testing, such as:
There are several other types of pen testing like social engineering pen testing, cloud pen testing, IoT pen testing, etc. Pen testing and ethical hacking go hand in hand where ethical hacking is a broader term that addresses several security issues. It includes network scanning, port scanning, etc. Unlike pen testing, ethical hacking may not go as a formal process.
Penetration testing improves an organization’s security by identifying and addressing potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit. Software evolves over time, and there may be many updates in the future. With these new features, the door is open for various bugs and major loopholes that can have a large impact on the application. That’s where regular testing comes into the picture.
Regular pen testing is an important part of the software development life cycle to ensure the security of an organization, as it helps in the early detection of potential security risks and provides organizations with the opportunity to take necessary measures to prevent a security breach.
So far, we’ve discussed how to prevent security breaches; now, let’s look at how to proceed after a breach.
Cyber security forensics refers to the process of investigating and analyzing the evidence present in computers and networks to determine the cause of a security breach. Considering QA, cybersecurity forensics has an important role in determining the reasons for the breach.
It can help the company/organization in various ways, including:
Determining the root cause: Cyber security forensics can help organizations to understand the actual reason for how the attackers gain access to the system. It’s not that simple, but it can be doable. With that information, they can improve their security measures and prevent future attacks.
Understand where to improve: These attacks can make the QA team more careful by preparing for similar incidents in the future. They can improve their system to reduce the risks. They can make changes to reduce risks, such as implementing better security measures to protect the system.
Protecting sensitive data in the future: By analyzing how the issue happened, QA can implement more security measures like data encryption, enhanced access controls, etc. For example, implementing two-level authentication and authorization, like two-factor authentication, can be a great way to improve security.
Quality assurance is a continuous process that aims to ensure the delivery of high-quality products and services. In the next section, we will look into some of the tools that can help ensure the quality of the product.
Tools for the QA process
There are several tools for the QA process, and some types of QA tools are mentioned below:
Test Management Tools
Test management tools are the tools that are used to store information on how testing is to be done, plan testing activities, and report the status of quality assurance activities. Some of the most commonly used test management tools are Microsoft Test Manager, Jira, Zephyr, etc.
Code Review Tools
Code review tools are the software that is used to improve the quality of the code. These tools often give suggestions to improve the code along with various features like collaboration with other developers, ways to add comments or suggestions, and various other features. Examples of code review tools include Gerrit, Crucible, Phabricator, and Bitbucket.
Bug Tracking Tools
Bug-tracking tools are software applications used to manage and track software bugs, errors, and issues during the development process. One of the most popular tools is Github Issues. With Github Issues, developers can assign tasks, categorize bugs by type, add labels, and set milestones to track progress.
Continuous Integration Tools
Continuous Integration (CI) tools are software tools that automate the process of building, testing and deploying software applications. These tools can detect and prevent integration problems early and easily. Github actions is an important and most used tool in this category. GitHub Actions is a feature of GitHub that allows developers to automate software workflows, including continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) processes.
Implementing effective cybersecurity QA can be challenging, it takes time, effort, and cash and still, it will have several problems. Some of the challenges in cyber security QA are:
Some of the best practices for QA in cyber security are:
Don’t let your company or organization become the next headline, prioritize security testing and take the QA process seriously. A single breach can cost you more than just money, it can also damage your reputation and customer trust.
Keeping QA procedures up-to-date helps organizations stay safe from changing threats. It is important for organizations to invest in their QA processes to keep their systems secure.
In this detailed blog on the role of QA in cyber security, we looked at the important role that quality assurance plays in ensuring the overall security of software and systems. We discussed various security testing techniques such as incident response, threat modeling, penetration testing, and compliance testing. This blog is a good start whether you are an experienced software tester or someone who is just getting started.