What SMBs Need to Know About Pen Testing Their Web Applications and Reaching SOC 2 Type 2 Compliance

SOC 2 penetration testing

Startup SMBs can have many challenges with cybersecurity, especially if they develop their own web applications. Bringing such a product to market requires that it be secure by design and ready for the strains of many new users. As a result, they often need support with web application pen testing and SOC 2 Type 2, which focus on internal controls and security.

If your business is kicking off and you’re ready to promote your app, you’ll want to know about pen testing and SOC 2 Type 2.

What Is Web Application Penetration Testing?

Web application penetration testing is the process of simulating a cyberattack in an attempt to seize sensitive data. Ethical hackers perform these tests to evaluate the security of the architecture, configuration, and design of web applications. The process defines web applications as anything delivered via the internet through a browser interface. Because web applications are visible, they are highly targeted by real hackers.

Having a firm provide a web application pen test is for the purpose of finding vulnerabilities before cyber criminals do. It serves as a good practice to check the security of your systems. There are different approaches to pen testing web applications regarding access levels and methods. Let’s look at the options for these.

What Are the Different Access Levels for Web Application Penetration Testing?

penetration test can take three routes regarding the access provided to the ethical hackers—Black Box, Gray Box, and White Box.

  • Black Box Penetration Testing: In this type of testing, ethical hackers have no prior knowledge of the internal structure of the target system. Testers act as a hacker and seek to find any weaknesses to exploit.
  • Gray Box Penetration Testing: With this approach, those performing the test have some general information about the target system and have “user-level” access and credentials. Penetration objectives here are somewhat different and may include specific test cases to determine the security of the system.
  • White Box Penetration Testing: The last option allows pen testers “admin-level” access to systems and artifacts like source code and containers. Additionally, those testing may be able to enter servers running the system.

Typically, web application testing starts with Black Box and then may move to Gray Box. The Black Box scenario provides a complete review of the security of your system. Once you decide on the access level, you’ll want to review testing methods.

What Pen Testing Methods Are Available for Web Application Pen Tests?

The method for the web application test depends upon what you want to test and what your objective is. In this case, you want to be sure your web application has all the right security controls in place before it goes to market. Work with a cybersecurity services firm to determine which approach is best to accomplish this. Here are the options:

  • External testing: Testing pubic-facing assets is a must for web applications. It will help to know what could happen to your visible assets if a hacker attempts to access and steal data.
  • Internal testing: This test happens behind the firewall and simulates what could happen after a human error, which is often the trigger for breaches. The scenario could include credentials stolen through phishing.
  • Blind testing: A blind test only offers the tester with the company’s name. Such an exercise provides security professionals with a real-time view of how an application assault could occur.
  • Double-blind testing: A double-blind test does not alert security teams that a test is happening. Your team would then need to respond to the threat, treating it as a real incident.
  • Targeted testing: Testers and technical teams work together in this method. Your team will appreciate the training experience that includes feedback from the hacker perspective.

For web application pen tests, you could use any of these scenarios. Starting with external and internal testing is a typical approach. So, what actually occurs during the test?

What Are the Steps of Web Application Pen Test?

A web application pen test includes seven steps. Let’s review those.

Planning and Prep

In the first step, the pen testing team collects information about the target using both public and private sources. They take what they learn to design an attack strategy. Those plans may include ways to infiltrate the system, including finding domain registration information, launching social engineering tactics, and scanning networks. In this phase, testers also define the scope and objectives of the test, including what to attack and how they’ll attack.


In step two, pen tests will use tools to find weaknesses in the target system. They’ll be searching for open services, application security issues, and open-source vulnerabilities. In scanning, testers want to understand how your system will respond when intrusion attempts occur. Testers may analyze static (code inspection) and dynamic (code in running state).

Gaining Access

In the third step, the testers are ready to attack with the goal of obtaining access. They deploy techniques and tools to breach. They may use things like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, social engineering, malware, or backdoors. Testers are on the hunt for a vulnerability they can exploit so they can access data, intercept data, or any other way to compromise the system’s security.

Maintaining Access

Once testers obtain access, they’ll attempt to maintain it with a persistent presence. If testers can do this, they can work on penetrating the system much deeper. It could even be for months, and that mirrors what happens in real-world attacks.


Once the testers have exhausted all methods for infiltration and been successful (or not), it’s time to clean up the trail. They retreat from the application and return it to its former state.

Analysis and Remediation

Post-cleanup, the testers are ready to deliver the results of the test. You’ll receive a detailed report in terms that anyone can understand. You’ll learn from this:

  • The vulnerabilities found and exploited
  • If the testers were able to gain access to data, extract it, or manipulate it
  • How long was the tester able to maintain access without detection?

From this information, your next result is to work with your cybersecurity partners to develop a plan to remediate all these issues and prioritize them.


Once you have a test completed, you’ll need to think about the next one. Retesting will help you validate that your fixes from the remediation plan worked. Since you have your own web applications that are your product, regular pen testing is a good practice to have.

Along with web application pen testing, you’ll also want to perform one for SOC 2 Type 2.

What Is SOC 2 Type 2?

SOC 2 Type 2 is a System and Organization Control (SOC) framework that issues a report for an organization regarding internal controls for security, confidentiality, integrity, privacy, processing, and availability of data. Organizations that store, use, or transmit any kind of protected data need to undergo a SOC 2 Type 2 pen test. It applies to any SaaS company or those that use the cloud to store customer data.

Having this report assures users that:

  • Your web application has the required security controls to prevent unauthorized access to data.
  • You have the ability to detect security incidents and anomalies within the application.
  • Your organization can respond quickly to repair any damage or restore functionality should a breach or system failure happen.

What Does a SOC 2 Type 2 Pen Test Analyze?

There are five key areas of the SOC 2 Type 2 pen test: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. They are called the Trust Service Principles (TSP). The steps for the SOC 2 Type 2 test follow the same path as the web application pen test.

The SOC 2 Penetration Test Report will include the following information:

  • IP addresses, URLs, mobile apps, and APIs tested
  • Vulnerabilities discovered in the test
  • The steps the assessment took
  • Exploitable areas found
  • Recommendations prioritized from most urgent to least

You’ll want to have your cybersecurity firm complete these quarterly, and they should also include validation testing.

The Value of Web Application and SOC 2 Type 2 Pen Tests

Simply put, it’s better for an ethical hacker to find your vulnerabilities than a real one. In both of these tests, you’ll get a real-world view of the security of your applications. In this test environment, you can learn where you need to focus efforts to ensure security is top-notch before it goes to market.

You’ll receive insights on the attack surface and the performance of your Incident Response (IR) plan and confirm the effectiveness of your security policies. It may also support SOC 2 compliance requirements and enable you to fix what you don’t know is broken.

Work with Blue Goat Cyber for Pen Testing

Pen testing is essential for SaaS companies like yours, and you need a trusted partner to perform these like our team. We have decades of experience, hold all the necessary credentials, and deliver concise and actionable results. Get started today by requesting a discovery session.

Blog Search
Social Media

Explore Our Cybersecurity Services

Medical Device Cybersecurity

We understand that often the key objective of testing medical devices is to assist with FDA approval.

Penetration Testing Services

How secure is your network? When is the last time you tested your cybersecurity defenses?

HIPAA Security Risk Analysis (SRA)

We help you meet the requirement to conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI. 


We help you mature your cybersecurity posture in alignment with your compliance requirements and business objectives.