How To Perform Penetration Testing For E-Commerce Applications?

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by Mit Thakkar | April 15, 2021 | Penetration Testing | 0 Comment |
How To Perform Penetration Testing For E-Commerce Applications
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Internet proliferation across the world has contributed significantly to the growth of the e-commerce industry. This phenomenon is also catching up in emerging economies where mobile internet is providing an opportunity to first-time internet users to experience online shopping.

ecommerce stats

Figure 1 Source

Numbers do not lie either As per Statista, worldwide e-commerce sales amounted to $4.2 trillion in 2020, with a revenue projection of $5.4 trillion in 2022[1]. However, the e-commerce revolution has also opened up gates to malicious actors who are on the constant lookout to exploit security breaches in e-commerce websites.

Large-scale cyber-attacks could result in the stealing of confidential customer information (including their card information). Malware attacks, credit card frauds, botnets, phishing attacks, and e-skimming are some of the common attacks that are penetrated on e-commerce websites.

Shopify data breach, Barnes & Noble data breach, and Target data breach are some of the high-profile data breaches of popular e-commerce websites[2].

The critical question is “How do you secure your e-commerce website from potential security breaches ”? The answer lies in penetration testing, one of the popular ways to test security measures in e-commerce websites.

Penetration Testing (or Pen Testing) is an intentional and simulated cyber-attack on the target website to exploit potential vulnerabilities in the website. This helps in building a more secure e-commerce website whose data is extremely difficult to be breached.

Penetration testing company like KiwiQA can play an instrumental role in building a secure e-commerce website in case there is a dearth of in-house penetration testing capabilities.

By the end of this blog, you would be in a better position to close the security loopholes in your e-commerce website by performing effective penetration tests.

Different Methods of Penetration Testing

As there are different types (or methods) of penetration tests, best-suited methods should be selected depending on the nature and scale of the e-commerce website under test.

Here are the different types (or forms) of pen testing, particularly applicable for testing e-commerce websites:

Internal Testing

The penetration tester tries to gain access to the information stored on the e-commerce website (and database) that is behind a firewall. This form of pen test mimics a phishing attack where disguised email(s) is/are used for stealing confidential information from the website.

This form of pen testing helps the e-commerce website’s security team to gear up for such attacks; thereby minimizing the scale of attack(s).

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External Testing

In contrast to internal testing, external pen test targets the assets that are accessible on the internet.

Malicious actors typically look to exploit loopholes in the company’s corporate website, e-mail accounts, DNS (Domain Name Servers), etc. to gain access to confidential information.

Client-Side Testing

As the name indicates, client-side penetration tests exploit vulnerabilities in local applications like Putty, web browsers, etc. that are primarily used for development and testing.

This category of pen test intends to expose flaws that might be occurring from user’s workstations.

Wireless Testing

In wireless pen testing, the ethical hacker looks to bypass the security protocols of wireless devices used within the organization. Vulnerabilities in laptops, tablets, smartphones, including wireless routers, are exploited to identify weak security protocols and misconfigured access points.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to the Stages of Penetration Testing

Targeted Testing

In targeted pen testing, the security team and IT professionals work together to carry out a planned set of tests. There is a clear-cut understanding of the test activities and information related to the target & network design.

The team works together to detect any unusual patterns. This form of testing is best suited to provide quick feedback on any slipups related to the security of the e-commerce website (or the target).

How is penetration testing performed for an e-commerce website?

Most of the e-commerce applications have a back-end CMS (Content Management System) that is primarily used for adding, deleting, and modifying elements like SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), pricing, offers, shipping options, and more. Penetration testing of an e-commerce website involves testing various modules like seller module, re-seller module, payments module, content provider module, and more.

The back-end of most e-commerce websites consists of APIs that are integrated with seller partners, re-sellers, and payment providers. Larger the number of sellers and SKUs, more are the chances of hackers targeting your e-commerce website. This is why you should devise a detailed penetration testing strategy for identifying issues related to the core e-commerce functionality, ancillary seller services, etc.

Before you shortlist the ideal penetration tests for unearthing vulnerabilities of the e-commerce website, you need to define a pen test outline that comprises the following steps:


This step involves performing an audit of the website, particularly from a security point of view. It helps in pinpointing security problems before the security tests are run. It also defines the scope of the test process.


This step lets you understand how the e-commerce website responds to penetration testing. Scanning the website gives detailed information about the site’s performance.

App & Game Testing


In this step, a series of cyber-attacks are planned by taking access of the website.  Ethical hackers will try to exploit vulnerabilities in application logic, business logic, databases, and other important modules of the e-commerce website.

Real attacks are mimicked by escalating user privileges and stealing confidential information. Weak passwords, unencrypted customer information, credit card information, etc. are some of the common areas of attack. These series of steps will be instrumental in avoiding serious data breaches[3] that can damage the brand of the e-commerce organization.


The vulnerabilities identified in the previous step are compiled using Common Vulnerability Scoring System. This gives a clearer picture of the security aspects of the website.

The analysis includes necessary recommendations from the penetration testing team for mitigating the security vulnerabilities of the site. It is a good practice to patch up higher priority issues so that the magnitude of damage due to breaches can be massively reduced.

Partnering with a company specializing in penetration testing services can be a big value addition in executing all the steps involved in the pen test process.

Also Read: 5 Reasons Why Penetration Testing Is Important

Main Categories Of Penetration Testing For E-Commerce Websites

Now that you are aware of the various steps involved in pen tests, let’s look at the two main categories of penetration testing pertaining to retail websites:

Network Exploitation Tests

This type of test is also termed as Red Team Exercise. It is a set of penetration tests that focuses on several security aspects that can adversely affect the business, people, networks, and other vulnerable areas.

The data below shows the criticality of red team testing in reducing the cost of data breaches:

Data Breach Report

Figure 2 Cost Of Data Breach Report By IBM

The red team exercise covers the major areas of exploitation related to People, Process, and Technology. The series of tests under the red team exercise help in providing quick feedback to improve the detection and protection posture of the organization.

Compliance-Driven (Customer-Driven) Penetration Tests

The series of tests under this category unearth vulnerabilities related to the integration of third-party payment gateways, content management systems, coupon & reward management systems, and other compliance/customer-facing functionalities of the e-commerce website. Compliance measurement is done for ensuring that the payment gateway is adhering to PCI-DSS compliance standards.

Manipulation of contact URL, by-passing of third-party checksum, and modification of product prices before the completion of the transaction are some of the common security vulnerabilities that arise due to insecure integration of payment gateways.

Seller website and/or seller application are the integral components of any e-commerce website. Your sellers might be good in their line of business but might have limited knowledge about the technology. Hence, it is important to fool-proof the seller-side website along with strengthening the consumer-facing website.

Vulnerabilities related to transaction file management, RBAC (Role Based Access Control), integration with third-party APIs, etc. are exploited as a part of consumer-driven penetration tests.

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Penetration Testing On Your Mind?

Though the advancements in technology are making lives easier for consumers, it is also opening up new avenues for hackers to exploit security systems. This means that all consumer-facing websites, including B2B & B2C e-commerce websites, are under constant threat of growing cyber-attacks.

Penetration (or pen) testing can go a long way in minimizing the security threats associated with e-commerce websites. For expediting the process of penetration testing and reaping greater benefits, it is essential to collaborate with a penetration testing company like KiwiQA which is a leading penetration testing service provider company in Australia.

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