Ivan Homola, Author
Indie maker with a passion for SEO working on web projects. Ex-mobile dev-agency owner. Now, helping early stage founders turn their side projects into businesses.
It is difficult to protect your web applications from security threats manually.
You always need an automated tool to secure and alert you if something goes wrong inside your web application.
That is where OWASP Zap comes in.
In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about this software, including the Pros and Cons.
What is OWASP ZAP?
OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy) is a security auditing toolkit that can recognize and mitigate vulnerabilities in web applications.
It can perform multiple security functions, such as passively scanning web requests, using crawlers to determine a site's structure, and retrieving all links and URLs on a page.
You can also identify compromised authentication, exposure of sensitive data, security misconfigurations, SQL injection, and cross-site scripting (XSS).
It has a growing community of open-source contributors who are always looking to help improve the codebase with bug fixes or new functionalities.
It is a DAST tool that detects security flaws while running the application and has no access to the source code.
Difference between DAST and SAST:
DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) tools are automated security testing tools used to detect potential vulnerabilities in running web applications.
They actively interact with an application by sending requests and analyzing the responses.
DAST scans are typically used for compliance and detecting vulnerabilities in production running applications.
SAST (Static Application Security Testing) tools are automated security testing tools used to detect potential vulnerabilities in the source code of applications before they become operational.
They are typically used to identify security flaws at the early stages of development, which helps to reduce the cost and time associated with fixing a vulnerability that has already been deployed.
8 Core Features of OWASP ZAP:
There are many features, but here you will learn about some of the highlighted ones:
It allows the user to intercept requests and responses made by their browser.
It enables the user to observe and modify those requests and responses in real time before they are sent or received.
Intercepting requests/responses can be used to debug applications, identify security vulnerabilities, or perform manual testing.
Simply put, it acts as a man in the middle between the user's browser and the target web application, allowing users to inspect, modify and replay HTTP requests.
Scan Policy Control
It allows users to create scan policies according to their requirements for each application.
When creating a scan policy, you must consider the scanner machine's bandwidth, processing capabilities, and the type of scanner.
Once you create the scan policy, it can be saved as a template, allowing you to reuse it in the future easily.
Active and Passive Scan
An active scan is a vulnerability assessment that probes a network for potential security threats.
It involves sending requests or probes to the target system, analyzing the responses, and looking for vulnerabilities.
A passive scan is a type of vulnerability check that does not interact with the target system in any way.
Instead, it passively monitors network traffic for potential security threats.
It does not send out any requests or probes but instead looks for suspicious activity, such as malicious payloads or abnormal user behavior.
It can perform port scans against targets to identify open ports that are vulnerable to attack.
It is a type of security testing that scans the network ports of a system to determine if they are open or closed.
You can use it to pinpoint any services or applications running on the system and can help detect any weaknesses in them.
It is a useful tool for penetration testers and security researchers as it can provide detailed information about the system's configuration and potential attack vectors.
It allows users to programmatically interact with the underlying engine of the tool, allowing them to automate aspects of application testing and integrate it with other tools.
It helps security researchers and developers write scripts to extend the tool's functionality beyond its existing capabilities.
You can create custom payloads to send to a tested application, using built-in payloads as a starting point.
It has four modes: safe, protected, standard, and attack.
Each mode offers different features and capabilities to test various applications and attack vectors.
For example, attack mode permits more flexible testing by allowing users to specify the type of application and operating system they would like to attack.
It helps to restrict access to certain resources on a server.
You can use it to block certain IP addresses, limit user access, or require authentication before allowing access.
It ensures that only authorized users can access the resources on the server and protect against malicious actors.
It offers free and open-source add-ons to extend the functionality of a Zap implementation.
It contains a wide range of add-ons contributed by the OWASP community that can help extend ZAP testing capabilities.
Some popular add-ons in the zap marketplace are:
- Access control testing
- Active scanner rules
- Ajax spider
- Alert Filters
- Attack surface detector
- Bug Tracker
- Custom Payloads
Pros & Cons of OWASP Zap:
Here is the list of some pros and cons:
- Open source project, with support from contributors.
- Wide range of application security testing methods that can help identify potential vulnerabilities.
- Reporting features are comprehensive and customizable.
- Free for both personal and commercial use, making it an accessible choice for developers on a budget.
- Outdated UI that can sometimes be clunky and may require some customization before it is comfortable.
- Automated scanning capabilities are limited compared to other tools
- Complicated to use for novice users.
- There is no web version. You have to download it into your system to use it.
- Documentation is rough and difficult to understand.
Use Codiga for Static Code analsysis
It is a best practice to scan and fix vulnerabilities before deploying your application to the server.
Since OWASP Zap is a DAST tool that only works when your code is deployed and running, it should be the second step.
The first step to protect your web application is static code analysis which you can easily do with Codiga.
Codiga is a SAST tool. Its core feature is to automatically perform source code analysis, which ultimately scans your code base against the OWASP 10 and major vulnerabilities.
It can help you in many ways:
- Security focus (OWASP 10, MITRE CWE, CWE Top 25)
- Static code analysis with ease
- Web-version with the features of snippets management
- Git Hooks can trigger errors against any vulnerability while pushing the code to the repository.
You learned about OWASP ZAP, a web application security scanner that helps security professionals find vulnerabilities.
You can use the scanner to automatically scan the code of a website and generate a report detailing the findings.
You also learned that you could not do code base analysis with this tool. For that, you will prefer Codiga to fulfill the needs.
Should I use Zap on my website?
Yes, you should install zap on your website to help protect it from attack.
Is OWASP ZAP free?
Yes, it is free to download and configure. The installer is available on the OWASP ZAP website, and installation takes just a few minutes to complete.
Where can I download OWASP ZAP?
You can download and install it on any supported platform: Windows, Linux, MacOS, and docker images are available.
What types of vulnerabilities can OWASP ZAP detect?
You can use it for active or passive scanning, fuzzing, API, and WebSocket testing. It is capable of detecting cross-platform vulnerabilities and generating reports for easy analysis. It is suitable for both beginner and expert testers.