Hackers love websites. Maybe that’s overstating the obvious, but in today’s hyperconnected digital world, it can’t be understated. According to McAfee, hackers produce 300,000 new pieces of malware daily – and on average, 30,000 new websites are hacked every single day.
The fact is, websites are easy targets. Not only are they abundant, but they’re frequently built using open source technologies – meaning they’re littered with holes that can be easily exploited.
Most website owners have no idea how vulnerable they are until they’ve been hit. And with hackers sinking their teeth into financial data, patient records, IP, and more, a single breach can significantly damage a brand or even sink a business.
While WordPress, Joomla and Drupal continue to own the open source content management (CMS) market, they also represent the largest collection of security vulnerabilities. In fact, according to the 2020 Global Threat Intelligence Report from Dimension Data, almost 20% of all website attacks targeted these platforms – with WordPress owning the lion’s share.
Regardless of what software you’re using, web security can feel like a never-ending game of “hide and seek.” Hackers find holes in both modern and legacy web applications, and developers scramble to patch them as soon as possible – and the cycle repeats. But the biggest vulnerabilities often exist in layers that website owners take for granted like HTML5, Single Page Applications (SPA), and even password-protected web assets.
The sharks are always circling. That’s why security has become an essential part of any serious website or web application strategy. Historically, this required an expensive, multi-layered approach, combining both hardware and professional services. But now, you can automate your security processes with Netsparker: a powerful yet easy-to-use solution that’s purpose-built for websites and web applications.
In this review, we’ll take a deeper look at Netsparker and how it can help website admins identify weak spots in their service. We’ll tour its crawling and scanning tools and how it’s designed to help maintain governance with domains, certificates, compliance and more – so you can stay one step ahead of the threats.
What is Netsparker?
Netsparker is an automated yet fully configurable Enterprise DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) utility that enables you to scan websites, web applications, and web services to identify security flaws. Netsparker can scan all types of web apps – regardless of the platform or language they’re built with – making it incredibly extensible.
Netsparker operates on what they call “Proof-Based Scanning,” which automatically verifies detected vulnerabilities and confirms whether they’re false positives by exploiting them in a safe, read-only manner. Here’s a video overview of how it works:
With Netsparker’s scanning technology and automatic verification, you don’t have to be a seasoned security professional to conduct thorough scans. You always know which results are actionable issues and not false positives, so you can prioritize your response.
Netsparker is designed with productivity in mind. For example, you can send notifications and automatically assign vulnerabilities to developers, allowing you to patch web applications in real-time to maintain security. Bypassing expensive SecOps staff also means you save time and money on conducting regular scans, letting the cybersecurity pros focus on more complex issues.
There are a lot of security utilities on the market, but few that make vulnerability scanning at the web layer as streamlined as Netsparker. Not only is it easy to navigate and manage, but it gives both an individual user and an enterprise team access to integrated data and insights. We’ll talk more about that when we cover Netsparker’s product editions, but their central repository is one of the features that sets it apart within the cybersecurity landscape.
First, let’s cover some of the core capabilities that really stand out.
Security data can get complex – and fast. But this is where Netsparker really shines. With their visual dashboard, you get a holistic snapshot of your websites, scans, and active vulnerabilities in a single window. Intuitive graphs allow your team to track the severity of threats, assess your overall threat level, and automatically categorize the nature of your vulnerabilities from low to critical.
From the dashboard, you can also manage permissions for your users and groups, as well as assign team members to specific security tasks or establish security policies for your organization.
As previously mentioned, Netsparker’s “Proof-Based Scanning” safely exploits any found vulnerabilities and automatically creates a proof-of-exploit or proof-of-concept to validate that it’s real – and not a false positive. The process is further streamlined with automated notifications that assign vulnerabilities to developers, and patch web application firewalls in real-time to help maintain security.
Identifying vulnerabilities is the most important mission for any web vulnerability scanner. Netsparker can spot all types of web application vulnerabilities, including multiple variants of the most common weaknesses such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). Most direct-impact vulnerabilities are also automatically confirmed, so you can be confident that these results are not false positives.
Vulnerability Details and Reporting
Every vulnerability uncovered by Netsparker is accompanied by detailed reporting that helps security teams and developers to not only fix issues, but understand them. Vulnerabilities are also automatically tagged with a security severity level, denoting the potential damage they can do – and the urgency required to fix them.
While Netsparker offers a number of out-of-the-box reports with different visualization options, you can also render your own custom report templates. Additionally, you can generate compliance reports that cover ISO27001, HIPAA, and other critical regulatory benchmarks – and you can have your PCI DSS reports validated by third party entities to ensure governance requirements.
Armed with rich, in-depth information and remediation guidance, your experts can eliminate the root causes of vulnerabilities, write more secure code in the future, and meet fierce compliance with dynamic reporting.
Built-In Assessment Tools
To help teams optimize scanning and manual testing, Netsparker features a number of advanced web security tools that work with modern and legacy web languages and technologies.
- HTTP Request Builder: You can use the HTTP Request Builder to create your own HTTP requests and modify imported requests. This is extremely useful for performing manual vulnerability assessments and troubleshooting complex issues like identifying logical vulnerabilities.
- Encoding and Decoding Tools: Text encoding and decoding is a vital feature when manually crafting and modifying test payloads. To save precious time during manual vulnerability assessments, Netsparker includes a text encoder and decoder that supports multiple encoding schemes, including URL, HTML, Base64, UTF7, MD5, SHA1, SHA256, SHA512, and others.
- ViewState Viewer: When security scanning ASP.NET and modern .NET web applications, Netsparker extracts ViewState data from HTTP requests and responses generated during scanning. The ViewState data is displayed in a separate preview tab for easier troubleshooting.
- Asset Discovery: Another proactive security measure, Netsparker’s Asset Discovery service continuously scans the Internet to discover your assets based on numerous variables – including IP addresses, top-level and second-level domains, and even SSL certificate information.
Netsparker offers a few different plans based on your needs: Standard, Team, and Enterprise. The naming is fairly intuitive – and so is the pricing – but we’ll explore each tier in more detail below.
One quick note worth mentioning: Netsparker Standard and Netsparker Enterprise are actually designed to integrate with each other. This basically means that Enterprise includes Standard, and can synchronize and share data using a central repository. Use whichever edition best suits your needs – from one desktop scanner for a single site to hundreds via API – and share the results with your entire team.
And one more thing: Netsparker provides 24-hour email, phone, and remote screen support Monday through Friday. They boast a 98% customer satisfaction rating on their website FAQ, and their product reviews seem to reflect that.
Netsparker Standard is perfect for small and medium-sized businesses. The on-premises desktop scanner helps protect commercial and open-source web products, websites made by third parties, and custom web applications. If you have websites built on a popular CMS, an eCommerce shop on a platform solution, or a home-grown web application, Netsparker Standard is an ideal choice for up to 20 websites.
Netsparker Standard is available as a Windows application with built-in penetration testing and reporting tools, many of which allow for fully automated security testing. You also get access to their crawling and scanning features, reporting, policy tools and more.
Netsparker Team is made for larger organizations seeking a complete vulnerability assessment and management solution with collaboration in mind. Netsparker Team helps streamline workflows for up to 50 websites, and unlike Standard, it’s all accessed via Netsparker’s REST API.
Netsparker Team includes all of the essentials from Standard, like crawling, reporting and tools – but also provides a multi-user platform with native CI/CD, messaging and business workflow systems. It also features Netsparker’s PCI Compliance Scanner, which brings greater value to websites with significant paycard data transactions.
Netsparker Enterprise is a comprehensive security platform designed for large organizations with significant web properties and assets. Like Team, it is an API-driven, multi-user scanning solution with dynamic built-in workflow tools. The big difference is scalability: if you have over 50 websites you’re managing, Enterprise brings hosted account options to the table that empower your teams with dedicated support and resources. You also get access to custom authentication for OAuth2, Single Sign-On (SSO), client-side certificates, and more.
Netsparker Enterprise is really designed to integrate seamlessly into the software development lifecycle, allowing DevOps and SecOps teams to scan thousands of web applications and services as they are being developed, tested, or running in production. This makes Enterprise an ideal tool for software teams as they push new products and features to market, ensuring that they meet security and compliance requirements from end to end.
Netsparker is an incredibly well-reviewed product, and based on our own experience, it delivers both the functionality and simplicity it claims. They also get points for a cool slider on their Product & Plans page, which helps recommend a tier based on the number of websites you’re scanning. This makes it easy (and maybe even a little fun) to determine which product is right for your needs.
Here’s how the tiers break down:
- 1-20 websites: Standard plan
- 21-49 websites: Team Plan
- 50 + websites: Enterprise Plan
Unfortunately, that’s all you get: a recommendation. They don’t provide a price, but it’s reasonably clear that it’s based in part on the tier itself and the number of websites you’ll be scanning. Each plan progressively builds on the previous, allowing you to scale seamlessly. And as mentioned, the Enterprise edition includes the Standard edition desktop scanner as part of the suite.
OK, so no price transparency. That requires a demo and a phone call for a custom quote. But the good news is that you can try Netsparker for free today with just a few basic steps. And once you’re using it, you’ll worry less about price – and wonder how you ever got by without it.
Netsparker is the leading Enterprise DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) solution, and the only product that delivers automatic verification of vulnerabilities with exclusive pre-scan automation and Proof-Based Scanning™ technology. Netsparker scans any type of web application, provides actionable results, and integrates with company workflow tools to close the loop between IT and developers. It identifies vulnerabilities from the early stages of application development through production. With global headquarters in London and North American headquarters in Austin, Texas, Netsparker serves customers worldwide in the technology, professional services, banking, and government markets, including many Fortune 500 companies. Netsparker is part of Invicti Security, the leading global provider of dynamic application security testing products.