PortSwigger Burp Review

Great design, excellent features like Intruder, Repeater, Decoder with plenty of plug-ins from community forums.


What is our primary use case?

Clients come to me for an assessment of their web applications to see the risks that they are facing with their applications. They want to ensure that their application is free of being manipulated and also secure, so they reach out to us to do vulnerability assessment and application penetration testing. We make use of PortSwigger's BurpSuite tool carry this out. We look at it more from an application standpoint, what common vulnerabilities there are like the top 10 OWASP vulnerabilities like Injection(OS/SQL/CMD), broken authentication, session management, cross site request forgery, unvalidated redirects/forwards, etc. Those are the primary uses we make use for this tool.

How has it helped my organization?

We're an independent IT organization that specializes in vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, and we focus here on application security. This tool really helps me unearth security issues and vulnerabilities that are on the applications shared by my clients. Unearthing these issues really helps me build confidence and relationships with clients on two counts. First part is that, they want a reliable and robust tool with which we are able to unearth security issues in there. The second part of it is, I give them more confidence in their application securedness before they make a decision on going live.

I can't name customers, but I've been working with a US university education platform providing client for the last three years. Earlier we tried different tools but in the last couple of years, we stuck to the Burp Suite tool and year after year, we've been periodically doing the application security for them. The confidence has really leveraged the relationship to build the pipeline of business that I have. At the same time, the confidence that the customer in their platform going live has remained intact. That really helps me build accountability and it helps me put forward my organization as a strong security testing organization space.

What is most valuable?

I like the way the tool has been designed. Once I capture the proxy, I'm able to transfer across, all the requested information that is there. I can send across the request to the 'Repeater' feature. I put in malicious payloads and then see how the application responds to it.

More than that, the Repeater and Intruder are really awesome features on BurpSuite. For example, if I'm going to test for a SQL injection, I have certain payloads that are trying to break into the application. I make use of these predefined payloads which come as part of the tool are really useful for us to use and see how the application behaves. With the help of the BurpSuite tool, we are very well ahead to see if the application is going to break at any point in time.

So the Repeater and the Intruder, are great features that are there. More than that I think the entire community support is really fabulous. As well as of the number of plug-ins that people have written for the tool. Those have been standouts. Community support is really strong. We see a lot of plug-ins that are made available that work along with the tool.

What needs improvement?

In the earlier versions what we saw was that the REST API was something that needed to be improved upon but I think that has come in the new edition when I was reading through the release offset available. 

There is a certain amount of lead time for the tickets to get resolved. The biggest improvement that I would like to see from PortSwigger is what many people see as a need in their security testing that coudl be priortized and developed as a feature which can be useful. For example, if they're able to take these kinds of requests, group them, prioritize and show this is how the correct code path is going to be in the future, this is what we're going to focus around in building in the next six months or so. That could be something that will be really valuable for testers to have.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for about three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Burp Suite is quite robust. The good part is that it also comes with an automatic back-up feature in it which automatically saves all the request-responses, alerts, attacks in the systems periodically.In the event of your laptop crashing/going down on power, you still have last saved application state which has saved the recording. Once you power up again, you can launch Burp Suite and go back the last point of save of the complete recording /requests/tests in the system.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

With the open edition, it's not a problem to install on any number of machines. When it comes to the professional edition, you need a license and you have to pick a license type. I have to use it against a particular machine on which I would run. From there I would run my scans. Let's say I don't find my laptop or my computer fast enough, and I decide to move my license across to a higher processor, higher memory laptop or computer, I can easily move the license across to the new machine.

As long as I am on that particular license use, I have one license that I'm able to move across to one instance at any given point of time. That is quite stable. I think even more than that, for a top-priced edition you can take multiple contract licenses. Something like a license server where you might have five licenses. You might have 10 installations and you can have different people working on various routes use the tool. Only those five licenses will be needed. In that instance, scalability is definitely a great point for most uses.

Currently, if you look at the users that are linked to roles that we have, one is the security test engineer and one is the security test analyst. At any given point in time, only one person uses the tool for engagement in the professional edition. We have about two to three people working with us on these projects.

How are customer service and technical support?

I found technical support to be quite responsive. I usually get an email response within three or four hours which is very good. There's plenty of documentation that has relatively good pointers as to the documentation's impact. Also, documentation is a good part of the knowledge base. They have started something that's very awesome by implementing that. They point us to areas in our tickets that have answers within the available knowledge base documentation, which is shared as part of the whole response. It's definitely a good thing.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I've used different tools like Acunetix. 

The first tool that we started with was Acunetix. Acunetix as quite expensive, first and foremost. It's more suitable for web application scanning and penetration. PortSwigger's has a larger play beyond applications, it supports REST API and all that stuff, that kind of support is great with PortSwigger.

The kind of mechanism that's there is you can just capture the flow if the application. They usually have what is called as a flow sequence in proxy history with which all the user actions are captured. That's all that is done by the tool completely. Once that information is there, much you can control exploit requests with the tool. Whatever the tool shows, I have the opportunity to throttle and change payloads and see how the application behaves.

We used the online web scanners with Acunetix. We found it a little difficult and that was one reason why. In fact, when we got the contract with the client and we evaluated multiple tools, that's why we chose PortSwigger's BurpSuite.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. It's not complex at all. Today it comes along with a job size which makes it much more affordable and easy. I don't think the installation is ever a challenge here. 

In some setups, all I do is this: if I'm setting it up for Windows, I cannot get my path through which I want to set this up. A few clicks and I'll be able to get the entire tool set up. I would say it requires some amount of knowledge to do testing. So also we are able to set up the tool against an application. Let's say there is an application that comes through for testing. Until I get to know the way I have to configure the target URLs and capture the entire traffic flow. That is easy. Now there are jar files also being made available for easier instantiation of the tool.

It is not a challenge in setting up the tool at all because there's plenty of videos and documentation available around in both the PortSwigger website as well as in open forums like YouTube and all that. It's quite easy to set it up. Personally, I haven't had trouble. We haven't had any major challenges in terms of setting up the tool. Not just purely from an installation standpoint, but also from a perspective of beginning to capture traffic across the different applications that we serve. 

The installation takes about less than four to five minutes. It doesn't take more than that.

In terms of security implementation strategy, when we take control of any tests that we do, we set the proxies in place based on the settings that are there on the tool and then set up the same proxy across on a browser for which we will capture the traffic. Once we do that, our implementation strategy is to capture the entire traffic in terms of specifying a target URL, the application or the website and the test. We do a proper login and ensure that all the data captures are there. Then we see that all the requested sponsors are getting logged in properly inside the tool and we are able to capture that. So once we do that, we try to simulate all user flows that would be there on the tool. 

Based on the different tools that are there, we capture the flow and enter a fake login and then we do a scan. The scan helps to unlock issues that are there. That kind of test is to identify all the actions that we do. We particularly do what is called an active scan which is like after you use the browser, make all the user clicks, events, and all that, the tool is able to capture it in the background. It does an active scan, and it gives what are potential issues that are there. So once we are done with that, we look at all the issues that are there, and then we make it run through a boot scan based on the requests that we have captured. Typically this takes a final good amount of time which depends on the amount of traffic that you have captured through the tool.

The one good thing that I would like to highlight is that irrespective of how much traffic is captured from my application flow, the tool is quite robust. I have seen other tools that sometimes the application, or rather the tool, becomes non-responsive. I haven't seen those kinds of issues here.

Then, once we are done with the scan, we pick and choose what are the issues that are there. We look for what are the trouble spots, and what issues are being highlighted. Then we check each of those specific requests, sending them over to another team member, and try them with different payloads, putting them across in the intruder and unearthing issues. So that helps me really test the application using PortSwigger comprehensively, and, more importantly, at the end of the test, it makes it quite easy for me to generate a report which is quite nice and simple which I can forward across to the client. That is essentially the way I go about in my implementation of security testing.

What about the implementation team?

We did the implementation in-house.

What was our ROI?

In terms of ROI, I'd say it helps with client engagement. The tools in relation to ROI allow me to win back-to-back contracts for application security testing with the customers. I would even say I'd be able to break in on a first engagement itself. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Licensing costs are about $450/year for one use. For larger organizations, they would be able to test against multiple applications simultaneously while others might have multiple versions of applications which needs to be tested which is why there is an enterprise edition. We might have more than five to six people in the organizations doing security testing. You can give full-base access to them and control who uses your licenses.

It depends on the stream of projects, business pipeline that I get, but security is not something that done all throughout the year. We get it in cycles. We pace it in such a way that from our different customers that we work with, we actually have one project running throughout the year. I might do a project for Client X during the month of let's say January to February. Then for another client, I might have something lined up for April to May. So with a single license, I am able to maximize the usage very well.

What other advice do I have?

The tool comes in three type. First, there is the  Open Community Edition, which is meant for people who use it to learn the tool or use it to secure their system. This edition does not have scanning features enabled to source scan the against application URLs or websites. From the standpoint of learning about security tests or assessing the security of application without scanning, the community edition really helps.

Then you also have a Professional edition which is more meant for doing comprehensive vulnerability assessment and penetration application which is very important. Especially for independent teams like ours who make use of tools based on tech, etc. The good part about the professional edition is that it comes with a term license which is cost-effective. You pay for an annual charge and use it for a year's time and then you can extend it on an as-needed basis.

Apart from these, we also have an Enterprise Edition which has features like scan schedulers unlimited scalability to test across multiple websites in parallel, supporting multiple user access with role based access control and easy integration with CI tools.

The very best way this tool can be used through is to understand the application, identify the various roles that are there in the application. Then capture the user flows, with Port Swigger's BurpSuite, and understand what the requests are making use of the different features in BurpSuite. 

Post this the teams look at and analyze all the requests being sent. Observe the requests, use various roles with the tool using a repeater and intruder, analyze what's breaking through in the application. As you can quickly analyze with the intruder out here how the application's really behaving, how the payload is being sent across the tool. Then you get a quick sense of what's available which could be checked through for false positives and then arrive at the final output along with it.

This is how I would like to handle the implementation of the solution.

I would rate this solution 10 out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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