The world today is reliant on applications. Whether it’s for business or personal use, digital applications could become so essential it’s hard to imagine life before they existed. Everything relies on applications – websites, mobile applications, APIs, desktop applications, etc.
As a result of the proliferation of applications, cybercriminals have made applications a prime target for attack. In 2022, over 70% of reported breaches were due to a web application being used as the first attack vector. This has made application security challenging for SecOps and DevOps practitioners alike.
When application security testing is not comprehensive in the application development phase, there is a higher likelihood that a breach in a production environment will occur. This type of breach will cost more to remediate in production and reinforces the need to test in the development phases of the CI/CD pipeline to contain costs and prevent breaches.
To manage the cybersecurity risks associated with a breached application, application development teams should integrate security directly into the development of an application to avoid irreparable damages. A proven mechanism is application security testing, which holds more important now than ever before.
The Role of Application Security Testing in Development
To achieve the highest level of security, businesses are integrating application security testing in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) – starting right from the initial stages of the development. By leveraging technology for testing application code, teams can improve security outcomes in the SDLC for end-to-end application security management in controlled testing environments – when it’s most affordable to manage cybersecurity risks.
Types of Application Security Tests
Security testing for applications is commonly known by two types – static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST). However, various tools and techniques are related to application security testing, offering several more options to conduct application security testing beyond SAST and DAST.
Figure 1: Application Security Testing
Software Application Security Testing
Software Application Security Testing (SAST) is a type of white box testing where the security testers conducting the testing are familiar with how the software’s code has been developed. SAST focuses on testing the actual code of the application.
Dynamic Application Security Testing
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is a form of black box security testing where the security testers do not know the underlying architecture of an application. DAST checks for vulnerabilities when an application is in run-time.
DAST and SAST together
When conducted together, DAST and SAST can minimize cyber risks in development and production environments. Depending on the situation, developers may perform their own SAST, while external penetration testers perform DAST. Both types can be performed simultaneously to enable the DevSecOps approach.
For a deep dive, compare the differences on these two types of application security tests in DAST vs SAST: Which One Is Better?
Software Composition Analysis (SCA)
The application of software composition analysis (SCA) is limited only to open source components, and they cannot detect vulnerabilities in an application’s in-house components. However, they are highly efficient at finding vulnerabilities in the open source components by examining the origin of existing components, and libraries within the software. Also, they advise whether a component is outdated or there is a patch available.
Generally, SCA tools use the CVE database as a source, and some commercial tools may use proprietary sources to provide detailed descriptions.
Database Security Scanning
Incorporating database security scanning into the application security testing process strengthens the overall security posture of the application ecosystem. Although databases are not considered a part of an application, application developers depend heavily on various databases to ensure that their application appropriately communicates with them and that the desired actions are performed. Hence, scanning for database security issues in the development lifecycle minimizes risks to data security later in production.
A dedicated database security scanning tool can examine the security aspects of databases used in application development, identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This testing tool scans for out-of-date patches, versions, insecure access control levels, weak passwords, misconfigurations, and more. Application security testers can verify that the databases are properly configured, maintained, and protected against advanced persistent threats, unauthorized access, and sensitive data exposures.
Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)
Hybrid approaches have been around – combining SAST and DAST – but the cybersecurity industry has recently started considering them under Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST). IAST tools leverage these combined capabilities to check whether known vulnerabilities (SAST) can be exploited in a running application (DAST). These tools integrate knowledge of data flow and application flow in an application to visualize advanced attack scenarios. These test cases are further used to create additional test cases by utilizing DAST results recursively.
IAST tools provide more efficiencies and fewer false positives in a high-paced DevOps environment than DAST or SAST alone. Due to real-time feedback delivered during the testing process, IAST capabilities give developers the intel and context they need to identify and address vulnerabilities as they arise. This leads to faster remediation and reduces the overall time and effort required for fixing security issues in the application while minimizing the likelihood of an application-related data or security breach.
Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)
MAST brings significant value to mobile application security testing by combining the strengths of SAST, DAST, and digital forensic techniques. With MAST, mobile application code is thoroughly examined for vulnerabilities specific to mobile devices, including jailbreaking, device rooting, spoofed Wi-Fi connections, certificate validation, and data leakage prevention. With mobile application testing in place, DevSecOps teams can strengthen cyber resilience against a wide range of security threats, while providing a secure user experience.
Many MAST tools cover OWASP Top 10 mobile risks, including:
- Improper platform usage
- Insecure data storage
- Insecure communication
- Insecure authentication
- Insufficient cryptography
- Insecure authorization
- Client code quality
- Code tampering
- Reverse engineering
- Extraneous functionality
Correlation tools provide application penetration testers capabilities to reduce some of the noise caused by false positives. By creating a central repository of findings from other application security tools, different types of findings from different application security tools are brought together for correlative analysis.
As application penetration testers gain a comprehensive and consolidated view of the security findings across multiple application security tools, they can aggregate and analyze testing results to prioritize and streamline the remediation process. This gives the testing team a better way to address genuine vulnerabilities and reduce the time it takes to investigate false positives.
Test–coverage analyzer tools track how many lines of code have been analyzed out of the total lines of code presented as a percentage of coverage. These tools help AppSec teams measure acceptable levels of coverage, which can be agreed upon before development starts. Code can then be assessed by the test-coverage analyzer’s results to accelerate the development process. These tools are useful when large applications are being developed. While this functionality is incorporated into some of the SAST tools, standalone tools also exist for niche use.
Application Security Testing Orchestration (ASTO)
Application security testing orchestration (ASTO) is a term coined by Gartner in 2017. The idea behind ASTO is to bring all the application security tools under a centralized and coordinated management system where reporting from all the tools is visualized, with the goal of automated security testing becoming ubiquitous without any hassles.
Manual Application Penetration Testing
Finally, it’s important to note that automated application security testing can be augmented with manual penetration testing services. Manually testing an application is an ideal way to simulate a cyber-attack against a running application, as penetration testers will a combination of tools, including DAST and/or SAST technology, as part of their manual pentesting process. This hybrid approach is considered a best practice for comprehensive web application security testing.
Web application security can be tested using the OWASP Top 10, a widely used industry-accepted standard. OWASP provides detailed guidelines on penetration testing methods and testing checklists that are fundamental in application security testing. The OWASP standard can be leveraged as a cybersecurity framework to identify the most critical application vulnerabilities that require remediation.
As a proof of industry credibility, BreachLock is listed on a OWASP Vulnerability Scanning Tool and DAST provider on the OWASP website.
Start Application Security Testing in One Business Day
As the leading company in the application security testing marketplace, BreachLock has created a simple, flexible AppSec testing experience for organizations with a combined human-led, AI-enabled approach.
Engineered for agile DevSecOps teams, the BreachLock cloud platform has been purposefully built to provide a single destination for fulfilling all security testing needs of our clients. BreachLock’s application security testing includes vulnerability scanning, vulnerability assessments, retesting, and audit-ready reports – all available within the secure BreachLock Client Portal. Our in-house, certified experts in application security testing are ready to start your next security test in one business day.
Ready to see how BreachLock can accelerate your application security testing, including compliance-driven third-party penetration tests, in half the time at half the cost compared to alternatives? Contact us today to schedule your application security testing and get peace of mind knowing your application is secure and compliant.