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Application Security Testing – Security Testing Made Simple

Simplify application security testing in development workflows with three simple strategies. Do it early. Do it often. Deploy and deliver confidently.

What Is Application Security Testing?

Application security testing (AST) involves leveraging various testing techniques to improve the quality and security of software applications by identifying, remediating, and ultimately preventing weaknesses and vulnerabilities in all phases of the software development process.

This is a proven way to help prevent cyberattacks. Application security attacks are the most common form of external attack. That’s why improving application security is one of the leading priorities and concerns for security decision makers.

The process of identifying and remediating application vulnerabilities works best when it’s closer to the developer and can be integrated as a part of functional testing. Parasoft AST tools extend automated application security testing across the SDLC to help uncover security and quality issues that could expose security risks in your software applications. This increases collaboration in DevSecOps and provides an effective way for you to identify and manage security risks more confidently.

This includes static application security testing, penetration testing, using various testing tools, and more. Let’s learn more about the kinds of security vulnerabilities this strategy can mitigate and the tools to improve strategies further. This page also covers SAST, DAST, and IAST.

Benefits of Application Security Testing

The benefits of AST are realized when testing is done early and often to provide visibility into application security risks. Modern software development demands for automation to deliver software applications at speed, without sacrificing security and quality.

Test Early

Seamlessly integrate security into developers’ daily activities and development pipelines to address security issues in real time.

Finding issues early allows for:

  • Accelerating software delivery.
  • Reducing risks in software applications.
  • Reducing cost to fix issues.
  • Improving developers’ security awareness.

 

Test Often

Extending application security testing into your CI/CD pipeline and tool chains ensures continuous testing to expose risk in your software applications as code changes are being made.

Automating these strategies enables:

  • Enforcing security and compliance on every commit.
  • Increasing visibility into application security and enterprise risks.
  • Simplifying remediation workflows and issue resolution.
  • Accelerating and scaling security testing to improve detection.

Software engineer searching source code for data breaches

Deliver Confidently

The “do it early and do it often” strategy provides assurances that software applications are free from known application vulnerabilities to help development teams deliver and deploy software with confidence.

Assured software security at speed provides:

  • Baking security and compliance phases into development workflows.
  • Assessing software application risks in real time to inform decision making.
  • Automating and codifying security and compliance validation in toolchains.
  • Simplified remediation and triage to focus on fixing what matters the most.

Types of Application Security Testing

Code on a digital background returning a security vulnerability in AST

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

SAST leverages static analysis techniques to analyze source code, byte code, and binaries for coding violations and software weaknesses that expose vulnerabilities in software.

  • Helps enforce secure coding practices (CERT, CWE, OWASP) to prevent security vulnerabilities that often lead to cyberattacks.
  • Uses white box testing where testers investigate non-compiled code for errors.
  • Enforces good coding practices as a preventative measure that helps build security in from project conception.

SAST tools provide awareness and feedback to developers about the impact of their coding and refactoring activities in creating vulnerabilities in software.

 

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

In contrast, DAST uses black box testing where code is executed then inspected for vulnerabilities.
These tools can often perform more large-scale reviews by simulating ill-natured test cases and unexpected incidents.

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

IAST combines both DAST and SAST tools in order to provide a more comprehensive list of security weaknesses. These tools dynamically review software while in runtime but operate on an application server. This lets them review compiled code.

IAST tools are great for API testing, as well as reviewing third-party components and data flow.

API Security Testing

Uncovering misuse and abuse of API functionality is essential for API security testing. It encompasses the use of DAST and penetration testing activities to find security threats that expose sensitive data embedded in APIs.

Finding poorly designed and leaky APIs is important to protect your business, mission, and clients.

Best Practices for Application Security Testing

Automate

Use automated tools in your development processes to improve the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Review

Always review third party or open source components and code.

Robustness

Use robust test cases that include malicious attacks.

Interface Testing

Don’t test only UIs and APIs. Also, test interfaces.

Comprehensive Testing

Perform static analysis and dynamic analysis (IAST) to cover your bases with comprehensive software testing.

Shift Left

Utilize a DevSecOps or “shift left” strategy.

CI/CD Workflow

Integrate AST into your CI/CD pipeline.

Simulations

Perform simulations to challenge your risk response processes to prevent future data breaches.

Insights to Action

Be patient as the teams transform security risk data into actionable insights that can inform future code.

How to Get Started With Application Security Testing

There are many ways to incorporate AST tools into your SDLC. The graphic here shows the recommended application security testing tools to adopt during each stage. But a bigger part of making the most of these tools is automating processes to replace manual testing.

Line graph showing progression of adopting AST tools into SDLC: Development, Integration Acceptance, Preproduction

Why Parasoft?

Introducing automation into your development workflow is a natural fit with the “shift left” strategy. It also empowers your development team by improving efficiency, productivity, and reducing errors. Get started with a Parasoft demo to see how CI/CD pipeline automation might work for your team or how a DevSecOps approach and continuous testing can mitigate security issues.

Chances are that there’s a solution for your problem waiting to be discovered.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Shift left” means to incorporate early security checks in the SDLC to garner collaboration across development teams, remain agile, and increase developer autonomy, as well as security team oversight. It also reinforces the need to think about security in all phases of the SDLC — from concept through delivery.

  1. Risks inherent with third-party or legacy components with inherited breach possibilities.
  2. Level of agility required to respond quickly to changes.
  3. Hiring, training, and maintaining experts in the field.
  4. Getting complacent and relying too much on automated tools.
  5. Fending off common outside threats such as remote command execution (RCE) or SQL injections along with common threat vectors like cross-site scripting.
  6. Poor AppSec plan development.

In concise terms, DAST offers a runtime analysis of an application from an external perspective. SAST reviews the internal or static aspects of an application. This makes SAST return more issues but is subject to false positives.

Teams should introduce DAST in the Production and QA stages while using SAST in the QA and Development stages of the SDLC.