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Types of Application Security Testing: Definitions and Differences
Nov 18, 2022
Aggregating the findings of AST tools delivers a holistic, app-centric approach to security
It may be cliche, but almost every company today is an application development company. And the increasing number of security breaches and sophisticated threats are driving the application security testing (AST) market.
Compliance regulations, the move to remote work, and the need to protect critical customer and company data also are compelling organizations to adopt AST.
Software sellers have realized that building AST into their applications is a best practice because prevention is almost always better — and less expensive — than finding vulnerabilities in the wild after applications are deployed.
Application security testing
AST is the key to identifying security weaknesses and vulnerability risk management in source code. It hardens applications by making them more resistant to security threats.
AST was initially performed manually, but the expanding amount of software, open-source components, and the increasing number of known vulnerabilities have driven the need to automate AST. Most organizations that use AST also combine it with a few key application security tools.
Dynamic application security testing
A dynamic application security testing (DAST) scan executes code and then performs a dynamic code analysis to detect possible security vulnerabilities. Those vulnerabilities occur in query strings, requests, responses, scripts, memory leaks, cookie handling, session handling, authentication, executing third-party components, and code and data injection.
DAST assessments attack applications from outside, which enables the detection of more vulnerabilities and the testing of more applications.
You can use DAST tools to conduct scans that simulate many unexpected malicious test cases and then you’ll receive a report showing how the application responded.
While DAST automation reduces the need to manually check for security risks and perform lengthy scans, it does lack actionable advice for developers. A dynamic code analysis scan must be completed using other security measures and tools.
Static application security testing (SAST)
Static application security testing (SAST) is a security tool developers use to conduct code scanning on application code early in the DevOps process. SAST scans application source, binary, and byte code to identify vulnerability causes and assist with remediation. The application need not be running for SAST to analyze the code.
SAST tools attack applications from the inside, inspecting static source code to report security weaknesses. SAST tools do not require an operating system.
By providing immediate feedback about potential code issues to developers during development, SAST reduces security risks in applications. It helps educate developers about security while they work.
Real-time recommendations and line-of-code navigation lead to faster discovery of vulnerabilities and auditing collaboration. Developers can create more code with fewer vulnerabilities, which results in a more secure application.
The differences between SAST and DAST
DAST cannot see into code, which is why developers must use SAST to pinpoint the areas where those problems occur.
On the other hand, running SAST in a static environment can only uncover runtime security vulnerabilities. That makes it practical for only a portion of the job.
Because DAST scanners find vulnerabilities late in the software development cycle, the issues it finds are time-consuming and cost more to fix than if they’d been discovered earlier.
Interactive application security testing (IAST)
Interactive application security testing (IAST) examines code for security vulnerabilities at runtime. Anything “interacting” with application functionality, such as a human tester or automated test, may be interactive testing. IAST does not slow your improvement and deliverability, because it reports vulnerabilities in real time.
IAST differs from static analysis (SAST) and dynamic analysis (DAST) by working within an application through the code. It detects and reports issues while the application is running. It doesn’t test the entire application or codebase, only what the functional test uses.
Web application security testing (WAST)
Web application testing (WAST) lets developers assess a web application for security flaws and vulnerabilities and fix them before hackers can take advantage of them. There is less risk that an attacker will find and exploit a hidden vulnerable point after rigorously testing the security of a website.
Mobile application security testing (MAST)
Mobile application security testing (MAST) examines a mobile application similar to the way a malicious user attacks it. Start by understanding the purpose of the application and the type(s) of data it deals with. Then perform static and dynamic analyses and penetration testing to arrive at an assessment, which finds vulnerabilities that otherwise would have been missed had those tools not been used together.
The biggest issue with mobile applications is most are developed with little thought about security until the shipping date, at which point bare minimum security gets tacked on.
Runtime application self-protection (RASP)
Runtime application self-protection (RASP) sits within your application and protects it against known and zero-day vulnerabilities in your code, without signatures.
RASP resides on a server, where it detects attacks against applications in real time. It intercepts all application calls to the system, ensures the calls are secure, and validates data requests directly within the application.
When an application runs, RASP protects it from maliciousness by analyzing app behavior and its behavioral context. By continuously monitoring its own behavior, RASP identifies and mitigates attacks immediately — without human intervention.
Since RASP detection and protection features run on the server, it doesn’t affect the design of the application being tested. RASP can protect both web and non-web apps, finding unknown payloads, obfuscated and context-dependent attacks, and zero-day threats.
Software composition analysis (SCA)
Software composition analysis (SCA) distinguishes licensing risks, particular open-source versions, and software component security. SCA helps ensure all open-source code meets necessary standards.
Advanced SCA tools offer automated component detection and identification, as well as vulnerability, license association, and risk remediation.
How Brinqa helps your AST
Brinqa is the main dashboard for cyber risk management across your IT environment. Brinqa helps you get more out of your security by:
- Connecting all DevOps and AppSec tools into a single program that normalizes data from various systems and processes into a formalized solution to address the unique application security needs of your organization.
- Classifying and cataloging all your software assets and tracking how each affects your business.
- Improving efficiency and consistency by automating risk analysis of your development, security and operations processes.
- Delivering security reports and recommendations designed to make software development more manageable and secure, which your developers will eagerly anticipate.
- Modeling risk data and automating ticketing for remediation.
- Providing security training and education to your employees and developers with Brinqa risk insights, to help avoid risks before they enter your network.
- Dynamic application security development enables you to add risk factors and security testing results anywhere along the software development lifecycle, from planning, through development and testing, to release.
Get your free trial and see how easily Brinqa delivers effective, consistent and reliable results.
What are the web application security testing steps?
The steps for web application security testing are:
- Establish the scope by determining what applications, network systems, and code you will test; how you will test them; and what you expect to deliver. The most comprehensive results come from testing as a typical user, an untrusted outsider, and a user with full application privileges.
- Choose the appropriate testing tools to deliver the results you seek. For example, source code analysis, web applications, and user permissions require different testing tools.
- Scan for vulnerabilities by sorting the tests into groups to ease the testing process.
- Validate your vulnerability scanner findings by approaching your application with an attacker mindset and imagining all the damage an attacker can do to your application.
- Document and disseminate your findings by assembling your data into a report you can provide to others.
What is the difference between software testing vs. security testing?
Software testing is evaluating and verifying that a software application works as intended. Testing also helps prevent software bugs, reduce development costs, and improve performance.
Security testing is software testing intended to find all possible system vulnerabilities and protect data and resources. It also ensures that the software systems and applications are free from risks and threats.
What is the difference between DAST vs. penetration testing?
You can run DAST during development, allowing developers, testers, or security teams to gather results before software release and fix vulnerabilities sooner and, therefore, less expensively.
You can perform penetration testing only after you’ve completed development. Pen testing reveals highly possible attack scenarios, but little coverage of code.
What does “exploitable” mean?
Exploitable in cybersecurity means anything that can be exploited for selfish or unethical reasons, especially commercially. Attackers seek exploitable vulnerabilities, meaning those with both an exploit method and a path that allows exploiting.
What is penetration testing in a production environment?
Penetration testing in a production environment enables testing the entire solution and granting an accurate picture of what happens during operation. It also provides a view into which assets are most attractive to an attacker and measures when the security tools you implemented detect the attacks.
How vital is front-end web security?
Front-end web security is as vital as backend code security. The entrance to your website is open to the world and is complex, completes more, and is consequently more potent than it used to be. Increased complexity and performance expand the number of attack surfaces.
What are front-end security best practices?
Front-end security best practices begin with a good security policy. Make security part of the development process by using a framework that automatically considers it. For example, you can reduce browser feature access and prevent clickjacking attacks by disabling iframe embedding. You also need to be judicious when adding third-party services.
What is a DAST screening tool?
DAST tools execute code and then inspect it at runtime to detect possible security vulnerabilities.
What is dynamic security training?
Dynamic security training is a hands-on approach to educating and informing people on cybersecurity risks and threats that require entire team member engagement. Dynamic security training gives users an idea about hazards they might encounter, how to handle them, and how in the future to mitigate those risks.