Most applications today are written based on open source and web technologies. While these technologies simplify developers’ lives, especially in agile and DevOps environments, they also increase the risks of vulnerabilities and attacks. The numbers are worrisome: 84% of security attacks exploit vulnerabilities in applications.
The increase in software vulnerability risks is one of the factors driving the evolution of application security tools (AST). These tools save security professionals from manual code reviews and Still, application security and application security tools are not exempt from challenges. In this post, we’ll explore top challenges for application security testing and how to choose the right app security tool.
Top 3 challenges for application security
Most development companies take a reactive approach to application security. Yet, the growing list of vulnerabilities requires a proactive approach. Being proactive in application security means you can get ahead of potential crises and allows you to direct your efforts in building your company’s core business.
Companies that move forward to a proactive application security approach often face three challenges:
Legacy or third-party applications
A common practice of developers is reusing code. The problem with reusing legacy code is that you can be reusing vulnerabilities. However useful code reuse may be, attackers won’t doubt exploiting vulnerabilities in legacy code.
In other cases, companies migrating to a cloud environment may have legacy on-premises security and testing software in place. These tools can’t cover all the points of compromise hackers may have access to. Even if you test your applications regularly, they may have vulnerabilities that escaped the legacy testing tools.
Need to respond to changes in demand quickly
Continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) is the usual standard for development companies. This method allows software developers to increase the pace, stay competitive and meet customer demands quickly.
The fast pace of CI/CD requires application testing that can accommodate the different risk levels of each release. This non-scheduled release also means sudden changes in demand, which the security testing needs to address.
Finally, there could be spikes in demand because your business is growing. If this happens, you need to accelerate testing and cleaning code. The proper application security tool can help by automating testing into the development lifecycle.
Traditional security testing is not enough
There are many testing tools, with different strengths, and no tool catches every vulnerability and error. That is why, if you are limited to one type of application security tool, you risk missing critical vulnerabilities.
Threats evolve all the time and new vulnerabilities appear constantly. Relying on tools alone is not enough if you want to stay on top of threats and regulatory requirements. Besides choosing carefully the security testing tools you are going to use, ensure you have a security-first approach baked into the development cycle. This includes best practices such as secure coding and security testing in the early stages of development.
Is application security testing really failproof? Issues and challenges
Application Security Testing Tool Types
The typical application security model involves several solutions providing additional security layers, thus reducing the risk of an incident. Application security tools find known vulnerabilities and issues and help security officers triage potential threats. These tools can also be used in remediation by correlating patterns.
There are four basic layers on application security testing tools, here is a brief summary from the foundational layer and up:
- Static Application Security Testing (SAST): examines source code at rest to detect and identify potential security vulnerabilities.
- Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST): it detects indicators of a security vulnerability in an application while it’s running.
- Origin Analysis/Software Composition Analysis (SCA): examines software to determine the origin of components and libraries in it.
- Database Security Scanning: check for errors and weaknesses, like configuration errors, weak passwords, and access control lists.
- Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST): they combine static, dynamic, and forensic analysis and apply it to mobile applications.
- Interactive Application Security Testing and Hybrid Tools: combine static and dynamic analysis to detect known vulnerabilities in the code that can be exploited in the application in its running state.
- Application Security Testing as Service (ASTaaS): managed application security tools where the service combines different techniques such as static, dynamic analysis, penetration testing, testing APIs, and more.
- Correlation Tools: these tools help reduce false positives by creating a central repository for findings from ASTs tools. Usually included in other AST tools.
- Test Coverage Analyzers: measure how much code was tested and analyzed. This functionality is often included in other AST tools
Application Security Testing Orchestration (ASTO): it is a platform that integrates security tools with central, coordinated management and reporting of all AST tools in a specific ecosystem.
How to choose the right security testing tool?
When selecting from so many types of AST tools there are several factors in playing. The first step is to determine which type of application is right for your application. The right tool will combine functionalities of the base layer with upper-level functionalities.
The type of tool you choose will depend firstly on the type of application you want to test. If you are working with applications written in-house, a static application security tool may do the trick by checking for coding issues. If you don’t have access to the source code, for example, you are outsourcing the coding, then it will be better to add dynamic security testing. If there are many third-party or open-source components in your applications, then you may want to add software composition analysis to the tool mix.
In the long term, incorporating application security testing tools saves time and effort, preventing rework and producing more secure applications.