Key Factors for Application Security Testing

Application security testing plays a crucial role in identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring the overall security of software applications. To effectively evaluate the capabilities of application security testing tools, several critical factors should be considered:

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Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

SAST scans the source, bytecode, or binary code of an application for security vulnerabilities. It is usually done during the programming or testing phases of software development. The findings should be categorized to prioritize the most severe issues.
An SAST solution needs to analyze code written in different programming languages. It should allow organizations to customize and adjust the testing based on their coding practices, reducing false positives and unimportant findings. SAST can be used as a tool or in the cloud.

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Software Composition Analysis

Software composition analysis (SCA) is used to identify open-source and, occasionally, commercial components used in an application. This helps to identify known security vulnerabilities, potential licensing concerns, and operational risks.

When evaluating tools, it is important to consider their ability to proactively enforce the organization’s open-source software security and governance policy during component onboarding. Additionally, the breadth of component information offered and the guidance provided to developers for resolving identified issues should be taken into account. Some AST vendors now include SCA functionality as a proprietary feature, while others still partner with third-party, stand-alone SCA vendors. These partnerships are also evaluated in this research. The level of detail, scope, and integration of the solution (in the case of partnerships with SCA vendors) all play a significant role.

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Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

DAST analyzes applications in their running state during testing or operational phases. DAST simulates attacks against an application or application programming interface (API), analyzes the application’s reactions and, thus, determines whether it is vulnerable.
DAST can identify whether an application contains vulnerabilities that may be detected only when the application operates in a runtime environment. Because DAST dynamically carries out tests against running code, including underlying application frameworks and servers, its findings are typically more likely to be actual vulnerabilities. DAST technology typically cannot point to the line of code where a vulnerability originates, because DAST is a “black box” testing technology that does not have access to the source code.

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Interactive AST

IAST tools are used to analyze and identify vulnerabilities in a running application. These tools typically operate passively, relying on other application tests to generate activity. The evaluation process of IAST tools involves observing and assessing the behaviors they can directly observe. It’s important to note that code paths that are not executed are not tested by IAST tools. To overcome this limitation, IAST tools can be used in conjunction with a DAST tool to execute the code being examined in response to attacks or tests. Alternatively, they can be used alongside traditional functional or unit tests to achieve the same goal. During the execution of the code, the IAST agent closely monitors the program for any unsafe or insecure behavior.

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API Testing and Discovery

APIs have become a crucial component of modern applications, but traditional AST toolsets might not thoroughly test them. This has resulted in the need for specialized tools and capabilities. Typical functions include the ability to discover APIs in both development and production environments, test API source code, and utilize recorded traffic or API definitions to support the testing of a live API.

SAST vendors should have the capability to test source code for APIs in supported programming languages. DAST solutions should offer mechanisms to understand the data structure for API requests and responses in various formats (such as SOAP, XML and JSON-RPC, REST and GraphQL) in order to effectively exercise and test an API. DAST tools can accept API definitions (typically OpenAPI Specification [OAS]/Swagger, RAML, Web Services Description Language [WSDL] for SOAP, WADL or API Blueprint) or import recorded traffic to support testing. IAST solutions should provide agent support for the technology stack that delivers the API, enabling observation of internal application calls to facilitate testing. If available, alternative approaches to API testing and discovery are also considered.

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Software Supply Chain Security

This capability is intended to identify risks associated with software supply chains by conducting proactive analysis of software from external sources. The goal is to identify components that pose an unacceptable risk to the overall security and integrity of the software. These risks could include poorly maintained projects, inadequate security controls, or the presence of malicious code within the software.

By performing thorough analysis and assessment of software components, organizations can take proactive measures to mitigate potential risks and ensure the security of their software supply chains. This capability plays a crucial role in maintaining the trust and reliability of software applications, as it helps identify and address vulnerabilities that may exist within external software sources.

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Application Security Posture Management

ASPM, formerly known as application security orchestration and correlation, plays a vital role in enhancing software vulnerability testing and remediation processes. By automating workflows and efficiently processing findings, ASPM streamlines the overall application security management process. These tools have evolved to encompass not only the development phase but also the operational aspects of application security.

One of the key advantages of ASPM is its ability to automate various security workflows. By automating tasks such as vulnerability scanning, code analysis, and patch management, ASPM empowers organizations to proactively address security issues and ensure the integrity of their applications.

ASPM supports the integration of development and operational processes. By seamlessly integrating with existing development and testing workflows, ASPM enables continuous security testing throughout the software development lifecycle. This integration ensures that security measures are consistently applied, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities being introduced during the development or deployment phases.

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Infrastructure as Code

IaC refers to the process of creating, provisioning, and configuring software-defined compute (SDC), network, and storage infrastructure using source code. Testing IaC involves examining configuration definitions and scripts used to set up the infrastructure to ensure that the resulting resources are secure.

Tools used for IaC security testing need to be able to analyze configuration files and scripts in relevant formats and conduct tests to ensure compliance with widely recognized configuration hardening standards, such as those provided by the Center for Internet Security Benchmarks. These tools should also be capable of detecting security issues specific to different operational environments, identifying any embedded secrets, and performing other tests to support organization-specific standards and compliance requirements.

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Container Security Scanning

Container security scanning evaluates container images, or a fully deployed container, for potential security vulnerabilities. In addition to examining security issues, container security tools also address tasks like configuration hardening and vulnerability assessment.

These tools are designed to detect the presence of sensitive information, such as hard-coded credentials or authentication keys. Container security scanning tools can be seamlessly integrated into the application deployment process or container repositories, enabling security assessments to be conducted as images are stored for future use.

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Fuzzing is a powerful and widely used technique in the field of application security testing. It involves providing random, malformed, or unexpected input to a program with the goal of identifying potential security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can manifest in various ways, such as application crashes, abnormal behavior, memory leaks, buffer overflows, or other outcomes that leave the program in an indeterminate state.

The concept behind fuzzing, sometimes referred to as nondeterministic testing, is to explore the boundaries of a program’s input processing capabilities. By subjecting the program to a diverse range of input data, fuzzing aims to uncover flaws or weaknesses that may not be apparent through traditional testing methods.

Fuzzing can be applied to a wide range of programs, making it a versatile technique in the realm of application security. However, it is particularly valuable for systems that heavily rely on input processing, such as web applications, services, and APIs. These types of programs often handle a significant amount of user input, making them potential targets for various security vulnerabilities.

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