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Which Application Security Testing Type to Deploy First?

Posted DateMarch 8, 2022
Posted Time 3   min Read

Over 50% of all data breaches originated from vulnerabilities in the application layer over the past several years. From remote code execution to SQL injections, attackers leverage known methods to exploit application vulnerabilities to gain access to the organization’s data. This is avoidable with application security testing and a proactive, updated security strategy. Organizations can safeguard their data stores and confidential information.

At a fundamental level, security testing for web applications enables organizations to detect vulnerabilities at the earliest. Several types of application security testing methods are available at the disposal of developers and IT security teams. What are these types? Which ones should they deploy first? Read on to find out.

What is Security Testing for Applications?

Application security testing is the process of identifying vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and misconfigurations in the application, including its code base and framework, with the help of a set of tools, techniques, and methodologies. AppSec testing helps organizations –

  • To understand how exploitable these vulnerabilities are, the impact of malicious inputs, and the threats to their business operations.
  • To provide evidence on the level of security of their application and use the results to re-strategize security and minimize risks.  

Types of Application Security Testing

1.Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

SAST tests an application’s internal structures/ working to detect vulnerabilities, including highly complex ones, in the source code.

Static application security testing can be integrated into the early stages of the application development lifecycle as the analysis is conducted before code compilation and code execution. It tells the tester what weaknesses could develop into security vulnerabilities. SAST establishes the specifics of the weakness, including code lines, making remediation hassle-free and straightforward. It helps to identify numerical errors, input validation, pointers and references, race conditions, path traversals, and other non-compiled code defects.

However, SAST leads to high levels of false positives and false negatives. Logical errors and insecure configurations are difficult to identify since testing happens in the development stages.

2. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

DAST tests applications with different attack types during runtime to assess their security defenses and identify vulnerabilities. Testers do not need access to the source code. Instead, they evaluate security by running on the operating code to indicate weaknesses/ flaws/ errors in requests, responses, interfaces, scripting, data injections, authentication, sessions, network configurations, etc.

This application security testing type returns fewer false positives and supports dynamic and off-the-shelf programming languages. However, it cannot be deployed in the early stages of development; it is apt only for runtime testing.

3. Manual Application Penetration Testing (Pen-Testing)

Testers simulate the latest attacks on the application in secure settings to identify the strength of security defenses deployed in application pen-testing. It is performed manually by in-house experts or trusted third-party experts. Regular pen-testing by trusted experts is a widely accepted app security testing practice to strengthen the organization’s security posture.

4. Software Composition Analysis (SCA) or Origin Analysis 

SCA is a testing type used to analyze the components and libraries used in the application for their origin. In doing so, they identify open-source libraries and components and detect vulnerabilities present. This application security testing type is effective on open-source components only and not custom-built in-house components of the app, as public bug lists are readily available for the open-source ones. Further, this test offers insights on whether a library/ component is outdated and if a patch is available.

5. Interactive App Security Testing (IAST)

Interactive application security testing uses a hybrid approach to test and analyze if known vulnerabilities in the code can be exploited in the application runtime. This test identifies vulnerabilities by simulating various advanced attack scenarios wherein users interact with the application.

6. Mobile App Security Testing (MAST)

Leveraging a combination of SAST, DAST, and forensic analysis, mobile application security testing uses mobile-specific attack vectors (like malicious Wi-Fi hotspots, rooting of devices, insufficient cryptography, etc.).  

7. Database Security Scanning

Databases, though not always considered part of an application, are directly affected by the application and should not be left out of AppSec testing. Database security scanning enables organizations to assess the used databases for best practices such as strong passwords, updated patches and versions, secure configurations, strong access controls, etc.


Which AppSec Testing Type to Deploy First?

Application security testing is indispensable for all kinds of organizations today. The earlier it is integrated into the application development lifecycle, the better. This way, organizations can identify and fix vulnerabilities, weaknesses, flaws, and errors before attackers exploit them. For this purpose, SAST should be the first AppSec testing an organization deploys as it helps identify and fix vulnerabilities in the earliest stages of app development.

However, it is not enough that organizations deploy just one type of security testing for web applications. Testing must be continuous, and different tests must be integrated/used at different application lifecycle stages. Choose an experienced and trusted security expert like Indusface to help you navigate this process effectively.

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