In AppSealing Blog

Applications are being released at lightning speeds. But the same can be said about threats and attackers, waiting to tap into specific vulnerabilities. Application security testing (AST) comes as a saviour in such situations – with its set of tools to automate the process of testing and reporting security vulnerabilities. AST predominantly focuses on static, interactive and dynamic application security testing procedures. Dynamic testing gains prominence in the current times owing to its capabilities of leveraging black-box testing concepts where tests are performed by attacking an application from the “outside-in”.

DAST – Dynamic Application Security Testing

DAST (Dynamic application security testing) simulates external attacks on an application through penetration techniques focused on checking exposed interfaces. The environment is dynamic as the application is still running. DAST doesn’t have access to the source code. It records and analyzes an application’s behaviour and reaction to staged attacks and thus replicates a hacker’s actions/intentions. 

How does DAST work?

Since DAST doesn’t have access to the source code, it implements automated scans to simulate the external attack vectors. Hence, specific lines of malicious codes are beyond its purview. Security testing through DAST includes the whole gamut of web servers, databases, app servers, access control lists, workflows etc. It searches for vulnerabilities in a running application and sends alerts to the teams to fix them.

Is DAST an automated or manual methodology?

DAST can be conducted both automatically and manually. When it comes to automated procedures, a bot can be developed and used to crawl an application for vulnerabilities. A map is then created to highlight the issues. An audit is then conducted where real-life attacks are replicated, reported and analyzed. When we talk about manual procedures, far more complicated situations could be replicated which are beyond the understanding of a bot. Since attackers are getting more creative as we speak, a combination of automated and manual DAST procedures are suggested.

Benefits of DAST

– Is technology-Agnostic: 

Since DAST doesn’t rely on source code, the language in which an application is developed is not relevant. Thus, DAST’s application areas are more pronounced. 

– Provides Minimal False Positives/Greater Accuracy:

Source code analysis can lead to certain triggers/alarms which may or may not be necessary or urgent enough to fix. With the nature of DAST (black-box testing), the focus relies on providing more accurate cases, thereby saving time and money. 

– Better Equipped to Identify Configuration Issues:

Because of the outside-in testing methodology that DAST follows, configuration issues are easily identified. 

– Augments Reality in a More Efficient Manner: 

Since the focus is on replicating real-life attacks, DAST helps make the application far more robust by getting rid of usual issues/commonly known attacks. 

Drawbacks of DAST

– Not Very Scalable:

DAST requires competent test cases to be written. Hence, security experts and their knowledge are paramount. This reliance could be difficult for some companies to manage. 

– Time Consuming: 

DAST scans can sometimes take up to a week. Thus, teams have to manage their schedules and deliverables accordingly. Though not a very straight-forward con, teams have to manage expectations well to avoid issues in the future. 

– No Visibility Into Source Code:

Since the source code is not visible, problematic codes can be missed out unless teams plan for a separate testing activity covering the code. Some important issues could be missed out. 

– Falls Short When it Encounters Hard-to-execute Paths:

When an input path is hard to execute, some bugs could be missed out. 

Integrating DAST with SDLC

The popular misconception that DAST tools don’t work with SDLC tools is not true. Github, Atlassian JIRA, ServiceNow, Slack and Microsoft TFS are some popular issue trackers that can be easily integrated with DAST. Continuous Integration tools like Jenkins, TravisCI, Azure DevOps and CircleCI can also be integrated for automated testing.

DAST Best Practices

A couple of good practices and precautions can ensure better identification, reporting and fixing of security vulnerabilities:

Close collaboration with DevOps:

DAST tools can be integrated with testing and bug fixing systems so that any bugs reported can be handed over to the DevOps team for quicker resolution and streamlined tracking. 

Defensive Coding Practices:

Developers can focus on developing better, more secure applications right from the beginning so that they can predict or envision the possible loopholes and fix them before it gets reported.

DAST During the Early Stages of SDLC:

Just like any other testing methodology, DAST performed at one of the earlier stages can help speed up project delivery since bugs can be reported well ahead of time, before going into production.

A 3-pronged approach – SAST + DAST + RASP

SAST helps find coding errors while DAST can identify bugs when an application is running. RASP, on the other hand, is focused less on testing and more on security. So, while issues are being reported by SAST & DAST, RASP takes a more proactive approach by protecting an app from network breaches and hacking attacks. It responds to live attacks, terminates use sessions (if required) and provides relevant alerts to ensure quick fixes. So, all 3 have their own places and importance. 

DAST and RASP are Integral Parts of Application Security Testing

Web application security cannot be left to chance. One cannot ignore code issues and the same can be said about run-time errors which are also equally important to detect and fix. RASP is necessary to ensure that data is encrypted and hackers are kept miles away from the applications. Companies thus need to have a set of comprehensive strategies in place covering all the above areas to be able to develop, run and maintain good, secure applications. At AppSealing, we help companies leverage RASP to be able to develop mobile applications securely. To know how RASP can help your apps stay safe, contact us today.

Govindraj Basatwar, Global Business Head
Govindraj Basatwar, Global Business Head
A Techo-Commerical evangelist who create, develop, and execute a clear vision for teams. Successfully created a SaaS business model with multi Million Dollar revenues globally. Proven leadership track record of establishing foreign companies in India with market entering strategy, business plan, sales, and business development activities.