Dynamic application security testing (DAST) is a method of AppSec testing in which testers examine an application while it’s running, but have no knowledge of the application’s internal interactions or designs at the system level, and no access or visibility into the source program. This “black box” testing looks at an application from the outside in, examines its running state, and observes its responses to simulated attacks made by a testing tool. An application’s responses to these simulations help determine whether the application is vulnerable and could be susceptible to a real malicious attack.
To fully secure today's software, the entire attack surface must be accounted for. This means implementing continuous dynamic application security testing (DAST) of web, mobile, and API applications in addition to traditional static application security testing (SAST) and software composition analysis (SCA).
DAST works by simulating automated attacks on an application, mimicking a malicious attacker. The goal is to find outcomes or results that were not expected and could therefore be used by attackers to compromise an application. Since DAST tools don’t have internal information about the application or the source code, they attack just as an external hacker would—with the same limited knowledge and information about the application.
Applications run the world economy and organizations are under tremendous pressure to stay ahead of the curve as our digital world accelerates. Businesses must continually innovate in an environment where sophisticated, relentless threat actors are ready to exploit any opportunity to disrupt, threaten critical data, and do damage. To successfully navigate this new world, it is vital to develop and execute a plan to ensure their applications are secure.
DAST works by simulating automated attacks on an application, mimicking a malicious attacker. The goal is to find outcomes or results that were not expected and could therefore be used by attackers to compromise an application. Since DAST tools don’t have internal information about the application or the source code, they attack just as an external threat actor would—with the same limited knowledge and information about the application.
CAUSE OF SECURITY BREACHES
Using open source libraries helps DevOps teams build cloud applications faster, but it also puts organizations at risk of distributing security vulnerabilities that may be included as part of the open source code. Testing tools such as software composition analysis (SCA) enable DevOps teams to discover third-party and open source components that have been integrated into the applications. SCA solutions will typically scan these components looking for known common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and expired or missing software licenses and libraries that are out-of-date. Most open source libraries are composed of other open source libraries, creating a complex list of transitive dependencies. This hidden complexity can create security difficulties for DevOps teams. A modern security platform should include an SCA solution that can identify vulnerabilities in all the included libraries as well as the transitive dependencies that are embedded in the open source library. Security-conscious DevOps teams will often incorporate SCA scans into their continuous delivery (CD) process.
Once a DevOps team has built a running application, it needs to go through a series of black box tests prior to deployment to the cloud. These tests mimic the techniques that an attacker would use to find potential application security weaknesses. DAST solutions can find runtime vulnerabilities that are tough to spot through SCA, such as authentication and server configuration errors, code injection, SQL injection, and cross-site scripting errors. DAST tools use fault injection techniques on the application, such as inserting different malicious data into the software, to identify common security vulnerabilities. Because DAST scans look at running software, they occur further in the DevOps pipeline and may be run in a preproduction or production environment.
As more businesses rely on web and mobile applications for success, application security vulnerabilities have rapidly become the most prevalent cause of data breaches. Thus, it is more important than ever for organizations to protect their applications and code.
Challenges that organizations are currently facing
The velocity of code change is increasing, the underlying architecture where applications are hosted is changing, and the number of attacks against applications is growing. These three shifts capture the need for lightweight but comprehensive and highly usable application security solutions that serve the needs of both information security and application development teams working in concert. This is achieved by application security tools running efficiently, in the context of projects being worked on, reporting vulnerabilities and an application’s security state accurately. They must also support developer education by providing expert consultation for particularly difficult problems, and a solution that can be easily integrated into SDLCs.
Implementing DAST is not only necessary to determine the security posture of applications running in production and how they will likely interact with end users—it has now become essential for teams to keep up with the changing nature of applications and the knowledge of adversaries. Effective DevSecOps starts with taking feedback produced from DAST and integrating it into SecOps and DevOps tools. After all, DAST finds the actual vulnerabilities that put an organization and its end users at risk
As organizations become increasingly dependent upon cloud platforms, they need to consider all aspects of security and not overlook the application security layer. With the continuing growth of new applications, APIs, and functionality, the application attack surface is rapidly expanding. This growth incents bad actors to use readily accessible tools and utilities to exploit applications with known vulnerabilities or susceptible code. Once an application is compromised, these bad actors can gain undetected access to confidential customer data, personally identifiable information, and/or other exploitable corporate assets, subjecting an organization to costly breaches of information and betrayal of customer trust.
Testing applications solely in development cannot protect them from being breached in production. A formal application security program is essential to reduce overall business risk. The right strategy and technology can identify the exploits that can be used in an attack on applications, and show how to protect application before a breach happens. When this is done correctly, organizations empower their teams to take responsibility and correct potential issues quickly, without disruption.
WhiteHat Dynamic delivers dynamic application security testing at the speed of DevOps and at enterprise scale. It rapidly and accurately finds vulnerabilities in websites and applications, with the scale and agility you need to identify security risks across your entire application portfolio.
WhiteHat Dynamic has almost two decades of experience in the application security space and has developed a software-as-service (SaaS)-based modern security platform that detects security vulnerabilities in enterprise applications running both in the cloud and on-premises.
WhiteHat Dynamic was acquired by Synopsys, the recognized leader in software security and a Leader in the Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Application Security Testing (AST).
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