Published on
December 8, 2022

Application Security Testing: The Ultimate Guide

min read

Web applications are everywhere. From ordering food online to buying new clothes, we’re dependent on these applications to a great extent. However, this has also become a concern for us. Hackers and cybercriminals are always looking for security loopholes to exploit for their benefit. And if they find any loophole, it can lead to severe consequences for your organization and its users.

This is where Application Security Testing (AST) helps.

In this article, we’ll talk about what AST is, what are the best tools for AST and the best practices you should follow.

What is Application Security Testing?

Application Security Testing uses multiple tools and practices to test an application, identify all vulnerabilities, and help you fix them. With the help of application security testing, you can explore

  • All the risks associated with the application
  • Security threats to your application
  • And all the possible vulnerabilities
  • In addition, application security assessment can also prevent malicious cyber-attacks and security breaches coming from cyber criminals. The main aim behind performing application security testing is to find all the possible ways intruders can get in and harm the organization.

    Today’s applications are complex, so developers need multiple vulnerability detection tools that rely on multiple testing methods to help them secure these applications.

    But is application security testing necessary? Let’s find out!

    Importance of Application Security Testing

    When an organization develops an application, it ensures its users' private data security. If any data breach occurs, it can result in a loss of trust and tarnished reputation.

    Here are some reasons why application security testing is important -

    Defend Against Vulnerabilities

    Sometimes, some threats are underlooked but have the potential to become severe threats. Application security testing can help your organization spot such vulnerabilities and provide you with possible solutions. Moreover, as today’s applications have several open-source components, it has become more crucial to do security testing.

    Cost Reduction

    Once any breach happens, an organization must invest a lot to fix it and then do damage control. However, if an organization invests in application security testing during the software development lifecycle, there won’t be any severe vulnerabilities till the production phase. This, in turn, won’t lead to unnecessary investments in damage control.

    Minimum Downtime

    Downtime isn’t good for any application. You can eliminate all the bugs and reduce downtime with application security testing.

    License Compliance

    When an application uses open-source components, there are certain regulatory standards that it needs to follow. Failure to comply with these standards can lead to legal issues. Application security testing helps organizations adhere to regulatory compliance and laws around security.

    Build Trust

    By safeguarding your application against online threats, you give a reason for your customers to trust you with their crucial data. And if there’s trust, your customers will stick to your organization in the long run.

    Now that you know the importance of application security testing, here are the types of application security testing.

    Types of Application Security Testing

    When it comes to testing an application for vulnerabilities, testing with just one tool won’t help. You need to test it with multiple tools to determine various vulnerabilities. Here are the types of testing that will help you secure your application as much as possible

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST)
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA)
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
  • Database Security Scanning
  • Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)
  • Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)
  • Application Security Testing as a Service (ASTaaS)
  • Application Security Testing Orchestration (ASTO)
  • Test-Coverage Analyzers
  • Correlation Tools
  • pyramid structure of application security testing

    Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

    Static Application Security Testing, also known as static analysis, scans the source code to spot security vulnerabilities that could make the application susceptible to attacks.

    The best part of SAST is that it takes place during the early stages of the SDLC, doesn’t require a working application, and can also be used without the code being executed.

    Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

    Application development relies massively on open-source frameworks and components. Although using open source does help to speed up the development process, it also leads to security issues if the developers don’t check all the codes and libraries outside of the codebase.

    There helps SCA. It is an automated process that tracks and audits all the open-source components in an application’s codebase. This, in turn, allows the developers to evaluate the security, license compliance, and quality of the open-source codes.

    Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

    Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) analyzes any web application through the front end to find vulnerabilities through simulated attacks.

    It is an approach that evaluates the web application from the outside by attacking it as a malicious user would. Once a DAST scanner attacks the application, it looks for unexpected outcomes and identifies the vulnerabilities.

    DAST is important for application testing because developers don’t solely need to depend on their own knowledge while building an application. With DAST, they test their application in a real environment and then check what needs to be improved to protect the application.

    Database Security Scanning

    The rising number of databases has made database security a major part of the security process of any organization. While databases are not considered a prominent part of an application, applications developed rely heavily on databases. Database security tools look for updates, weak passwords, configuration issues, and more. Moreover, some tools can also spot irregular patterns or actions, such as excessive administrative actions.

    Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)

    Mobile application security testing, similar to application security, aims to spot vulnerabilities in the application to mitigate the risks of attacks. MAST tools are a combination of static, dynamic, and forensic analysis. Although they perform some functions similar to static and dynamic analyzers, they also enable mobile code to run through other analyzers as well.

    Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

    IAST tools help developers to spot and manage security risks related to vulnerabilities discovered in running applications with the help of dynamic, also known as runtime testing methodologies.

    It is generally used during the test/QA phase of the SDLC, and so it catches the issues earlier in the SDLC, reducing expenses and delays.

    Application Security Testing as a Service (ASTaaS)

    In simple words, with ASTaaS, you pay a vendor to perform security testing on your application. The vendor will perform a series of different tests like penetration testing, static analysis, and more. It is important because there can be some flaws that would be hard to detect by yourself. Getting a check from a third-party vendor will help you identify all the uncovered issues. This, in turn, will make your application secure and ready to launch in the real world.

    Application Security Testing Orchestration (ASTO)

    Application Security Testing Orchestration is the tool that coordinates with various AST tools operating at different phases of the SDLC. It helps users get a single source with all the details of AST tools running in the ecosystem.

    Test-Coverage Analyzers

    Test-coverage analyzers track how much of the code is exercised during testing. The results can appear either in the form of percentages, like how much percentage of the code has been analyzed, or branch coverage, the percentage of the available paths tested.

    Correlation Tools

    False positives can be very annoying when it comes to security testing. This is where correlation tools help. Correlation tools can help reduce false positives by providing a central repository for findings from other AST tools.

    As different AST tools will come with different findings, correlation tools correlate and analyze the results from all the AST tools. This helps to validate and categorize findings based on priority levels.

    So these AST tools you can use to secure your web applications. Now here are some of the best practices for application security testing.

    10 Application Security Testing Best Practices

    Application security testing isn’t optional; it’s a necessity, and to perform it correctly, you need to adapt some practices. Here are some of the application security testing best practices

    Use Automated Tools

    In order to ensure that development speed and workflows aren’t being disturbed because of security issues, you need automated testing tools. These tools won’t hamper your SDLC or slow down the speed of development. They will run in the background while you develop the application. The best part is these tools will highlight potential risks before the application goes to the next phase.

    Use a Secure SDLC Management Process

    With a secure software development life cycle, you ensure that the application is developed and maintained by highly-trained security professionals, there's a secure development environment, and all your customer data is safe and secure.

    Shift Left

    With the growing use of the DevSecOps approach, it has become necessary to integrate security into every single phase of the development process. By shifting security to the left and embedding security controls as an important part of the integration/deployment process, you’ll be able to detect risks early and fix them more easily.

    Scan Third-Party Codes

    Today’s applications depend heavily on third-party codes, but these codes can come with several issues. And a single flaw can put the entire data at risk. So it’s imperative to keep a maintained inventory of all the open-source components your application relies on and do frequent tests.

    Test Regularly

    Testing regularly is important because new vulnerabilities are being discovered every day. An application can have thousands of components that need regular updates to avoid security issues. This is why regular testing of an application is necessary.

    Know Your Assets

    The key to developing a secure environment in your organization is knowing which assets are used in your application and then securing them. You can’t secure something you don’t know about.

    Train Developers

    Developers are the creators of any application, and it’s important that they know the nuances of application security. They should be trained to ensure the security of the application they’re developing. However, their training should be tailored specifically to their role and needs.

    Limit Access

    The more people have access to the data, the more insecure it is. So determine who actually need to access and create some access rules.

    Leverage Pentesting

    While automated tests take care of most of the vulnerabilities, there can be a few vulnerabilities that have gone unnoticed. To ensure that there are minimum to no risks, hiring a pentester to test the application is a good idea.

    Encrypt the Data

    When we talk about application security best practices, encryption data is a must to add. Make sure that you’re using the strongest encryption algorithms to protect all your data.

    That’s all about the best practices for application security. Make sure you use them when securing your application.

    How Can Scantist Help With AST?


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