Developer-centric DAST with Bright Security

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April 14, 2023

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Security testing is increasingly viewed as an essential part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Traditionally, agile software development has focused on development velocity, rapid market feedback, and delivering high quality products and services. However, software that's vulnerable to cyber attacks is not valuable to end users and creates huge risks for both customers and software vendors. This makes it critical to integrate security testing into the software development process.

In this article, we’ll show how software testing tools — the new generation of developer-centric DAST tools in particular — can help organizations improve security testing coverage, train developers, set up an effective vulnerability remediation process, and build secure applications to prevent costly security breaches.

What are SAST and DAST?

SAST and DAST are two common types of software security testing methodologies.

SAST, or static application security testing, is a type of testing that analyzes the source code of an application to identify security vulnerabilities. SAST tools, like Snyk Code, are used to scan the source code for common programming errors and security issues, such as buffer overflows, SQL injection, and remote code execution (RCE). SAST is typically performed during the development phase of an application and is useful for detecting vulnerabilities early in the software development life cycle.

DAST, or dynamic application security testing, is a type of testing that simulates an attack on an application to identify security vulnerabilities. DAST tools are used to test the application's behavior and interactions with the external environment, such as web services and databases. DAST is typically performed in a staging or production environment and is useful for detecting vulnerabilities that may have been missed during SAST, as well as vulnerabilities that only occur in a live environment.

Advantages and limitations of SAST and DAST tools

While both SAST and DAST tools are highly beneficial to development and application security professionals, they are not perfect. Snyk has a longer article that looks at using SAST and DAST together to fill each other's gaps, but let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of each technology.

Pros of SAST:

  • Early detection of vulnerabilities: SAST can detect vulnerabilities early in the software development life cycle. This allows developers to fix issues as they arise and avoid the cost of fixing them later in the development cycle, or worse, after the application has been deployed.

  • Integration with development processes: SAST tools can be integrated into the development process, allowing for continuous testing and automated vulnerability identification. This can save time and resources compared to manual security testing.

  • Customizable rule sets: SAST tools can be customized with specific rule sets for each application, allowing for the identification of application-specific vulnerabilities. This level of customization ensures that the tool identifies issues that are relevant to the specific application.

Cons of SAST:

  • Limited set of issues: SAST tools are limited to the types of vulnerabilities they can detect, and may not detect more complex or obscure vulnerabilities. This means that some vulnerabilities may be missed, which can leave an application exposed to attacks.

  • Dependence on static input: SAST tools rely on static input, which means they can only analyze the code they are given. If an application uses dynamic input, such as data input from users, SAST may not be able to identify vulnerabilities resulting from the dynamic input.

  • False positives: SAST tools can produce false positives, which lead to wasted time and resources. This occurs when the tool identifies an issue that is not actually a vulnerability or cannot be actively exploited. False positives can be frustrating for developers and cause them to lose confidence in the tool.

Pros of DAST:

  • Accurate representation of real-world attack scenarios: DAST provides an accurate representation of real-world attack scenarios, as it tests an application's behavior in a live environment. This can help identify vulnerabilities that may not have been detected during SAST.

  • Independent of development process: DAST testing is independent of the development process, which means it can be conducted on a deployed application without requiring access to the source code. This makes it ideal for testing third-party applications.

  • Comprehensive testing coverage: DAST provides comprehensive testing coverage, as it tests an application's interactions with its runtime environment, such as web services, databases, and APIs.

Cons of DAST:

  • Issues can be harder to triage: DAST testing can sometimes pinpoint issues that span multiple components across the application (for example with input and output sanitization issues) which can mean teams need more time to trigate and remediate the issue.

  • Dependence on runtime environments: DAST testing is dependent on the application's runtime environment, which means it may not be able to detect vulnerabilities that occur only in specific runtime environments. This can result in false negatives and a false sense of security.

  • Late implementation: Since DAST requires a running instance of the application to test its behavior in a live environment, it’s typically implemented at the end of the development process. This means that DAST cannot begin until the application has been fully developed and deployed to a production or staging environment — leaving potential issues undetected for a while.

What is dev-centric DAST and how can it complement SAST?

Dev-centric DAST is a type of DAST testing that focuses on integrating security testing into the software development lifecycle. The goal of dev-centric DAST is to shift security testing left in the development process, so that security vulnerabilities can be detected and remediated early in the development cycle.

When used together, dev-centric DAST and SAST can provide a more comprehensive approach to application security testing.

SAST is typically used in the early stages of the development process, when developers are writing code. It scans the source code of the application for vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection. This approach can help developers identify and fix potential security issues before the code is compiled and deployed. However, SAST has limitations and may not be able to detect certain vulnerabilities that are only visible in the running application.

Dev-centric DAST, on the other hand, is used to test the running application and can detect vulnerabilities that SAST may miss, such as those related to input validation, configuration, and authentication. Dev-centric DAST can be integrated into the development process, allowing developers to test the application as they develop it. This approach provides developers with immediate feedback on the security of their code and enables them to remediate vulnerabilities quickly.

Combining SAST and dev-centric DAST allows organizations to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in both the source code and the running application, providing a more complete picture of the security posture. This approach also helps organizations to meet compliance requirements and reduce the risk of security breaches and data loss.

5 best practices for implementing a dev-centric DAST strategy

Implementing a dev-centric DAST strategy involves integrating security testing into the software development lifecycle. To ensure that this is done effectively, organizations should follow some best practices, including:

  1. Integrate DAST into the development process: DAST should be integrated across the development process, so that developers can test their code for security vulnerabilities right after they build it. This requires the use of automated DAST tools that can be integrated into the development environment.

  2. Prioritize vulnerabilities: Once vulnerabilities are detected, they should be prioritized based on their severity and potential impact. This will help ensure that the most critical vulnerabilities are addressed first.

  3. Train developers on security best practices: Developers should be trained on security best practices, such as secure coding techniques, to help them write more secure code. This can help prevent vulnerabilities from being introduced in the first place.

  4. Set up a process for remediating vulnerabilities: A process should be established for remediating vulnerabilities that are detected through dev-centric DAST. This should include a process for verifying that vulnerabilities have been fixed and for retesting the application to ensure that the fixes are effective.

  5. Monitor and track progress: Progress should be monitored and tracked over time to ensure that the dev-centric DAST strategy is effective. This can include metrics such as the number of vulnerabilities detected, the time it takes to remediate vulnerabilities, and the overall security posture of the application.

By following these best practices, organizations can implement a dev-centric DAST strategy that is effective and efficient. This approach can help to improve the overall security posture of the application, reduce the risk of security breaches and data loss, and help organizations meet compliance requirements.

Modernizing SAST and DAST

Software security testing is essential to ensure that applications are secure and protected against cyber attacks. Dev-centric DAST is an approach to dynamic testing that emphasizes integrating security testing into the software development process. By automating security testing and incorporating it into the continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, dev-centric DAST provides developers with rapid feedback on potential security issues. This enables developers to address security vulnerabilities in real-time, minimizing the impact of security issues and reducing the likelihood of vulnerabilities going undetected.

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Snyk is a developer security platform. Integrating directly into development tools, workflows, and automation pipelines, Snyk makes it easy for teams to find, prioritize, and fix security vulnerabilities in code, dependencies, containers, and infrastructure as code. Supported by industry-leading application and security intelligence, Snyk puts security expertise in any developer’s toolkit.

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