Why “vulnerability management” falls short in modern application security

Written by:
Daniel Berman
Daniel Berman

June 13, 2024

0 mins read

Faced with the growing complexity of software development environments, combined with expanding cyber threats and regulatory requirements, AppSec teams find themselves grappling with a daunting array of challenges. 

While the advent and subsequent adoption of "shift left" methodologies marks a significant and necessary step forward, it is now evident that this approach requires an accompanying mindset shift. Even with “shift left,” too many blind spots exist within an AppSec program to ensure that security and development teams can collaborate effectively on reducing application risk. 

Determining the success of the AppSec program, prioritizing fixes for developers, and identifying unsecured applications are just a few of the challenges that are paving the way for new AppSec approaches. 

Using “vulnerability management” for AppSec

One of these approaches draws heavy inspiration from vulnerability management, a well–established and broader cybersecurity methodology and solution category focused on identifying, evaluating, documenting, overseeing, and resolving security concerns across various facets of a company, including endpoints, networks, systems, and, importantly, applications.

While the nomenclature for this new approach has evolved over time from application security orchestration and correlation (ASOC) to application security posture management (ASPM) to adapt to market trends, the underlying principles remain the same.

This approach, which is supported by a growing array of vendors, aims to offer a “single pane of glass” that aggregates and correlates security issues across an AppSec program, integrating with various sources to provide AppSec teams with a unified view of their application security posture. Integrating with incident management and response tools too, this approach is then meant to facilitate better automation and operationalization of prioritization and remediation workflows.

Pitfalls of “vulnerability management” for AppSec

A vulnerability management-based approach for AppSec has its benefits, supporting specific outcomes for specific roles within an organization. A SecOps team, for example, might benefit from the simplified view of security issues as well as automated workflows for response management. However, its efficacy for managing and scaling modern application security is questionable as it falls short on two crucial fronts.

1. Lack of application context

As mentioned, vulnerability management-based approaches for AppSec seek to provide a single pane of glass into all security issues identified by application security testing (AST) tools used across the program, such as SAST, SCA, DAST, IaC, and so forth. 

The critical issue here (no pun intended!) is that this unified view is contingent upon the data being aggregated, which is primarily sourced from the multitude of integrated third-party AST tools. This data, retrieved through vendor-provided public APIs, differs in format and structure from one source to another. Consequently, it requires resource-intensive manual normalization and standardization before it can be correlated. This introduces a pivotal challenge. The resultant view often lacks context about the application — its importance to the business, architecture, assets, and runtime behavior — impeding AppSec teams' ability to effectively gauge risk and collaborate with developers on focusing fix efforts where they are truly needed. 

The overreliance on third-party data yields a fragmented or incomplete understanding of the application's security posture, hindering the AppSec team's capacity to make informed decisions and guide developers toward targeted fixes. Consequently, despite the purported benefits of centralizing security issue visibility, the inherent limitations of a vulnerability management-based approach pose significant hurdles in achieving robust application security.

2. Poor developer experience

In order to provide AppSec and development teams with any insight into application risk, developers must actively use the AST tools provided to them. Moreover, once issues are identified, assessed, and prioritized, developers must promptly implement fixes within their codebase. If developers are not adopting their security tools, this loop remains broken — a likely outcome in the case of security tools that, instead of facilitating a seamless integration of security processes into the development workflow, create obstacles and add friction. 

Application security solutions that follow vulnerability management principles typically adopt a tool-agnostic approach, focusing primarily on consolidating issues into a single pane of glass from various AST tools and often operating independently of developer workflows. This approach leads to disjointed and ineffective prioritization and remediation processes, resulting in a poor developer experience and exacerbating the already strained collaboration between AppSec and development teams. Without active involvement and buy-in from developers, any AppSec program is bound to struggle, as the AppSec function risks being perceived as an adversary rather than an ally.

How Snyk AppRisk helps

Snyk pioneered the notion of developer-first AST tools to ensure early and integrated application security throughout the SDLC and, since its founding, has scaled developer-first application security in major organizations globally. Recognizing remaining challenges for successfully managing and scaling a modern, “shift left” application security motion, Snyk AppRisk was introduced as an additional layer in Snyk’s developer security platform, providing AppSec teams with application discovery and visibility, coverage management, and risk-based prioritization. 

Snyk AppRisk shifts the focus of AppSec programs from managing individual security issues to the broader perspective of managing application risk as a whole. Instead of solely addressing vulnerabilities and security flaws, this app-centric approach also considers the application's architecture, assets, and runtime behavior to provide a comprehensive as possible understanding of the application's security risks and enable organizations to prioritize security measures based on the criticality of the application to the business and its potential impact on users and data. 

Snyk AppRisk acts as an AppSec visibility, governance, and prioritization layer on top of Snyk’s developer-first AST products — Snyk Code, Snyk Open Source, Snyk Container, and Snyk IaC. This seamless integration and interoperability ensures two critical outcomes. Firstly, application risks are identified and prevented at an early stage in the development cycle, feeding accurate and timely security analysis into Snyk AppRisk. Secondly, new risks are effectively prioritized and remediated with actionable fixes by developers with the help of security guidance and only where needed.  

To learn more about Snyk AppRisk, visit our website or read our product documentation.

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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