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Everything you need to know about Application Security Testing (AST)

23/07/2024

One of the most essential components of any successful application is security. Without security, your data can be harvested by third parties, viruses and hackers can infect your account, and your information can become more vulnerable. To check for this, you have AST — otherwise known as Application security testing (AST). AST is the process by which developers make applications more resilient to threats of security. Application security testing does this by identifying security vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the source code.

 

While application security testing started as a manual process, it has grown and evolved with time. Today, as a result of enterprise software becoming increasingly modular, there are a considerable number of open source components and, therefore, a larger number of vulnerabilities to tackle. Hence, AST has become much more automated to streamline and fast-track the web testing process. In fact, most app development companies will use a combination of several applications and security tools as measures for AST. 

 

Types of Application Security Testing:

 

Although there are many types of application security testing tools out there, a company will usually employ a combination of most of these to comprehensively test for security weaknesses in your application. While these terms can seem technical for people without a background in software development, you’ll find that each type of application test performs different functions, and all are necessary for a sound AST.

 

 

  1. Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

A SAST tool will use a white box testing approach wherein the tool inspects the application’s inner workings. SAST will assess the source code of an application and report any weaknesses in its security. A static testing tool will work to find issues such as those in input validation, syntax errors, maths errors, or invalid or insecure references. 

 

 

  1. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

The next way an application can be screened for security is through DAST tools or Dynamic Application Security Testing. Unlike SAST, DAST takes a black box testing approach. In other words, it will execute code and inspect it at runtime. The goal with DAST is to find issues in the security of the code as it functions. Issues that DAST can check for include those in requests and responses of the app, query strings, memory leakage, authentication, execution of third-party components, and more. 

 

  1. Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

IAST tools are considered to be the evolution of DAST and SAST tools. IAST combines both approaches with the goal of detecting a wider range of security weaknesses. Similar to DAST tools, IAST tools also run dynamically and can inspect the resilience of the software to threats during its runtime. However, similar to SAST tools, they are run from inside the application server giving them access to inspect the compiled source code. IAST is considered suitable for testing an Application Programming Interface or API. 

 

 

  1. Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)

Consider this the tool to test the security of mobile applications. AMST combines dynamic testing and static testing, as well as investigation of forensic data that is generated through the use of mobile applications. In addition to testing for security issues that SAST, DAST and IAST detect, MAST also deals with mobile-specific security breaches like malicious wifi networks, jailbreaking, and data leakage from mobile apps.

 

 

  1. Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

An SCA tool can aid in conducting an inventory of open source components and third-party commercials used within their software. Thousands of third-party components are utilised by the applications of large enterprises — think of a news app that shows targeted ads — and it is these components that can have security vulnerabilities. SCA can help identify the most severe vulnerabilities in security from third-party components, and offer the best ways to mend them.

 

 

  1. Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP)

RASP tools are also an evolved version of SAST and DAST, including IAST. A RASP tool will be able to analyse the user behaviour at runtime as well as application traffic to look for any cyber threats. RASP goes one step further than other tools wherein it identifies the weaknesses in the app’s security which have been exploited. It can also provide active protection by issuing an alert or terminating the session. 

 

 

What good Application Security Testing looks like:

 

Wondering what some of the best practices of companies that offer good AST? Here’s what to expect:

  • AST is part of every stage of the software development cycle: New organisations understand that breaches to security are a constant threat. To counteract this, AST is integrated into every stage of software development. Companies are also likely to help developers learn about various security concerns and enforce these best practices at every stage of the app’s development. Additionally, even testers are given an idea of security issues so they can identify them before the software shifts to its production stage. Higher-level tools such as RASP are used to identify and block security threats to the source code in the production stage. 
  • Internal interfaces are tested in addition to APIs and UIs: It is common to focus AST on external threats that come from public API requests or inputs submitted via website forms. However, threats can also exploit internal weaknesses such as weak authentication after they get inside the security perimeter. Good AST will leverage testing those inputs, and the integrations between internal systems to keep them secure in addition to external system testing. 
  • AST is carried out often: New security threats can be discovered every day, especially for large-scale applications using thousands of external components. It is crucial to test these critical systems as frequently as possible while prioritising issues like higher-impact threats. Good AST allocates their resources well to remedy these threats quickly. 
  • Strict third-party code testing is carried out: Organisations looking for good AST practices should always add third-party code testing into their AST. It is never wise to trust a third-party component, be it open-source or commercial, as there is no guarantee of security in either. Good AST will scan all third-party code to look for any severe issues, apply patches, create a fix, or warn you to consider switching the faulty component.

 

To Sum up

 

There are multiple types of Application Security Testing – all of which are crucial when you’re trying to create a safe and protected digital space. Looking to build a new app or website? Choose Focaloid Technologies which can not only help you build your next software but also secure it with the exceptional AST.

Published:23/07/2024

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