Apps have become integral parts of business operations, from online banking to remote work applications. Unfortunately, these apps have also become prime targets for hackers looking for vulnerable targets to exploit.
To protect your business, implement application security strategies into every stage of development. Use tools and services to implement changes such as solidifying code changes, encrypting data, and monitoring apps continuously.
Follow secure development best practices to prevent attacks such as cross-site request forgery and buffer overflow, including using programming languages with memory management features that safely handle memory allocation, data validation procedures and adhering to the principle of least privilege.
What is Application Security?
Modern life runs on apps – from banking and remote work, to personal entertainment delivery services – which makes these applications prime targets of cyberattacks.
An effective application security strategy protects businesses against such attacks by implementing best practices throughout all stages of development and mitigating vulnerabilities before they have a chance to escalate into full-fledged attacks. A secure app security strategy also allows them to minimize disruptions and recover faster in case of breaches, as well as build trust among investors and lenders.
Application security (appsec), commonly referred to by its acronym, encompasses tasks designed to introduce secure software development life cycles within development teams. The goal of AppSec is to enhance application security practices and enable developers to discover and prevent flaws that could lead to data breaches and other serious cybersecurity incidents.
Application security tools and solutions come in various shapes and forms, with some catering specifically to certain applications. There are libraries that make creating secure code easier during programming; other tools detect potential issues like out-of-bounds writes, cross-site scripting or unrestricted upload of dangerous file types; finally there are also solutions that provide a centralized management tool so the security team can monitor security across departments or teams or even at developer level using DevSecOps.
Right time for application security testing
App security testing should ideally occur early in the SDLC to prevent flaws from being introduced into production environments that attackers could exploit. Furthermore, conducting security testing early allows developers to fix vulnerabilities as soon as they become known without disrupting development velocity or workflows.
Methods used to test for application security vulnerabilities include static analysis (SAST), dynamic analysis (DAST) and interactive testing (IAST). SAST employs tools like Sonarlint or SonarCloud to monitor source code while it’s being written, automatically detecting vulnerabilities as it happens – this feature can even be integrated into build, code review or quality gate processes to ensure vulnerabilities don’t make their way to production.
DAST conducts tests by sending various inputs and analyzing their response in order to identify potential vulnerabilities in an application. This can be used as part of build, code review and quality gate processes or combined with IAST for retesting existing vulnerabilities and validating that they exist and can be exploited. Furthermore, IAST allows users to interact with an application by clicking links or entering data – simulating an attack by an attacker and validating that identified vulnerabilities exist and are exploitable – in order to simulate attacks by an actual attacker and test for both user interface and database vulnerabilities.
Application security testing Tool
There are various application security testing tools available for developers looking to create secure apps, and selecting one will depend on your desired testing type(s).
Static application security testing (SAST) tools evaluate an application’s source code, byte code or binaries to check for coding errors and adhere to standards. They typically operate without needing a running system in order to perform scans.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools use black box techniques to analyze running applications for vulnerabilities. They typically do this by randomly generating thousands of requests and then analyzing the results to detect exploitable flaws in them.
Mobile application security testing (MAST) tools use static and dynamic analysis techniques to detect common application vulnerabilities found both native and third-party code, including jailbreaking or potentially harmful Wi-Fi networks.
Interactive application security testing (IAST) is an advanced form of security assessment, combining static and DAST testing in one test tool. IAST tools are typically integrated into DevOps processes and allow teams to retest identified vulnerabilities automatically – ideal for agile development processes such as Scrum. Examples of IAST tools include OWASP ZAP and Contrast IAST which have proven particularly popular among organizations and developers alike.
What is Application Security Testing?
Application Security (AppSec) refers to safeguarding code and data against cyberattacks at an application-level rather than network level. This involves taking security precautions during software development and deployment as well as ongoing procedures to reduce vulnerabilities, such as conducting tests for new releases to check for security flaws, installing Web application firewalls (WAF) to filter web traffic and restrict app functionality, or keeping logs that track who accesses what within an app.
Preventive and detective controls can be divided into two distinct categories. Preventive controls include SAST/DAST scans to identify common vulnerabilities; black box testing helps identify any misconfigurations by simulating an attacker’s movements and identify misconfigurations more quickly.
Detective controls are designed to detect breaches in real time. This requires tools like intrusion detection systems and antivirus scanners, which are often combined together for more comprehensive protection. Also important: any enterprise may utilize third-party components within its applications that should also be assessed for any security vulnerabilities similar to when testing its own code – either through automated scans of third-party code, or with tools like Imperva RASP which scan all code in its entirety in search of severe vulnerabilities.
8 Types of Application Security Testing
There are various application security testing approaches, each designed to discover specific vulnerabilities at different stages in software life cycles. Common techniques used for application security testing include black box testing (review of an app’s architecture and design), white box security review, gray box testing as well as hybrid approaches wherein testers perform light assessments on existing apps in order to discover vulnerabilities.
Since new vulnerabilities are discovered daily and enterprise applications utilize thousands of components that could become obsolete or require an update, it is critical that applications undergo frequent testing in order to stay ahead of any security threats and vulnerabilities that might emerge. It is also crucial that prioritizing critical systems and high impact threats be tested more frequently so that the most serious issues can be detected quickly and addressed appropriately.
Advanced application security testing (AST) tools are invaluable tools for identifying and blocking vulnerabilities in production code. These dynamic tests examine compiled code as well as third-party libraries and APIs, with dynamic tests running constantly to detect new or previously undetected vulnerabilities before they reach production. Furthermore, these AST tools can implement POLP between integrated systems ensuring each one only needs permissions it requires in order to function.
Application security testing encompasses methodologies designed to assist developers and testers in detecting vulnerabilities within software applications. Such assessments can either be preventive or corrective in nature.
Preventive controls help thwart attacks from occurring; such as adhering to best coding practices and software development life cycle security testing. Other preventive measures may include authentication and authorization controls which ensure users and programs accessing applications are who they claim they are.
1. Software Application Security Testing
Application security testing includes tools and practices designed to prevent hacking attacks from exploiting software vulnerabilities, such as hardware such as routers that keep outsiders from viewing a computer’s IP address and software like an application firewall or programming languages that manage memory allocation safely. It may also involve methods to lessen the effects of attacks or breaches such as using virtual machines to restrict access, terminating malicious or vulnerable programs or patching software systems.
At any point in the SDLC, security testing can identify issues that would otherwise be difficult to spot and resolve without actual deployment of software. Furthermore, this type of testing helps teams avoid shipping software with potential security holes that could result in breaches or attacks; ultimately minimizing both damage and costs of breaches.
Software application security testing typically falls into two categories — static (SAST) and dynamic (DAST). SAST, or Static Application Security Testing, is a white-box test that inspects source code, binary code or both before it’s executed in order to look for internal structures, logic and implementation details of an app prior to execution. SAST works best early in the development cycle and may be integrated with continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines for rapid testing without impacting quality of application development.
2. Dynamic Application Security Testing
DAST is an automated tool used to conduct security assessments of running applications to detect security vulnerabilities. It simulates different forms of attacks to locate vulnerabilities like hidden endpoints, architectural weaknesses and SQL injection.
Dynamic testing methodology can be effective in uncovering issues that would go undetected by static analysis tools due to their black-box nature, as they don’t possess knowledge of an application’s internal structure. Dynamic testing also detects configuration issues or inputs which lead to unauthorised access.
DAST can assist businesses by helping them identify areas missed by SAST, such as server version details being exposed, insufficient validation of user input, or using vulnerable software libraries. DAST also minimizes false positives that could slow product delivery timeframes. When combined with other testing methodologies like application penetration testing or static application security testing (SAST), these technologies offer comprehensive and rapid security assessments of web apps to enable developers to discover vulnerabilities prior to being exploited by attackers.
3. DAST and SAST together
SAST can assist developers in quickly detecting security vulnerabilities during development and quickly correct them, helping to enhance application security while decreasing issues that need fixing during QA and production. Unfortunately, however, SAST cannot identify all issues that might arise, particularly those related to environments or runtime environments.
DAST is a black-box test designed to evaluate software from an attacker perspective. It analyzes an already running application without access to source code or binaries, scanning against threat data feeds to identify vulnerabilities – even those not picked up by SAST like authentication flaws and network configuration errors.
DAST and SAST can work in tandem to conduct more comprehensive application security testing, uncovering most existing vulnerabilities and helping organizations protect their applications from external attacks, comply with industry standards and regulations and develop with confidence while producing top-quality applications at minimal risk. Together they provide organizations with more complete application security testing for better protection.
4. Software Composition Analysis
As software development speeds up and more applications utilize open source components, the risk of vulnerabilities increases. To reduce this risk, teams need to identify and rectify open source vulnerabilities early in their software development lifecycle (SDLC) process and within existing developer workflows.
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) can provide this vital service. SCA is an automated process which identifies open source software within a codebase, determines its direct and indirect dependencies, and compares this against an established vulnerability database in order to identify risks.
SCA solutions are an integral component of the “shift left” movement, encouraging developers and DevOps teams to perform security checks earlier in the development cycle in order to catch issues before they reach production. Beyond scanning open source components and reporting potential vulnerabilities in third-party libraries that make up an application, SCA tools also identify any vulnerabilities found within third-party libraries used within an app, providing important insight for prioritizing fixes while keeping pace with any new open-source library vulnerabilities as they emerge.
5. Database Security Scanning
Threat actors are always looking for ways to breach databases, as these hold sensitive information that can be exploited for identity theft, hacking, extortion and other crimes. When secured improperly databases become vulnerable and can result in the unintended exposure of financial and personal data resulting in customer trust issues and revenue losses.
Threats can also attack infrastructure through the web servers and networks hosting databases, leading to costly downtime for a business. Regular penetration testing ensures that internal interfaces between systems remain secure so attackers do not use compromised accounts to gain privileged access and gain control.
Companies’ business critical systems are particularly susceptible to cyber attacks and should be tested regularly to identify vulnerabilities. Furthermore, third-party components used in enterprise applications must also be regularly assessed, especially open source components. It is recommended to utilize a vulnerability management system such as National Vulnerability Database (NVD) in order to check for known open-source software vulnerabilities and prioritize updates, remediation or replacement as soon as potential vulnerabilities have been discovered.
6. Interactive Application Security Testing
Application security testing aims to close entry points before hackers cause damage. This process can occur at any stage in the CI/CD pipeline using tools that help developers understand best practices or identify any issues in source code before being deployed into production.
Effective tools include those that can identify vulnerabilities in code by mimicking what attackers attempt to do to breach systems – this includes dynamic application security testing (DAST) and interactive application security testing (IAST).
DAST analyzes web applications from the outside in by simulating attacks to see if they succeed. DAST scanners inspect inputs, outputs, memory usage and stack traces to spot undesirable results which indicate vulnerabilities in an application.
IAST analyzes applications from within, taking into account libraries and frameworks as part of its assessment process. This allows IAST tools to provide superior coverage of vulnerabilities than DAST/SAST alone can; IAST also reduces false positives by scanning inside of applications rather than only static code/bytecode analysis.
7. Mobile Application Security Testing
Cybercriminals are constantly searching for ways to gain access to and exploit data. To avoid detection, cybercriminals often exploit insufficient logging and monitoring capabilities so as to remain undetected for long enough to switch systems or modify data as desired.
Mobile application security testing can be an invaluable way of uncovering weaknesses in mobile apps. This process involves decompiling an app and performing static analysis in order to locate security flaws and vulnerabilities; then this information is used for dynamic analysis and penetration testing of the apps in question.
Penetration testing an app simulates an attack to identify weaknesses. It includes checking for weak password policies, transmitting sensitive data via unencrypted connections or having permissions granted to third-party applications.
Test for suspicious applications on app stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Businesses should create an acceptable use policy for apps containing or accessing company data; additionally, an organization can institute an app-vetting process that reviews and approves them before public release.
8. Application Security Testing Orchestration
As vulnerabilities continue to proliferate and cyberattacks become more sophisticated, end-to-end application security programs have become an essential necessity. Organizations have begun incorporating Application Security Testing Orchestration (ASOC). To combat this challenge, more companies are opting for Application Security Testing Orchestration.
ASOC solutions automate AppSec processes to provide continuous visibility into the security posture of applications across their SDLC lifecycles. Utilizing proprietary technology, ASOC solutions examine code changes and other SDLC events before intelligently triggering security tests such as SAST, DAST or IAST according to actual risk and other factors like corporate policies.
This solution bridges the gap between vulnerability management and continuous integration / continuous development (CI/CD) pipelines. Security scans may impede workflows due to running multiple AppSec tools on every build and providing developers with too many results that require manual interpretation and prioritization.
Implement AST as early as possible in the software lifecycle to ensure security considerations are built into applications from their inception. When combined with automated code review, this allows for earlier identification of vulnerabilities and reduced risks of malicious actors exploiting them. Testing frequently and prioritizing vulnerabilities by severity or potential impact are also key elements to successful cybersecurity management.
Application Security Tools and Solutions
Application security tools and solutions offer organizations a continuous view of their applications. A shift left approach ensures scanning occurs throughout development stages, giving developers time to fix any issues before going live. A solution like this one can identify vulnerabilities while providing recommendations on remediation efforts.
Today’s organizations build and refine apps daily or hourly using agile methodologies such as continuous deployment and integration. This rapid pace necessitates security that fits seamlessly into developer workflows; using the right tool, security can find everything from flaws in OWASP Top 10 lists to more subtle vulnerabilities like insecure design decisions, cryptographic failures or lack of pipeline verification.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools perform white-box testing of apps by examining their source code to detect bugs or weaknesses that could be exploited by attackers. Some SAST tools offer line-of-code navigation, recommendation features and even fully embedded IDE capabilities for efficient testing. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools simulate controlled attacks that test an app during runtime while integrated Application Security Testing (IAST) scans both compiled code as well as running apps to identify vulnerabilities.
Application Security Best Practices
Application security best practices involve employing secure development techniques to ensure software applications are free from vulnerabilities and threats, including vulnerability scanning and other testing activities to safeguard them against cybercrime attacks.
Application security comprises creating an inventory of all applications used within an organization and understanding their business use, impact and sensitivity. With this knowledge in hand, security professionals are better able to select components for vulnerability testing as well as identify systems which should be protected with web application firewall (WAF) protection or other forms of DDoS countermeasures.
Logging activity within the system and identifying any anomalous user interaction, such as when users interact with applications in ways they shouldn’t, are also key steps towards app security, helping organizations to spot potential data breaches and assess their effect on customers and employees alike.
Breakdown of access control enables hackers to escalate their privileges and gain entry to sensitive systems, while buffer overflow attacks leverage vulnerabilities in how applications store working data in system buffers, exploiting flaws that cause an application to write past memory boundaries resulting in data corruption or allow attackers to execute code remotely.