The need for effective and efficient application security testing can not be overemphasized. Stats show that 84% of software breaches exploit application-layer vulnerabilities. The easiest way around these complications and threats is using application security testing tools.
But what are application security testing tools? Which one is the best? Sit tight as we answer these questions for you.
What are Application Security Testing Tools?
Application security is not a binary function. Applications are not definitively secure or insecure. It is more of a continuously varying phenomenon. An application can be secure from one angle and not from another. To make sure that an application is totally secure, an application security testing tool is the best friend of a developer.
An application security testing tool is a piece of software that scans an application’s code for known vulnerabilities. It then compiles a list of the weaknesses of the software and presents it to the developer who can then work on them.
Why Do We Need Application Security Testing Tools?
Theoretically, a developer can manually review a code to find out the vulnerabilities in it but that would be the most inefficient approach to the problem. Also, it is not just about the time it takes to review the code. A lot of other factors are also included. Some of the reasons that make AST tools are important to include:
- New vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered or introduced meaning a developer can just not keep up with all the advancements.
- AST tools keep adding the discovered vulnerabilities to their database and improve with each test.
- There is very little possibility of error when it comes to using AST tools as compared to manual testing.
- They can be used to identify and correlate patterns in the code that make it vulnerable.
Types of Application Security Testing Tools
As the applications we develop are of varying types and complexities, different tools are needed to test their security. AST tools can be classified into the following types.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Tools
These are regarded as white-hat or white-box tools. These tools are used when the tester has all the information about the software being tested. If you have access to the architecture diagram and source code this is the tool to use.
These codes go through the body of the code and compile a report of the weaknesses that can cause security vulnerabilities.
These tools can run on non-compiled as well compiled code and look for defects including:
- Numerical errors.
- Race conditions.
- Input validation.
- Path traversals.
- References and pointers.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) Tools
These tools can be regarded as black-hat or black-box testing tools. The testers using this type of tools do not have any prior knowledge of the system being tested. The application must be running for these tools to test it. DAST tools analyze an operating code and detect vulnerabilities in:
- Data injection.
These tools work by fuzzing – a practice of providing the code with invalid and unexpected test conditions in bulk.
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools
These are also known as origin analysis tools. These tools rely on verifying the source of the components in order to determine whether or not the code is reliable. These codes are the most widely used for checking vulnerabilities in open-source components. These codes cannot be used to assess the security status of custom-developed components of a code.
These tools compare the known modules (mainly open-source) of the code with a list of vulnerabilities. The main databases used by these codes to compare vulnerabilities are:
- NIST National Vulnerability Database Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs)
- VulnDB commercial vulnerability database as a source
Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) and Hybrid Tools
This is the newest approach in application security testing. These tools are a combination of static and dynamic testing. They work by testing the code in resting condition as well as when it is being executed.
IAST tools combine the data of application and data flow to simulate advanced attacks on the application. This is done by
- Providing the application with malicious inputs and test scenarios, and,
- Exploiting the vulnerabilities in the code at the same time.
These tools are the most efficient approach to testing applications that are too large or complicated for stand-alone SAST and DAST tools to handle.
Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST) Tools
These tools combine the principles of static, dynamic, and forensic testing. On the basic level, these tools work as traditional SAST and DAST tools but have some added features to look for mobile-specific threats like:
- Spoofed Wi-Fi Connections.
- Handling and verification of certificates.
- Data leakage.
Application Security Testing as a Service (ASTaaS)
This is more of a service than just a tool and is used for specialized software. For high-value and high-risk applications, the traditional testing tools and methods are not enough. This approach includes:
- A combination of SAST and DAST.
- Penetration testing.
- Risk assessment.
- Software composition analysis.
- Database patch status.
- Application Programming Interface (API) testing.
Which Application Security Tool Is the Best?
There cannot be a single answer to this. Every tool has its own set of merits and demerits. If you want to test an application’s security status, here are some things that will determine which tool is the best for you:
- The type and complexity of the application being tested.
- Whether or not you have access to the source code.
- The risk associated with the application.
- The amount of open-source code used in the application.
- The amount of in-house developed code used in the application.
- The time you have for testing the application.
- The requirements/rules for testing the application.
Application security is imperative to the safe and smooth execution of any application. As it is next to impossible to manually test a code, one of the many application security testing tools can be used to check whether or not an application is secure.
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