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Resurgence of DAST for SDLC Integration and Scan Automation

November 11, 2019
Nera Besic

Dynamic application security testing – DAST is one of the oldest automated application security testing techniques, it has been around since the mid-1990s. DAST solutions interact with live web applications and web services, acting like a hacker-in-a-box. It has always been popular with penetration testers and security auditors looking to save valuable time.

DAST is generally focused on detecting high-risk vulnerabilities. It performs an “end-to-end” test of all the functionality across all layers of an application and provides a proof-of-exploit, making issues much easier to validate and remediate than other techniques, like SAST (code scanning). 

DAST solutions have been around since before Google existed. They continually struggled to find their place in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) processes of most organizations until only a few years ago.

What has changed? – DAST Today

So, what brought on this change?  The answer is simple – DevOps. 

Collaboration between the security team, developers and DevOps is essential for security teams to enable the DevOps process. Through this collaboration, the DevOps process is transformed into DevSecOps.

This removes all the barriers that stood in the way of fully integrating DAST into the SDLC…

The automation of DAST as a part of the DevOps CI/CD pipeline offers a more reliable starting point for applications to be designed and implemented with proper security requirements.

Here are some common use cases in which DAST automation is very beneficial:

DAST & QA Functional Testing

Automating the use of DAST  by leveraging functional test tools such as Selenium provides significant benefits. The purpose of QA automation tools is to test the application’s functionality and provide quality code with proper UX. By integrating DAST tools as part of this process you not only ensure quality code, but you provide secure code as well without any additional work.

Incremental Scans

Modern development practices rely on the delivery of small incremental pieces of code that are deployed faster than ever. 

Developers continuously run unit tests to ensure quality code is deployed. DAST can be seamlessly integrated into these functional tests enabling incremental security scans of new or updated functionality and reducing the time and effort security testing time.  Moreover, enabling developers to detect security vulnerabilities during the development process enables them to resolve issues very quickly, whereas it takes much longer to resolve these issues if they are detected weeks, or months later.

Testing API’s & Web Services

RESTful API’s and web services comprise a large percent of the code used in web applications. Since this code doesn’t have UI/frontend, organizations usually neglect to test it making them more exposed to cyberattacks. Integrating DAST into functional tests enables them to interact with each web service and API calls to detect and validate vulnerabilities.

API security

Scanning Any Environment

One of the major advantages of DAST over SAST  is that it doesn’t care what language is used to write an application. Whether it is Java, .Net, Phyton, C, Cobol, or any other language, or if you use MySql, Microsoft SQL server it doesn’t matter. Our AI-powered DAST solution is able to scan any target including HTTP/HTTPS, web socket, rest API to test the APIs themselves. This even extends to protocols such as Bluetooth, and FIX for financial institutions.

Detecting Real-World Issues

Over the past few years, microservices have become the leading method of application development. Modern apps are made up of multiple systems and components built by multiple teams and often multiple companies.

Since DAST scans applications and services in their running environment it is able to detect real-world vulnerabilities when microservices are used without the need to scan each component individually.

Learn about the top challenges of microservices security:

Microservices security

Shifting Security Left

The value DevSecOps offers is to conduct security testing earlier in the software development lifecycle. It enables to shift of testing left by adding security planning, testing, and monitoring into each phase of the DevOps pipeline.

Developers are under constant pressure to release as quickly as possible.  Organizations can shift security left by integrating DAST into their existing environments, rather than relying on security testing at a later phase when the developer has moved onto something else.

Application Security blog post

Automating DAST into the process is critical for enabling DevSecOps. Release and scan as early and often as possible and ensure security throughout the entire software development life cycle. This will save both time and money without affecting development velocity.

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