When it comes to protecting web and mobile applications, security testing tools are essential for any enterprise. These powerful security test tools, also known as AppSec tools, are designed to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, reduce risk, and ensure applications remain secure from cyberattacks. Without them, your applications could easily become exposed to a variety of threats, making it vital to have a comprehensive approach to application security.In this blog, we will discuss the different types of security test tools available, explain how they are used, and outline best practices for using them to safeguard your applications. We will also provide actionable advice for applying each security test tool to keep your applications secure. Whether you’re a business or a developer, this comprehensive guide to security testing tools will help you protect your applications and keep them safe.
What is application security (AppSec)
Application security, often abbreviated as AppSec, refers to the practices and procedures employed to protect software applications from threats that seek to exploit security vulnerabilities in the application. The goal of application security is to identify, fix, and prevent security vulnerabilities.
Why is application security important
- Increasing Cyber Threats: As technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated, so do cyber threats. Hackers are constantly developing new methods to exploit vulnerabilities in software applications. Therefore, without proper application security, systems are left open to a variety of threats.
- Protection of Sensitive Data: Most applications handle sensitive user data, such as personal identification information, credit card numbers, and confidential business data. If an application is compromised due to a lack of proper security, this data can be stolen and misused, leading to significant financial and reputational damage.
- Regulatory Compliance: Numerous industries have regulations requiring certain levels of data security to protect sensitive personal or financial information. Examples include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States for healthcare data, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for credit card data. Failure to comply can result in substantial fines and penalties.
- Trust and Reputation: Customers trust businesses with their data and expect them to protect it. If a business suffers a data breach due to insecure applications, it can severely damage its reputation, leading to loss of customers and revenue.
- Cost of a Data Breach: The financial implications of a data breach can be significant. These costs can include not only the immediate financial loss from theft but also the cost of remediation, regulatory fines, potential lawsuits, and lost business due to reputational damage.
- Business Continuity: Many businesses rely heavily on their applications for day-to-day operations. If an application is compromised, it can result in significant downtime, disrupting the business and leading to financial losses.
Top Security Testing Tools
Static Application Security Testing (SAST)
Also known as “white box testing,” this involves evaluating the application's source code, byte code, or binary code for security vulnerabilities. It's usually performed early in the development lifecycle.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
Also known as “black box testing,” this involves testing an application while it's running to find vulnerabilities an attacker could exploit.
Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)
This combines elements of SAST and DAST by instrumenting the application to monitor data flows and identify vulnerabilities during regular use or automated testing.
Comparisons of SAST, DAST and IAST
Static Application Security Testing (SAST), Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), and Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) are all methods used to identify vulnerabilities in software applications. However, they each have their strengths and weaknesses and are used in different stages of the software development lifecycle.
Conducting Security Test
What to Consider Before Security Testing
Before launching into security testing, it's crucial to understand the scope of your assets, the potential threats you face, and the regulatory requirements your organization must comply with. You should also have clear security policies and standards in place, and select appropriate tools and techniques for your needs. Additionally, ensure your team has the necessary skills to conduct these tests and interpret the results. Finally, create a testing schedule and have an incident response plan ready for when vulnerabilities are identified.
Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC)
The Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) is a framework that integrates security considerations into every stage of software development. It's designed to identify and address security issues as early as possible, thereby reducing the cost and impact of fixing them later. The SSDLC includes stages such as requirements gathering, design, coding, testing, and maintenance, with security reviews and testing activities embedded throughout.
Resources for Security Testing
There are numerous resources available for security testing, ranging from open-source tools to professional services. These include static and dynamic application security testing (SAST and DAST) tools, penetration testing tools, vulnerability scanners, and security incident and event management (SIEM) systems. In addition, there are many online communities, forums, and training courses available that provide guidance and best practices for security testing.
SAST Best Practices
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) involves analyzing source code to identify security vulnerabilities. Some best practices for SAST include integrating it early in the development lifecycle, configuring it to match your application's technology stack, and training developers to interpret and act on the findings. It's also important to regularly update your SAST tools to ensure they can detect the latest vulnerabilities.
The process of identifying weaknesses involves using various security testing techniques to discover potential vulnerabilities in your applications. This includes conducting SAST and DAST, performing code reviews, and running penetration tests. It's crucial to analyze both the application's code and its runtime behavior, as different types of vulnerabilities may be visible at different stages.
Once vulnerabilities are identified, it's important to prioritize them based on their severity, the sensitivity of the affected assets, and the potential impact of an exploit. Risk rating systems like the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) can help with this. Prioritization ensures that the most serious vulnerabilities are addressed first.
Generating Test Reports
Test reports provide a detailed record of the security testing process and its results. These reports should include information about the tests that were run, the vulnerabilities that were identified, their severity, and recommended remediation steps. Test reports serve as a valuable tool for communicating about security issues within the organization and for tracking progress over time.
DAST Best Practices
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) involves testing a running application for vulnerabilities. DAST best practices include integrating DAST into your Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, configuring it based on your application's architecture, and correlating its results with those from other security testing techniques to improve accuracy.
Finding Open Ports
Open ports can be a security risk, as they may allow unauthorized access to your systems. Tools like port scanners can be used to identify open ports on your network, and this information can then be used to tighten your firewall rules and other security controls.
Evaluating Security Risk
Evaluating security risk involves assessing the potential impact and likelihood of various security threats. This includes considering the severity of the vulnerabilities in your applications, the value of the assets at risk, the capabilities, and intentions of potential attackers, and the effectiveness of your existing security controls.
Pros and Cons of DAST
DAST is a powerful tool for identifying vulnerabilities in runningapplications, as it can detect issues that only become apparent at runtime. It's also beneficial because it doesn't require access to the source code. However, DAST also has some limitations. It can't detect issues in the source code that isn't expressed in runtime behavior, and it can be slower and more resource-intensive than SAST. It's also possible for DAST to miss vulnerabilities if it doesn't fully explore the application's functionality.
IAST Best Practices
Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) combines elements of both SAST and DAST. It works by instrumenting the application's code and observing its behavior during testing. IAST best practices include integrating it into your automated testing activities, configuring it to focus on the areas of your application that are most likely to contain vulnerabilities, and using it to provide real-time feedback to developers.
Creating Scan Rules
Scan rules are the criteria that security scanning tools use to identify potential vulnerabilities. Creating effective scan rules requires a profound understanding of the types of vulnerabilities that can occur in your technology stack and the patterns that indicate their presence. Regularly updating your scan rules is also important, as new types of vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered.
Running a Comprehensive Scan
A comprehensive scan involves using various security testing techniques to thoroughly examine your applications for vulnerabilities. This includes SAST, DAST, IAST, and possibly manual penetration testing. To ensure your scan is comprehensive, you should make sure it covers all parts of your application, including less obvious ones like APIs and third-party components.
Monitoring Detected Vulnerabilities
Once vulnerabilities have been detected, it's important to monitor them until they're resolved. This involves keeping track of their status, reassessing their severity if new information becomes available, and ensuring that remediation activities are carried out promptly. Automated tools can be helpful for managing this process.
Security Test Results
Security test results provide valuable information about the state of your application's security. They should be carefully analyzed to understand their implications and to plan your remediation activities. It's also important to communicate these results to all relevant stakeholders, including developers, management, and compliance officers.
Reviewing Security Test Reports
Reviewing security test reports is a crucial step in understanding your application's security posture. These reports should be reviewed by various stakeholders, including security specialists, developers, and management. The review process should identify any necessary changes to your security practices and inform your remediation strategy.
Addressing Security Deficiencies
Addressing security deficiencies involves developing and implementing a plan to fix the identified vulnerabilities. This could involve patching software, changing configurations, modifying code, or even redesigning certain parts of your application. It's crucial to prioritize these activities based on the severity and potential impact of each vulnerability, and to verify that the fixes have been effective.
Strategies for Remediation
Remediation strategies involve not only fixing identified vulnerabilities, but also improving your security processes to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. This might include providing additional training for developers, integrating security testing more tightly into your development process, or investing in better security tools. It's also important to learn from each security incident and to use these lessons to continually improve your security posture.
Security Test Documentation
Documenting your security tests is crucial for understanding the security posture of your application and for communicating this to stakeholders. This documentation should include details about the scope of the tests, the techniques used, any vulnerabilities discovered, and the steps taken to address them.
Keeping Test Results Secure
The results of your security tests can be sensitive, as they might include details about vulnerabilities in your applications. Therefore, it's important to keep these results secure. This could involve encrypting the results, restricting access to them, and ensuring they're stored in a secure location.
Documentation of Test Results
Test results should be clearly documented and easily understandable. They should include details about the vulnerabilities discovered, their severity, their potential impact, and the steps needed to address them. This documentation can be used to inform remediation activities, to demonstrate compliance with security requirements, and to provide evidence of your security efforts in the event of an audit or security incident.
Benefits of Documenting Tests
Documenting your security tests has several benefits. It provides a record of your security activities, it helps you understand your application's security posture, it enables you to demonstrate compliance with security requirements, and it facilitates communication about security issues with stakeholders.
Continuous Security Testing
Continuous security testing involves regularly testing your applications for vulnerabilities, rather than doing so only at specific points in the development cycle. This approach helps you catch vulnerabilities early, when they're easier to fix, and ensures that your security posture keeps up with changes to your applications.
Automating Security Tests
Automation can significantly enhance your security testing efforts. It can increase the speed and consistency of your tests, allow you to test more frequently, and free up your security team to focus on higher-value activities. Automated security tests can be integrated into your continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to ensure that security testing is a routine part of your development process.
Limitations of Automation
While automation has many benefits, it also has some limitations. Automated tools can't fully replace human judgment and expertise, they may generate false positives or negatives, and they can only test for the types of vulnerabilities they've been programmed to detect. Therefore, it's important to complement automated testing with manual review and testing.
Benefits of Automating Testing
Automating your security testing has several benefits. It can increase the speed and consistency of your tests, reduce the risk of human error, free up your security team to focus on more complex tasks, and enable you to test more frequently and thoroughly.
Common Security Mistakes
Common security mistakes include failing to regularly update software, neglecting to test all parts of an application, failing to fix known vulnerabilities promptly, and not training developers in secure coding practices. Avoiding these mistakes can significantly improve your application's security.
Unnecessary Risk Exposures
Unnecessary risk exposures occur when an application is vulnerable to threats that could have been avoided with proper security practices. These could include vulnerabilities due to outdated software, weak configurations, insecure coding practices, or failure to follow security testing best practices.
Neglecting Security Testing
Neglecting security testing can lead to serious consequences, including data breaches, regulatory penalties, loss of customer trust, and damage to your organization's reputation. Therefore, security testing should be a key part of your software development process.
Errors in Test Execution
Errors in test execution can lead to vulnerabilities being missed or to false positives that waste time and resources. To avoid these errors, it's important to use reliable testing tools, to thoroughly train your security team, and to regularly review and update your testing procedures.
Security Test Tool Maintenance
Security test tool maintenance is crucial for effective application security testing. Tools like Micro Focus Fortify provide comprehensive application security solutions spanning SCA (Software Composition Analysis), SAST (Static Application Security Testing), and DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) and are continuously updated to cover the latest vulnerabilities and support new programming languages or versions1. For example, Fortify's Software Security Research team regularly updates its Secure Coding Rulepacks, which powers its Static Code Analyzer and WebInspect tools. These updates include support for a variety of languages like Go, Python, ECMAScript, Vue 2, iOS SDK, Salesforce Apex, Visualforce, and Google Dataflow with Java Apache Beam. By staying updated, these tools can effectively detect the latest security vulnerabilities2.
Keeping Up with Security Updates
Keeping up with security updates is essential to maintain the effectiveness of your security testing tools and processes. Regular updates from software security research teams like Fortify's provide the most recent information on vulnerabilities across different languages and technologies, enabling the tools to detect and mitigate security issues effectively.
Impact of Security Testing
Security testing has a significant impact on an organization's software development process, its overall security posture, and the quality of the software products it releases. Some key aspects to consider are:
- Vulnerability Identification: Security testing tools, such as Fortify by Micro Focus, help in identifying vulnerabilities in the codebase. The Fortify platform offers a holistic, inclusive, and extensible application security platform to guide your application security journey1. It provides a static code analyzer (SAST) for finding vulnerabilities in the code before it's run, and a dynamic analyzer (DAST) that tests applications in their running state and simulates attacks to identify vulnerabilities1.
- Broad Language Support: Fortify supports numerous programming languages. Recent updates to their tool include support for GoLang, Python, ECMAScript, Vue 2, iOS SDK, Salesforce Apex and Visualforce, Google Dataflow with Java Apache Beam, and .NET 7. This allows organizations to secure their codebase across a variety of tech stacks2.
- Reduction in Vulnerabilities: Security testing can significantly reduce the number of vulnerabilities that make it to production. According to data from BrightSec, organizations using Dev-Centric DAST saw a reduction from 86% to 50% in the percentage of organizations knowingly pushing vulnerable apps and APIs to production. It also significantly reduced the time to remediate vulnerabilities and increased the number of vulnerabilities detected in CI or earlier3.
- Cost Savings: By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities earlier in the software development lifecycle, security testing can lead to significant cost savings. The cost of fixing a vulnerability increases the later it is found in the development process, so catching these issues early can save both time and money.
- Improved Collaboration: Tools like flowcharts can generate automated tests at lightning speed, targeting in-sprint coverage and fostering close collaboration between SDETs, testers, developers, and designers4.
- Compliance: Security testing can also help ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards, which can be crucial for businesses operating in certain sectors (like healthcare or finance) or in regions with stringent data protection laws.
While the benefits of security testing are clear, it is also important to note that it can be a complex and resource-intensive process, requiring skilled professionals and a cultural shift towards incorporating security considerations into all aspects of software development.
In the evolving world of software development, security testing has become an indispensable process, not only for ensuring the integrity and security of applications but also for maintaining a reputable business image. Given the growing threats in the cyber landscape, investing in reliable security testing tools can bring substantial benefits to any organization.
Summary of Security Test Tools
Among the variety of security testing tools available, Micro Focus Fortify stands out with its comprehensive suite of security testing solutions, providing both Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) capabilities. Fortify supports an extensive range of programming languages and frameworks, thus making it a versatile choice for diverse tech stacks.
Other tools, such as Dev-centric DAST, also offer substantial benefits, including faster vulnerability remediation and a reduction in knowingly pushed vulnerabilities.
Benefits of Application Security Testing
Application security testing can yield numerous benefits, including:
- Identification and remediation of security vulnerabilities before they reach production.
- Compliance with industry regulations and data protection standards.
- Cost savings by detecting and fixing vulnerabilities early in the development lifecycle.
- Improved collaboration among different roles in the software development process.
- Enhanced overall security posture and business reputation.
Key Takeaways from this Guide
- Security testing is an integral part of the software development lifecycle, with tools providing comprehensive support for a broad range of programming languages and frameworks.
- Implementing security testing can significantly reduce the number of vulnerabilities that make it to production, improve remediation times, and increase the percentage of vulnerabilities detected earlier in the process.
- While security testing requires an investment in terms of resources and professional expertise, the benefits in terms of risk reduction, compliance, cost savings, and improved software quality make it a worthwhile investment for most organizations.
- As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, the importance of security testing in software development will continue to grow. Investing in robust security testing tools and practices is a vital step in protecting your software and your business.