Dynamic Application Security Testing – DAST – is by far the biggest game-changer when it comes to a company’s security mindset — embracing the idea of using their apps as punching bags and witnessing if they have what it takes to go head to head against the digital Rocky’s of the world. In this article, we’re going to explain what exactly that little analogy means. And, more importantly, how DAST differs from SAST. We’ll give you an in-depth look at the pros and cons of Dynamic Application Security Testing methodology and its integration into your cybersecurity frameworks.
What is Dynamic Application Security Testing – DAST?
DAST functions as an integral part of application security by actively scanning a running application to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could be abused by attackers. It operates with a black-box testing mentality — meaning it tests the application from an external perspective, without any knowledge of its internal workings. It attacks the app without foreknowledge of its codes and inner workings, just like a hardier would.
DAST evaluates the application’s visible response to different inputs, monitors how it handles errors and investigates if sensitive information is leaked through error messages or other means. By scanning the application dynamically, it can uncover security weaknesses that might not be apparent during static code analysis or manual audits. Regular Dynamic Application Security Testing procedures can help ensure that applications remain secure over time, especially as new vulnerabilities are discovered and new threats come out of the woodwork.
The Advantages of Dynamic Application Security Testing
Let’s look at some of the benefits of DAST and what it brings to the table.
Identifies Security Vulnerabilities in a Live Environment
DAST allows enterprises to pinpoint and understand potential security vulnerabilities in a live active environment. By simulating attacks and scanning the application from the outside, DAST can uncover weaknesses that might not be obvious during static testing or code reviews. It gives companies an overview of how an app will respond out in the wild — not in the sanitized environment of our systems, but in the back-alley dirty outskirts of the net.
Supporting Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment – CI/CD
DAST works well within CI/CD pipelines, aiding in the rapid development and deployment of applications. By integrating DAST tools at the various stages of these two processes, security scanning can be automated, ensuring that each release is thoroughly tested for vulnerabilities.
Enhancing Compliance with Regulations
To avoid fines and preserve client trust, businesses must abide with industry laws, including the General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR – and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard – PCI DSS —- this is where most of your cybersecurity tools, including but not limited to DAST, come into play.
Lowering Business Risks
DAST mitigates business risks by identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities. This protects sensitive customer information, safeguards business-critical data, and preserves the reputation of the organization.
The Disadvantages of Dynamic Application Security Testing
Now, let’s dig in and try to understand where DAST falls short. Even though Dynamic Application Security Testing – DAST – is an effective tool for identifying weaknesses in web applications, it has some disadvantages worth considering:
While DAST allows identifying vulnerabilities that may be missed by other approaches, it may not provide a comprehensive analysis of the entire application. It’s important to use all your tools – not just one – when testing an app. You have to slap it with everything in your arsenal and see whether or not it passes the digital litmus test.
False Positives and Negatives
DAST testing tools may produce false positives and negatives, requiring manual work to check and validate the results. Relying solely on DAST may lead to a false sense of security if these issues are not adequately addressed.
Skilled Personnel Requirement
The effective use of DAST requires personnel with the necessary expertise to interpret and understand the tool’s results. Without skilled personnel, the results may be misinterpreted or mismanaged, leading to inadequate security measures.
Focuses on the Application Layer
The tool and general platform may not pick up on certain kinds of security problems at other layers because it is mostly concerned with finding vulnerabilities at the application layer.
It’s important to note that while DAST has its limitations, it still is a valuable tool in an application security testing program. Integrating it with other testing approaches, such as Static Application Security Testing – SAST – and manual penetration testing, can achieve a thorough full assessment of the application’s security posture.
Situations Where DAST Method is Most Appropriate
The Dynamic Application Security Testing – DAST – methodology is an appropriate mindset in the following situations:
Web Application Security Assessment
DAST assesses the security of web applications by focusing on vulnerabilities that may arise due to configuration issues, coding errors, or the insecure handling of user input.
Black Box Testing
DAST is useful when testing third-party applications, commercial off-the-shelf – COTS – products, or any application where the source code is unavailable or inaccessible.
Real-World Attack Simulation
DAST tools interact with the application to simulate real-world attacks, enabling businesses to comprehend the possible impact of the app’s vulnerabilities in a more realistic setting. This helps businesses properly Marshall their forces — in most cases, due to various factors, a company doest have the manpower to fix all holes in their systems at once. With DAST, companies can better distribute their efforts and prioritize errors or attack scenarios over others.
Continuous Integration and Deployment – CI/CD
CI/CD provides continuous security testing throughout the stages of the SDLC, such as during code commits or before application deployments. This is critical because according to IBM and others, fixing an error early in the application’s creation can end up costing a company 5X less than if it was patched further down the line.
Compliance and Risk Mitigation
Conducting regular DAST scans aids organizations in finding and addressing security issues, reducing their overall risk exposure. It also helps companies automate their compliances — in many cases, each time a new jurisdictional or legal landmine comes into play, DAST’s protocols are updated by its vendors.
Rapid Application Testing
DAST can quickly scan and assess web applications, making it suitable for organizations with a high volume of applications or frequent updates.
DAST or SAST?
It is essential to remember that while DAST offers the benefit of identifying vulnerabilities in applications before they become a security issue for companies, it also has limitations, such as limited scope, just to mention a few. DAST plays a crucial role in a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, complementing other testing methods. But it is not the only tool in your box — nowadays companies have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at their security challenges. Why? Because their opponents are doing just that — and unlike you, they play dirty and have no morals to dictate or limit their actions.