Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

Gadi Bashvitz
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dynamic application security testing dast

What is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)?

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is an Application Security Testing methodology in which the application is tested in operating mode, from the outside-in. As DAST tools don’t have access to the application and API’s source code, they detect vulnerabilities by performing actual attacks, similar to a real hacker.

Therefore, DAST solutions are a perfect fit if you want a better insight into how your web applications and APIs behave in production. While code scanning is an important part of the process of making your applications more secure, code scanners have many limitations. In addition to having a very high rate of false-positives and being limited to specific development languages and frameworks, some vulnerabilities only exist in the runtime environment, and if you don’t utilize a DAST tool, they will be missed.

The best way to utilize a DAST tool is to integrate it into the SDLC. This allows you to test applications as they evolve, and detect and remediate security risks before they become serious risks. Moreover, the right DAST solution which will integrate into the CI/CD will enable developers to run DAST scans and remediate issues early in the SDLC.

Why do you need a DAST tool?

While ransomware exploits fill the headlines, neglecting web application attacks poses a high risk, and organizations are more exposed than ever. This is a result of more organizations shifting to modern web-services architectures and a broader adoption of APIs.

Web application attacks pose a major threat to any organization, regardless of size or type. Take SQLi or XSS for example; a malicious user can use such attacks to steal session cookies, user credentials, and other sensitive information. This can result in significant financial or reputational damage.

A significant increase in attacks at the application and API layer

Attackers are launching more and more attacks at the application and API layer. Organizations that don’t utilize any form of application security testing are unable to identify these attacks when they occur and could experience significant damage.

In order to prevent attackers from stealing sensitive data from your systems, you need to find and remediate these vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. This is where dynamic application testing tools shine. They test the same interfaces that attackers would use to break into a service.

DAST is capable of finding issues in a microservices architecture

Dynamic security analysis is capable of finding issues and attacks other testing methodologies miss. This is especially true if your applications rely on a microservices architecture.

While SAST tools are great at code scanning, they can’t identify how each microservice is interacting. SAST tools are also limited by the environments they can scan due to their language dependency & are wrat with false positives. DAST solutions overcome these limitations by testing the applications from the outside, in a production-like environment, ‘seeing’ how each microservice is interacting. This can be done from the pull request level all the way through the staging environment.

Instead of simply reporting vulnerabilities that may or may not pose a risk, black-box testing tools report only issues that represent real risks.

DAST vs SAST

Dynamic application security testing is one of many application security testing methodologies. One of the most popular alternative approaches to application security testing is Static Application Security Testing.

Here is why DAST is ideal for web applications:

– A downside of SAST solutions is that they have to support the programming language and application framework in use by the application.

– Only those issues that represent a real risk are reported. With SAST it can be challenging determining if a finding represents a real risk or not.

– It can be used as early as the build phase of the SDLC. You can simulate attacker behavior without lengthy pen-testing. SAST takes place earlier in the SDLC, but can only find issues in the code.

– It detects risks that occur due to complex interplay of modern frameworks, microservices, APIs, etc. SAST solutions are limited to code scanning.

– In comparison to SAST, DAST is less likely to report false positives.

Unlike SAST tools, Dynamic analysis tools are language agnostic. They don’t need to have the same programming language or framework as the application you scan.

Dynamic application security testing solutions, like a real hacker, don’t have access to source code. Using them has more real-world benefits.

How DAST tools enhance web application security

By using dynamic analysis to identify vulnerabilities earlier in the SDLC, organizations can reduce risk while saving resources. It is a major concern for security people to have as few false-positive results as possible to focus on real threats. It takes on average 38 days to fix a vulnerability. If the vulnerability was not a real threat, those are 38 costly days of needless delay.

Organizations can use DAST to assist with PCI compliance and other regulatory reporting.

In addition to streamlining compliance, a dynamic analysis solution can help developers spot configuration mistakes or issues, but also highlight specific user experience problems.

Integrating DAST with SDLC

DAST has been around since the mid-90s, but struggled to find its place in the SDLC processes until only a few years ago.

DevOps brought the change. Today, dynamic analysis tools can be easily integrated with popular issue trackers such as JIRA, GitHub, ServiceNow, and Slack. Like any other type of automated AST solutions, DAST solutions can be integrated with CI platforms such as Jenkins, CircleCI, TravisCI, JFrog Pipelines or Azure DevOps.

Organizations want to implement application security testing into the SDLC because the sooner a security issue is detected, the cheaper it is to fix.

NeuraLegion’s Next-Gen DAST Solution

Unlike other Dynamic Application Security Testing tools on the market, NexDAST was built from ground-up with developers in mind. It lets developers automatically test their apps & APIs for vulnerabilities with every build.

NexDAST tests every aspect of your apps. It enables you to scan any target whether Web Apps, APIs (REST/SOAP/GraphQL), Web Sockets and mobile applications.

It seamlessly integrates with the tools & workflows you already use. NexDAST will automatically trigger scans on every commit, pull request or build with unit testing.

Instead of just crawling applications and guessing, NexDAST interacts with applications and APIs. As our AI-Powered engine can understand application architecture and generate sophisticated and targeted attacks, the scans are blazing fast.

By first verifying and exploiting the findings, we make sure we don’t report any false positives. Stop chasing ghosts and wasting time. Try NexDAST today.

Integrate Automated Security Testing across the CI/CD.

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