Secure software development finds its roots in code analysis and application security testing. These disciplines have advanced tremendously in the last five years. Security testing is now increasingly offered as a service, testing results come with more context, and training sessions are often more refined.
Yet one issue persists: developing secure software is not an easy task. Adding security to any application is a hassle owing to: a.) a wide variety of security testing tools, b.) lack of support for some application development frameworks and programming languages and c.) the struggle to trim down security results to the ones that matter the most.
When you give developers more control over the security of their software, you need to invest in training them accordingly. While the security of a software application is a goal in and of itself, the ultimate payoff is reducing the cost of creating and maintaining the software. The cost of fixing bugs in the production environment is so high that eliminating them before that phase can help you save anywhere between 20 to 50 percent on costs.
The quicker a tool can notify a user of an underlying vulnerability; lesser is the cost of fixing it. Before diving deep into coding practices that can enhance application security, let’s look at various application security tools:
Classifying Application Security Testing tools
Here are three kinds of application security testing tools that address different areas of the security landscape:
- Static analysis tools – These tools have been around for over two decades now, and search for known patterns of defects and vulnerabilities in the source code and release warnings to the developer.
- Dynamic analysis tools – These tools execute known types of attacks against a running instance of the software, which is usually a web application, and then determine the vulnerability of that application.
- Interactive analysis tools – These tools use an agent running on an app server, or library built into the code during compilation to create an instrumented version of the app. This version can then be used to monitor behavior indicating an attack or vulnerabilities.
Best practices to implement App Security
Dynamic application security testing is an excellent place to start for organizations with no real secure code development cycle. DAST tools scan apps for vulnerabilities, with a strong focus on vetting web apps.
Starting an initiative for better coding with dynamic analysis can help you convince developers that the technology is useful. This is because all vulnerabilities that get exposed to dynamic analysis can be exploited to some extent.
Since this technology requires less knowledge of app security, it can be rapidly deployed within an organization, either on-premise or as a service. You get quick wins by discovering critical vulnerabilities that give developers more perspective on the security of their software.
Before adopting any technology, a key consideration is how well it fits into your development environment. Security managers need to take stock of the internal development environment, especially since developers cannot match their coding language to fit the needs of an application security testing tool.
Furthermore, covering a company’s entire application portfolio will most certainly need a range of security testing solutions. This is also helpful because each technology brings with unique strengths. No one technology vendor can help guard your entire application portfolio, and so integrations are essential.
Application security testing is becoming an increasingly dynamic field. Since technologies and requirements change every year, security teams need to experiment with new tools to see what works best for them.
For security teams that have already implementing dynamic analysis, piloting static or interactive application security is a good next move. Programming languages and platforms used in development are not the only tools for testing these technologies. It also depends on the company’s overall philosophy of development and what other tools are a part of the existing infrastructure.
Static analysis tools can be a great way to issue immediate feedback to developers on common vulnerabilities. Dynamic analyses typically have low false positives and are well suited for online apps and services.
Interactive analysis, which is relatively new, allows the collection of runtime data for later analysis. While it might take time for you to adopt the latest techniques, it makes sense to assess where these might fit into your application security environment.
Vulnerability Intelligence Insights
Implementing application security testing might take time for both deployment and processing of the analysis results. AST can produce a lot of data on likely defects in the code. For better ROI from these efforts, you can customize systems and fine-tune them to meet the appropriate balance you need within your organization.
Multiple tools can add more layers to the security of your applications at the expense of making vulnerability discovery more complicated.
Figuring out which of these application security testing methodologies work for you is an important step in shifting towards application security as part of the coding process.
To take measurable steps in the direction of straightening up your enterprise’s security, you can always turn to a solution suite such as CAINS from WeSecureApp. The tool helps you address security needs across your comprehensive application and infrastructure landscape.