Dynamic Application Security Testing 101: A Comprehensive Approach

Firms use dynamic application security testing (DAST) techniques to evaluate the security of the web application by simulating specific attack methods. It’s an external form of testing from the front end by donning the role of a malicious attacker.

There are various DAST testing tools that are used during the procedure to simulate attack methods and compare the output with expected standards. Any discrepancies will be identified as security vulnerabilities and noted down for remediation at a later phase.

What is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)?

Application security testing (AST) is a vital addition to every application development and testing process. The different categories under AST are static, interactive, and dynamic application security testing along with software composition analysis. These techniques help developers to build secure code with the assistance of application security testing tools. The entire AST process can be divided into these categories:

  • Static application security testing (SAST) techniques resemble white box penetration testing methodology and allows the tester to look for flaws in the source code from within the application. It’s conducting when the application is at its rest phase which means any security issues during its runtime are generally ignored.
  • The dynamic application security testing (DAST) stage, similar to the black box penetration testing method, is where the tester designs external attacks to breach the application from outside. This is done during the runtime of the application and therefore requires dynamic testing tools for proper evaluation.
  • Interactive application security testing (IAST) is done from within the application through the instrumentation of the code. Here, the tester detects and reports security issues while the application is running. This is often considered as a combination of static and dynamic techniques.
  • Software composition analysis (SCA) involves the tester scanning the code base for proper web security testing of open source software components. In this stage, testers attempt to detect vulnerabilities while ensuring aspects such as license compliance.

There are various benefits associated with dynamic application security testing such as not requiring access to the source code, immediately finding potential vulnerabilities, and the ability to run independently of the application. However, there are certain disadvantages such as its time-consuming nature, the inability for finding the exact location of the vulnerability, and the technical knowledge required to interpret the results.

How Important is Dynamic Application Security Testing?

App developers are highly knowledgeable in matters related to coding and the building of applications. However, there are limitations that accidentally pop up which may compromise the security of the code and subsequently, the application. When using techniques such as DAST during the software development life cycle (SDLC), you’re able to detect the vulnerabilities in the early stage before it’s released to the public. If left unchecked, the deployed version could lead to data leaks and cause the firm to lose both its revenue and reputation.

Human error will inadvertently occur during the SDLC and it’s always better to be prepared and identify potential security issues at an early stage before they compromise the application. This is also the cheaper option since it takes less time and money to fix the mistakes earlier. Also referred to as the DevSecOps, this form of security testing basically involves DAST within the continuous integration/continuous development (CI-CD) pipeline.

Over 94% of 11,000 websites contain bugs within their security features, of which code quality and API abuse issues have turned out to be the main issues over the past four years.

The Dynamic Application Security Testing Methodology

DAST techniques are properly utilized with the right testing tools such as the DAST scanner which scans for vulnerabilities within a web application. It also sends automated alerts to the respective people if it finds flaws that make SQL injection or cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks possible. The main feature of such tools is that they’re able to function in a dynamic environment which allows them to detect security issues during the runtime of the application, unlike static AST (SAST).

The DAST methodology is usually conducted after the production stage since its role is to simulate attacks on a running application. However, it’s better to conduct it earlier in the development stage since you can detect the vulnerabilities sooner and save time and resources. It can also be used to crawl different kinds of applications, the APIs, and the modern frameworks. This allows the firm to achieve compliance in accordance with various data security guidelines. With this, you’re able to secure DevOps with automated DAST techniques and manage AppSec risks that may pop up. As a testing process that helps evaluate the security of the applications without slowing down development, dynamic application security testing (DAST) is an efficient method. This also explains why it forms the second-most important stage after SAST. Firms must ensure that they’re armed with the basic level of information before proceeding with the DAST procedure for better results.

Author Bio:

Ankit Pahuja is the Marketing Lead & Evangelist at Astra Security. Ever since his adulthood (literally, he was 20 years old), he began finding vulnerabilities in websites & network infrastructures. Starting his professional career as a software engineer at one of the unicorns enables him in bringing “engineering in marketing” to reality. Working actively in the cybersecurity space for more than 2 years makes him the perfect T-shaped marketing professional. Ankit is an avid speaker in the security space and has delivered various talks in top companies, early-age startups, and online events.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ankit-pahuja/

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