These days, as growing numbers of businesses and organizations rely on software to streamline their workplace processes, the threat of hacking is also on the rise.
Hackers continually attempt to locate and exploit loopholes in the software. Their goal is usually to gain access to sensitive information and potentially breach the data of hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
With high-profile hack attacks regularly making headlines, organizations have been investing in a variety of application security testing methods.
These techniques allow software developers and network administrators to find and patch up any loopholes before hackers have the chance to find them.
DAST And SAST – What They Are
Two of the most prominent software testing methods are known as DAST and SAST.
DAST stands for dynamic application security testing, while SAST stands for static application security testing. It is designed to help with application security testing and involves seeking out potential weak spots and security hazards.
It achieves this through what is known as closed box testing, without any access to the application’s source code. In this way, DAST emulates the attack of a hacker or ‘malicious actor’, attempting to breach an application’s defenses by locating undiscovered vulnerabilities. DAST is usually implemented during the later phases of an application’s development.
SAST, on the other hand, carries out what is known as open box testing, using the software’s source code to scan for loopholes and weak spots.
This is done during the early phases of the software’s development. The purpose of SAST is to look out for vulnerabilities ranging from buffer overflows to SQL injection and external entity attacks.
What DAST Is Useful For?
DAST has a variety of uses; as well as being used to detect the security levels of a particular application, it has a wider reach and can even be used to evaluate an organization’s entire network.
The problems it can detect include encryption or authentication problems, which could allow unauthorized users to gain access. It can be used to test your network’s data storage and other elements of your IT framework.
Additionally, it can locate any misconfiguration in your company’s servers and databases that could potentially leave your network vulnerable to a breach.
A Word On Fuzzing
You may have heard the term ‘fuzzing’ or ‘fuzz testing’ when discussing the various processes involved in software security testing.
Fuzz testing is one of the techniques encompassed by DAST and involves injecting malformed or invalid inputs into a system and then monitoring the effects, looking out for issues such as memory leaks and system crashes.
Fuzz testing has been around for decades but has developed over the years, with more complex ‘fuzzing’ tools being created – such as smart fuzzers. These inject inputs are specifically designed to match a particular system’s format.
This can be crucial for those applications which do not run unless valid input has been provided. If the application refuses to execute, it is impossible to test.
You can find out more about fuzzing, as well as the other forms of application security testing, but checking out ForAllSecure’s guide.
What SAST Is Useful For
SAST – which has a variety of names, including white box testing – can be used to great effect during the coding phase of software development to pinpoint any security flaws. It enables these issues to be fixed before the code is compiled.
SAST techniques and tools have been around for about fifteen years, and during that time, these tools have been developed and enhanced to provide ever more efficient methods of scanning.
As a result, the latest SAST tools have the ability to scan effectively and more speedily, detecting any weak spots and ensuring that applications meet the appropriate legal requirements for security and privacy.
Because SAST detects problems early, organizations have plenty of time to fix them, whether the problem lies in a straightforward coding error or a vulnerability that needs patching. This saves time and money, removing the need for costly fixes later on in the developmental process.
Which Method To Use?
As you can see, both white and black box testing – or SAST and DAST respectively – have their unique uses and benefits when it comes to application security testing. But which should you use for your organization to ensure your software has no weak spots that a hacker could exploit?
While some companies may prefer one method of testing over another, arguably the most effective form of testing is a hybrid method that integrates SAST and DAST.
They each have their own unique benefits, and because they are designed for use at different stages of the software development life cycle, it is a simple matter to employ them both.
Start off with white box testing early in your application’s development as a means of seeking out common flaws and vulnerabilities. Then, when the application is nearing completion, start using DAST techniques such as fuzz testing to find any loopholes or weak spots that may have been missed but which a hacker could still use to their benefit.
By using a wide-reaching blend of both types of application security testing, you will have ensured that your software has undergone rigorous checks and can meet the required standards for safety and compliance.