Application Security Testing (AST): Essence, Value, Types and Tools

Application Security Testing (AST): Essence, Value, Types and Tools

Application security testing: the essence

Application security testing (also referred to as AppSec testing and AST) is the process of identifying security flaws and vulnerabilities in an application to make it more resistant to security threats. An application’s security can be tested at any point during or after development.

The best practice is to verify all security measures are implemented during development, and then regularly check a running application taking into account its operation and infrastructure specifics

Application security testing benefits

Application security testing helps:

  • Identify application security flaws and provide a better insight into exploitable vulnerabilities and how to address them.
  • Save time and costs on fixing security issues that could lead to potential reputational and financial damage.
  • Protect customer data used by an application and build customer confidence.
  • Improve the overall security posture of an organization.

Types of security testing

There are five main types of security testing:

  • Vulnerability scanning. Often powered by automated tools, vulnerability scanning is used to identify common loopholes and vulnerabilities, such as a vulnerability to SQL injections, insecure server configuration, and more.
  • Security scanning. Security scanning aims to identify all potential security threats in an application. These threats are further listed and analyzed to identify their root causes. Both manual and automated scanners can be used for this type of security testing.
  • Penetration testing. Penetration testing implies imitating a cyberattack to detect potential security loopholes in an application. Typically, a certified cybersecurity specialist carries this type of testing manually to assess software’s resilience to cyber threats in real time.
  • Ethical hacking. Ethical hacking is much broader than penetration testing. Combining several types of security testing, cybersecurity experts try to hack an application to find vulnerabilities before a real attacker can find and exploit them.

Security testing tools

There are many tools for identifying security weaknesses in applications on the market, including:

  • Static application security testing (SAST) tools. SAST tools examine the source code for security flaws and deliver a detailed report on the findings. These tools help detect issues like path traversals, race conditions, and more.
  • Dynamic application security testing (DAST) tools, or vulnerability scanners. DAST tools can help find vulnerabilities in a running application before it goes live. DAST is a type of black-box testing in which testers are unaware of the system's source code. These tools often employ a fuzzing technique. It implies attacking the application using malformed or semi-malformed data injection to find scenarios in which the application can be exploited.
  • Interactive application security testing (IAST) tools and hybrid tools help determine if the known source code flaws and vulnerabilities are exploitable while the application is running. As compared to DAST tools, IAST tools produce fewer false positives and are faster to implement, which makes them especially useful in Agile and DevOps environments.
  • Mobile application security testing (MAST) tools perform some functions of the traditional static and dynamic analyzers but also evaluate the mobile application code for mobile-specific issues.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution

Conducting application security testing during and after development can help save time and money on eliminating security threats in the future as well as prevent reputational damage. When it comes to the choice of testing tools, there is no perfect solution. Therefore, it's preferable to hire a professional who will perform security testing using tools fitting your application’s specifics and testing goals. If you need assistance in performing any type of security testing, don’t hesitate to contact our team.



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