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What is Application Security Testing and How Does it Affect Software?

AppSec Risk Visibility

Publish Date

Jun 21, 2021

Written by

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ZeroNorth

Tagged with

  • Application Security

In a nutshell, application security (AppSec) testing is the process of ensuring software is built to be as resistant as possible to outside threats. When applications are secured through effective testing methods, weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the source code and third-party components can be easily identified, managed and actioned before the software is deployed.

AppSec testing began as a manual process, but due to the growing need for more software, a large number of open source components, and the rapidly evolving threat landscape, it has often become an automated one. While some organizations continue to deploy manual processes to test for software flaws and vulnerabilities, most quickly determine this route will not scale. As a result, they are turning to automation to gain more consistent and effective forms of testing.

Although it’s true most organizations today don’t have an effective AppSec program in place, the ones who do typically rely on a combination of different AppSec tools, including both open source and commercial ones, to execute their scans. Different tools find various types of vulnerabilities and boost security efficacy at various phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC). The main tools found in this process include:

  • Static AppSec Testing (SAST) inspects the static source code of an application, testing the internal operations of the system, to report weaknesses in the software.
  • Dynamic AppSec Testing (DAST) focuses on behavioral testing of applications, which means it is based on software requirements and specifications.
  • Interactive AppSec Testing (IAST) tools combine the two approaches of SAST and DAST tools to find a broader range of security weaknesses and to provide important information on the root cause of vulnerabilities—including specific lines of problematic code.
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools help manage the use of open source components by performing automated scans of an application’s code base.

Best Practices for AppSec Testing

With the threat landscape being what it is, businesses today must view AppSec testing as a business imperative. Testing critical systems is essential for a variety of reasons. It allows organizations to focus on high-impact threats, prioritize security issues, and allocate resources to expedite remediation. A robust AppSec program should rely on data, not guesswork. Enterprise analytics and reporting within an AppSec program can produce actionable data from disparate scanning tools, information that can then be used to solve the five biggest hurdles in AppSec and enable practitioners to drive better:

  1. Accountability—Who is responsible for security and the digital hygiene of the business? Issues around accountability directly relate to the need for AppSec visibility. CISOs and executives can’t hold anyone in the business accountable when they don’t have the visibility they need into risk and security gaps.
  2. DevSecOps practices—How can AppSec and DevOps teams come together under a more federated approach? The practice of DevSecOps is rooted in the need to implement security measures at the speed and scale of DevOps, at all stages of the software development life cycle (SDLC). For true DevSecOps to be realized, security must be tightly integrated into DevOps, with no exceptions.
  3. Management of security tools—How do you gain clear oversight of tools and the load of data they produce? Most organizations use at least a handful of scanning tools to test their code, from its early beginnings until it is compiled into applications and deployed in production. With numerous assets being scanned, these tools generate vast amounts of disparate vulnerability data, often with different taxonomies, formats or naming conventions.
  4. Prioritization of risk—How can you sort through the data to prioritize what really matters? Security, engineering and corporate leaders must get on the same page if they hope to make smart business and operational decisions based on a comprehensive, real-time view of risk. When organizational risk is evaluated on legitimate data rather than guesswork, CISOs can successfully build and measure a consistent, scalable AppSec governance program—on an enterprise, business or application level.
  5. Business decisions—How can security data translate into practical outcomes? Quality software is the foundation of most business today—and the foundation for the global economy going forward. It drives higher productivity, lowers the total cost of ownership, and provides a significant economic benefit to the enterprise.

Because the threat landscape is always changing, AppSec testing must occur often, at all stages of the SDLC, from code commit to build to deployment. And when proper metrics are in place, key findings from testing practices can be easily and effectively communicated to interested parties such as executives and the Board.

Solutions Found at ZeroNorth

To facilitate better AppSec testing, businesses must find an effective way to manage and maintain their security programs. This ability comes through one thing only: clear and comprehensive AppSec visibility. While every AppSec journey is different, organizations should strive to find this degree of high-level insight, compete with granular details. It is what allows for smart decision-making across the board. Businesses can’t possibly handle security without a full picture of the risk they face, and ZeroNorth provides this single source of truth on AppSec risk for the application portfolio.

A SaaS solution, the ZeroNorth DevSecOps platform is ideal for engineering and security teams who need a fast and cost-effective way to jumpstart their AppSec program. ZeroNorth offers built-in, ready-to-run open source scanning tools coupled with the automation, DevOps pipeline orchestration, central management, workflows and reporting necessary to rapidly identify, prioritize and remove vulnerabilities. With ZeroNorth, organizations will improve application security and reduce risk, as they begin their journey to DevSecOps.

To find out more about how ZeroNorth can help your businesses build out (or even stand up for the first time) a robust AppSec program, visit our website or contact us directly. We have solutions for every stage of your journey to better security.


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