Application Security Testing – Should You Use SAST or DAST? – Technology Org

In the last few years, applications have become the main targets of attackers, as their security is often overlooked when compared to the security of servers and networks. This is why more and more companies have been offering application security services, and an increasing number of companies developing applications have been using them.

A smartphone - illustrative photo.

A smartphone – illustrative photo. Image credit: Pixabay, free license

Namely, there are three main types of application security testing, including SAST, DAST, and IAST. Out of these three, the most popular ones are SAST (static application security testing) and DAST (dynamic application security testing). Both of these approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Let’s go over them.

What is SAST?

SAST, or Static Application Security Testing, is a type of testing that primarily analyzes the source code of an application to find security vulnerabilities. This approach is often used during the development process, as SAST tools can be integrated into the IDE or build system.

So, what are SAST tools used for? Well, SAST tools are quite effective at finding common vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and buffer overflows. They are also good at finding security issues that are specific to a certain programming language or framework. However, SAST tools frequently have false positives and may not be able to find all the security vulnerabilities in an application.

What is DAST?

DAST, or Dynamic Application Security Testing, is a type of testing that analyzes the behavior of an application to find security vulnerabilities. This approach is often used after the development process, as it does not require access to the source code. Instead, the DAST tool analyzes how the application behaves under certain circumstances.

So, unlike SAST tools which identify common vulnerabilities, DAST tools are used for pinpointing vulnerabilities that are difficult to find, like authentication and authorization issues. Moreover, the vulnerabilities that DAST solutions find are usually specific to the deployment environment, like misconfigured servers and network issues within the app. It’s also worth mentioning that just like SAST tools, DAST tools can also have false positives and may not be able to find all security vulnerabilities.

SAST vs. DAST For App Security – Comparison

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of SAST and DAST, let’s compare these two approaches to see which one is right for your needs.

Cost

Even though SAST tools are slightly more expensive than DAST ones, the vulnerabilities SAST tools find are less expensive to fix. Namely, SAST finds the issues in the early stages of the software development lifecycle, so it’s easier to fix them before they enter the later stages of development. DAST tools, however, find the vulnerabilities after the first stages of the application’s lifecycle have been over.

Ease of use

Both SAST and DAST tools are easy to use, but SAST tools have a slight advantage. This is because you don’t need access to the production environment to use SAST tools, as they analyze the source code directly. Moreover, SAST tools can be used on a wider variety of software solutions, while DAST is only useful for web apps.

Effectiveness

SAST and DAST are both incredibly effective at finding security vulnerabilities. However, SAST finds more common vulnerabilities, while DAST finds vulnerabilities that are both hard to find and critical for the project. So, we can rate them as equally effective.

False positives

Both of these testing methods can have false positives, but false positives are more common with SAST tools. Still, this is not a big issue, as false positives can be filtered out after a more thorough check.

Conclusion

We can conclude that both SAST and DAST are quite effective at finding security vulnerabilities, and each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. While SAST tools will help you find the common security issues like SQL injections, DAST will help you find much more complex issues like false authentication.

So, which type of testing should you settle for? The truth is that it’s highly recommended to use both types of testing before releasing an application on the market. This way, you can be sure that your app is secure and doesn’t have any vulnerabilities that can be exploited.


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