In the field of software development and cybersecurity, there are two primary testing methodologies known as SAST and DAST. These methodologies are often used in conjunction with each other to ensure the security and stability of software applications. In this blog, we will explore the differences between SAST and DAST and the benefits of using both approaches.
An Overview of SAST
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) analyzes the source code of an application to detect security vulnerabilities. Security vulnerabilities can take the form of SQL injections, buffer overflows, XML, XXE attacks, hard-coded credentials, vulnerable libraries, and other security risks.
SAST is a white-box testing approach in which an application is analyzed from the inside out. Testers run SAST to identify security vulnerabilities in code before it is compiled or executed. SAST saves team time and effort and improves application security.
Business Benefits of SAST
- Provides Security in the Early Stages: SAST finds vulnerabilities in source code early, but delaying tests until the end of development causes delays in fixing errors and bugs. Enables faster and more accurate testing: SAST tools quickly scan and detect issues in millions of code lines, offer continuous monitoring, and suggest mitigations for security leaks, ensuring code integrity and functionality.
- Ensures secure coding: Secure coding is necessary for all applications to prevent cyber-attacks and data theft, and maintain customer trust. SAST ensures safe coding practices and regulatory compliance from the start, preventing reputation damage.
- Enables detection of high-risk vulnerabilities: SAST tools make it possible for testers to detect high-risk application vulnerabilities, such as SQL Injections and buffer overflows, etc., throughout the lifecycle. In addition, SAST tools identify cross-site scripting (XSS) and vulnerabilities.
- Enables automated audits: It is a time-consuming and tedious task to perform manual security code audits, and the auditor should know of the possible vulnerabilities before they can examine the code thoroughly. However, SAST tools are capable of reviewing code frequently with accuracy and in less time.
An Overview of DAST
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) evaluates applications by simulating the behavior of a hacker who might attempt to break into the application. DAST tests applications in real-time and detects and reports security-related bugs against vulnerability scenarios.
DAST can be a closed box, also known as a black box, or a gray box of application functionality known to the tester. It can also be a white box, where the tester also knows the underlying technology and architecture. It also helps in testing against any insider threats. DAST helps testers identify bugs that might not be found during SAST, which only appear after testing the application at runtime.
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Business Benefits Of DAST
- Provides a broader coverage against security vulnerabilities: DAST scans and tests complex applications, including external libraries, legacy systems, and template code. It addresses various security concerns by checking how applications appear to attackers and end-users, offering comprehensive QA testing to ensure a secure application.
- Ensures greater security across environments: Since DAST is not implemented on the underlying code but from the outside, achieving the highest level of security and integrity of the application is possible. Even if updates are made to the application environment, it remains secure and entirely usable.
- Enables test deployments in the staging environment: DAST tools and techniques test applications in a staging environment for vulnerabilities. This way, Dev and QA teams are assured of the application security post-production. Using DAST tools and manual techniques, teams continuously test the application for security issues that may arise as a result of configuration updates.
- Provides support for penetration testing: DAST resembles penetration testing by intentionally injecting malicious input to identify vulnerabilities. DAST tools simplify the process by automating bug detection and reporting.
SAST vs. DAST
- While both SAST and DAST are valuable testing methodologies, they have different strengths and weaknesses. SAST testing can identify security issues early in the development process, which can save time and resources for developers and organizations. However, SAST testing can produce false positives, and it may not detect some vulnerabilities that require a running application.
- On the other hand, DAST testing can detect vulnerabilities that may not be apparent during SAST, such as configuration errors or authentication issues. DAST testing can also provide a more realistic view of an application’s security posture since it evaluates an application in a running state. However, DAST testing can produce false negatives, and it may not detect all security issues.
- Using both SAST and DAST testing methodologies together can provide a comprehensive view of an application’s security posture. SAST testing can identify security issues early in the development process, while DAST testing can detect vulnerabilities that may not be apparent during SAST. By using both methodologies together, developers and organizations can ensure that their applications are secure and reliable.
There are fundamental differences between SAST and DAST in how each approaches security testing. SAST analyzes the source code of static applications and identifies security vulnerabilities. DAST, on the other hand, tests a running application.
When comparing SAST to DAST, it is clear that SAST can be deployed earlier in the SDLC when it is relatively easy and cost-effective to address detected vulnerabilities and security issues. However, companies should not rely on a single method to detect security vulnerabilities.
It recommends a combined approach that leverages both SAST and DAST to allow for a wider range of exploitable vulnerabilities and flaws. It leverages the static and dynamic approaches of SAST and DAST for end-to-end security testing.
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