Application security testing describes the various approaches used by organizations as they attempt to find and eliminate vulnerabilities in their software. Also referred to as AppSec testing and AST, application security testing is the process of testing, analyzing, and reporting on the security level of a software application as it moves through the software development lifecycle (SDLC). The idea is to successfully prevent vulnerabilities in software before you launch, then quickly identify vulnerabilities once in production, so that you have stronger source code and can make applications much more secure to inside and outside threats.
Application security testing can be static, dynamic, or interactive, and it can be manual, automated, or a combination of both. Traditional application security tools typically include a combination of web application firewalls (WAFs), static application security testing (SAST) tools, and dynamic application security testing (DAST) tools. Newer solutions introduce innovations such as automation and DevOps security integration.
Although useful, both static and dynamic application security testing are difficult to set up and false positives are often an issue. Application vulnerabilities are the leading cause of enterprise breaches and create major headaches for IT organizations, yet traditional approaches to the problem are too slow and error-prone to be effective in modern high-speed software development processes like Agile and DevOps.
An important part of code analysis is Software Composition Analysis (SCA). Today’s software applications rely heavily on open-source components, and SCA is the process of automating visibility into the use of open source software (OSS) for the purpose of risk management, security, and license compliance. SCA helps ensure that the open source components that developers embed in their applications meet basic security standards and do not introduce risk to organizations.
The majority of strategic business processes are supported by software, and high profile data breaches have ensured that everyone is well aware of the repercussions of a cyber-attack. Application security has become increasingly critical as software pervades every aspect of our business and personal lives.
Because legacy testing tools only provide a snapshot in time, they can’t keep up with today’s agile software development lifecycle processes or the many devices that run software in production. Similarly, strategies such as penetration testing, a form of ethical hacking, are only able to find a fraction of an application’s vulnerabilities.
Just imagine if you could find vulnerabilities while eliminating 99% of all false positives in your software development efforts. Interactive application security testing (IAST) allows you to do just that.
Contrast Security has invented a new ground-breaking way to perform fast and fully automated vulnerability analysis from within a running application. This revolutionary new approach (IAST) embeds security expertise in the application itself, automatically extracting context and using that information – along with both static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) techniques – to identify vulnerabilities accurately and efficiently. This embedded (agent-based), scalable, always on solution fits seamlessly across development and production environments, using Contrast sensors that provide real-time vulnerability and attack telemetry throughout application workflows.
Interactive application security testing (IAST) combines SAST and DAST techniques to increase the timeliness and accuracy of application security tests. Using an interactive application security testing approach, IAST security can cover more code, produce more accurate results, and verify a broader range of security rules than either SAST or DAST tools working alone.
IAST solutions deploy agents and sensors that continuously monitor and analyze applications as they run. They can be self-learning and produce real-time analyses as software is developed and tested. This makes them ideal for Agile, DevOps, and DevSecOps environments as they enable IT to find and fix security flaws early in the SDLC when they are easiest and cheapest to remediate.
Because IAST uses sensors embedded in an application to monitor its behavior, it is able to discover vulnerabilities very quickly and accurately. In an age of next-generation web and mobile apps, IAST provides greater testing accuracy and fewer false positives that other testing methods, and with faster results.
Static, dynamic, and even human security testing all have extreme difficulty completing comprehensive code analysis and finding deep security flaws. But with IAST-based Contrast Assess, rules or “sensors” become part of the organization’s immune system, enabling developers and DevOps teams to deliver “security as code.” Contrast Assess infuses software with vulnerability assessment capabilities that enable the automatic identification of security flaws. Application security experts can translate their research into new sensors in Contrast Assess, and then deploy them into the development process, making “security as code” a very powerful and flexible application security strategy.
DevOps security refers to the practice of safeguarding an organization’s entire development/operations environment through the use of coordinated policies, processes, and technology. But it is a constant juggling act:
Simply put, DevOps cannot be successful without bringing the Security team along.
DevOps gives information security groups the opportunity to integrate security earlier in the software development process, building best practices into all parts of the DevOps lifecycle. From inception, design, build, test, release, support, maintenance, and beyond, DevOps teams can use security tools such as automated security monitoring and automated pen testing to deliver security-as-code that:
Contrast Security has invented a new instrumentation technology that uses sensors to continually monitor the behavior of applications while they run. Interactive application security testing (IAST) is performed inside the running application, continuously monitoring and identifying vulnerabilities. Contrast Security’s aspect-oriented programming techniques create IAST “sensors” that allow Contrast to extract context, data flow, and control flow information from within the application, providing access to the actual data values passing through the running code. Because of this wealth of information, Contrast can identify problems that other tools cannot, achieving an unprecedented level of accuracy without generating false positives.
As an example, Contrast provides remediation guidance which is easy to understand and implement for vulnerabilities such SQL Injection, showing the developer exactly how untrusted data flows through the application and gets embedded in an SQL query without either validation or parameterization.
Read the Gartner 2019 report to learn why Contrast Security has been recognized as "A Visionary in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Security Testing” by:
Being acknowledged as the only "Visionary" in application security testing validates Contrast's ability to displace traditional static and dynamic application security testing tools with modern state-of-the-art solutions.
Contrast is revolutionizing the application security market by delivering a modern solution that integrates seamlessly and automates with high-velocity Agile, DevOps software development and delivery processes.
According to this report, "... interactive application security testing approaches have emerged that combine static and dynamic techniques to improve testing." That's the bottom line with IAST: When comparing static application security testing and dynamic application security testing, IAST gets the better results.
Software affects virtually every aspect of our lives, whether its finances, community, safety, government, communications, business, and our many devices. Trust is a key component in our relationship with software; if it can be misused or abused, we feel less safe and tend to pull back rather than fully embracing its valuable applications. That’s one of the key reasons Contrast Security created IAST software called Contrast Assess, which enables software applications to protect themselves against cyberattacks. Contrast Assess is accurate, easy to install, simple to use and scalable – giving software applications the ability to protect themselves against cyberattacks out in the real world, wherever they occur.
DevOps and DevSecOps Drive Innovation
DevOps increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity by integrating development and ops people around a shared set of goals, tools, and processes. DevSecOps adds security to that equation by integrating security into DevOps. The idea is to combine security with agility throughout all stages of the application development lifecycle, without reducing the agility or speed of developers or requiring them to leave their development toolchain environment.
The DevSecOps process mandates a strong collaboration between developers, release engineers, and security teams as they work toward common quality, agility, and security goals. With DevSecOps, everyone is responsible for security, and there is a “security-as-code” culture that infuses the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).
Gartner has observed that a major driver in the evolution of application security testing is the need to support enterprise DevOps initiatives. And integrating security into DevOps to deliver DevSecOps requires changing mindsets, processes, and technology. Security and risk management leaders must adhere to the collaborative, agile nature of DevOps to be seamless and transparent in the development process, making the Sec in DevSecOps silent.
In addition, the rapid adoption of DevOps is forcing security teams to shift away from traditional application security approaches that rely on one-time tests late in the application development process and focus instead on integrating security throughout the application development lifecycle.
It is no secret that software applications today are complex and can potentially be riddled with many different security issues. From bad code to misconfigured servers and everything in between, solving this problem requires security to always be top of mind.
One of the goals of DevSecOps is to build security testing into the development process. This requires the creation of strong security policies and standards that can be applied without slowing down the development process. Security has to be integrated and also automated, so that organizations can move fast and still ship high quality products.
Runtime application security protection tools (RASP) tools such as Contrast Protect run within the application in production and can help identify and prevent security issues in real time. Contrast doesn’t scan; instead, the application is instrumented with smart sensors to analyze code. Instrumentation provides developers with code analysis and security feedback as soon as they write their code – not in weeks or months. The beauty of using an interactive application security testing technique is it can help organizations tame application security challenges without disrupting software development lifecycles (SDLCs).
Contrast Protect works well with legacy, containerized, and cloud-based applications, to provide:
Software Composition Analysis tools such as Contrast OSS deliver automated open source risk management by embedding security and compliance checks in applications throughout the development process, and then performing continuous monitoring in production. Contrast is the only solution that can identify vulnerable components, determine if they are actually used by the application, and prevent exploitation at runtime.
Meet software delivery deadlines and security mandates. Contrast Community Edition for Java applications, .NET Core (and .Net Framework coming soon), and APIs delivers security-as-code that protects your software against the most common security flaws. With Contrast, you can remediate vulnerabilities early in the SDLC and monitor and defend against attacks on production applications.