Understanding Static Application Security Testing

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Application security has always been a critical issue for developers. And with modern applications becoming increasingly complex, it’s becoming more of a challenge to secure them from potential cyberattacks. 

In fact, according to Contrast Security’s The State of DevOps report, more than 99% of technologists say every app in production contains at least four vulnerabilities. SAST – static application security testing is a critical aspect of software development that ensures application security by testing and identifying potential security threats in your code before you deploy it.

In this article, we’ll delve into static application security testing, its importance, benefits, and how you can implement it yourself.

What is static application security testing?

Static application security testing (SAST) (also called white box testing) is a type of security testing that involves the analysis of source code, or compiled versions of code. Developers conduct SAST during the very early stages of development, before they even run the code. The goal here is to uncover security vulnerabilities that might not be visible during runtime.

The beauty of SAST is that it allows devs to spot and fix security issues early on in the development process, saving time and resources. Think of it like proofreading a book before you publish it. You want to guarantee the final product is flawless.

Why is SAST important? 

The obvious reason is cybersecurity. A data breach in the US costs an average of $9.44 million, and other implications include lost customer trust, churn, and an overall tarnished brand image. 

That’s where SAST comes in. By identifying vulnerabilities as early as possible, SAST helps your dev team ensure your apps are secure from the get-go. While security issues will come up consistently over time, ignoring the immediate ones will only create a snowball effect.

SAST can also help you improve the overall quality of your code and foster a culture of security within your organization. Some of these issues might be basic human errors; it will save you costly and time-consuming fixes further down the line.

6 steps to run SAST effectively

To reap the benefits of early vulnerability detection, improved code quality, and cost and time savings, you have to implement SAST correctly. Follow these six steps to effectively run SAST within your organization:

1. Integrate SAST tools into the software development lifecycle: Choose a SAST tool that best fits your programming languages, frameworks, and security requirements. Consider its integration capabilities with your development environment and its ability to customize rules and policies as well.

2. Configure and customize your SAST tool: It should align with your application’s architecture and coding practices. Define the rules and policies that match your security protocols and risk tolerance. Exclude false positive patterns that don’t apply to your context.

3. Train devs and security analysts on using the SAST tool effectively: This includes how to initiate scans, interpret results, and remediate identified vulnerabilities. 

4. Implement continuous scanning in your CI/CD pipeline: Automated scans should be triggered with every significant code change and at regular intervals to ensure consistent security assessment.

5. Analyze your results: Identify true positives, false positives, and irrelevant findings. Prioritize vulnerabilities based on severity, exploitability, and impact on your application.

6. Create a feedback loop: Use your findings from SAST to improve your secure coding guidelines and practices. Update all your training materials and development policies when you identify serious issues.

Endnote

Static application security testing is a crucial aspect of software development that can help you ensure security once you deploy your application. By pinpointing and fixing the problems early in the development process, SAST saves you significant time and resources over the long term and improves the quality of your code. By extension, it improves the quality of your application, too.