Let’s start with this: the idea of a security vulnerability assessment is certainly not “breaking news”. For centuries, organizations have proactively scanned their physical security in search of real or potential weaknesses, and for decades they’ve shifted their skeptical gaze to IT systems and devices.
And while it’s true that some organizations are better at this than others (or sometimes just luckier), the fact remains that nobody needs to be reminded that security vulnerability assessments are worthwhile.
Paradoxically however, this common-sense understanding has caused many organizations to assume that their security vulnerability assessment plan is comprehensive and complete. In truth, they often have an Achilles Heel that irate customers and/or overjoyed cyber criminals will reveal down the road: that their very own applications, the lifeline of the business, are also in many cases a major gateway to customer and company sensitive data.
Fortunately, that’s where static application security testing, shortened as SAST, enters the picture.
SAST is a process in which application source code, byte code and binaries are systematically and safely analyzed outside of a production environment in order to proactively expose design and coding elements that present real or potential vulnerabilities. Simply put, SAST strengthens code and makes applications more secure and reliable — and ultimately, more functional and profitable.
In light of this, it’s clear that making SAST a key piece of the security vulnerability assessment puzzle is essential — not optional. But how should this be handled and managed? Here are seven best practices.
7 Best Practices to Maximize Static Application Security Testing:
- Develop with Security in Mind: Developing with security in mind – as opposed to “bolting” security on at later stage – ensures that security is addressed as part of the SDLC. It also enhances productivity and effectiveness throughout the process.
- Launch SAST Early: SAST can detect threats and flaws early on rather than late in the SDLC, which reduces delays and costs, and delivers faster and better ROI. Ideally, organizations should analyze the code at its raw state. This is the earliest stage of the process, and minimizes detection and mitigation efforts.
- Involve Developers: Give developers the tools, resources and autonomy they need to be part of the security effort. This allows them to keep assessment protocols from disrupting the SDLC, while they make it more efficient to detect and fix vulnerabilities.
- Stay Flexible & Agile: Ensure that SAST flexibly shifts to meet changing threats and evolving business objectives. It should also be integrated into the developer environment, and set to automatically test code after every commit in real-time, and across the full application portfolio.
- Scan Code Incrementally: Scanning the same code over and over is inefficient and slow. By scanning code incrementally, organizations can run a full scan once, and then set consecutive scans to only test code that has changed (along with associated dependencies).
- Speed up remediation: Identify the best place to address a vulnerability by marking vulnerable junctions, which impact a complete data flow and shorten remediation times. While this is beneficial for all development efforts, it’s especially valuable on large and complex projects where dozens of vulnerabilities can emerge with each scan.
- Report & Monitor: Keep an eye on application security health status and by generating reports, and using customized dashboards that highlight specific metrics (e.g. risk score trend per project, areas for improvement by team, etc.).
The Bottom Line
Naturally, SAST is not a “magic bullet”, and the above doesn’t suggest that it should outright replace traditional tools like WAF, penetration testing, DAST and so on. Such tools still have their place and should be utilized as required in a defense-in-depth environment.
However, in organizations across the world, SAST is increasingly a key piece of the security vulnerability assessment puzzle, because it’s a reliable, scalable, cost-effective – and frankly, essential — way to make customers happy, knowing their data and information is secure, while it makes cyber criminals unhappy and compels them to look for targets elsewhere.