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The ABCs of AppSec Testing: IAST & SAST

With cybercrime on the rise, application security remains a massive challenge for organizations and governments across the globe. When it comes to the safety of applications, Penetration Testing (Pen Testing) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) both remain standing as capable solutions, but both come with a fair share of inherited weaknesses which raise significant limitations within today’s development landscape.




DAST, also known as Black-Box Testing, tests for vulnerabilities on a running application. And though this method is helpful when locating numerous vulnerabilities, there are also limitations. For starters, the application must be past the build stage in order for results to show, and this may cause huge delays when dealing with complex and larger projects that require multiple builds every day. It also requires a longer turnaround cycle, and automation becomes challenging when new configurations need to be set up due to changes in the tested application itself.


Pen-testing involves the active hacking of the application, and requires either its own team or a third-party vendor. Like DAST, pen-testing is also performed near the end of the SDLC, thus exposing similar limitations. Additionally, solely depending pen-tests is not only slow but also very expensive with limited long term value for the development teams and the organization.  


Static Application Security Testing (SAST): Securing the Foundation of the Application

With the application layer being targeted and attacked more than ever, the growing consensus is that security should focus on the foundation of the application – the source code. This is where SAST comes into play, as it enables the quick and effective scan of the source code and detects issues before the build stage of development is reached.


Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is an already proven effective method of scanning source code and detecting vulnerabilities early in the development lifecycle. SAST analyzes source code to help find the threats hiding inside of the code. By applying security and preventing vulnerabilities from the start and by incorporating security throughout the SDLC, you end by releasing reliable and secure applications, faster.



By opting for static analysis, organizations can start the security process early in the development stage. The scanning of source code allows the quick detection of SQL injections, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and other common vulnerabilities that appear in today’s leading security reference lists such as the OWASP Top-10 and SANS 25. It’s also easy to comply with industry specific standards (for example, with PCI DSS, and HIPAA).


Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST): The Future

In a nutshell, IAST is the modern approach to DAST and is regarded by many InfoSec experts as the future of dynamic application security testing. According to Gartner, IAST gives good visibility into app code and execution. Additionally, the research firm predicts that by 2019, enterprise IAST adoption will exceed 30%.


We agree – we believe that by 2019, IAST will outpace DAST in terms of market size and will replace DAST as an automated tool. DAST will remain a pen-testing tool, provided by in-house or outsourced pen-testing experts. However, when properly delivered, IAST will overcome the majority of DAST’s drawbacks and allows fast paced development shops to maintain full security automation across the SDLC.


IAST completes the detection of vulnerabilities that may not be found in static scans, and extends application security testing in the CI/CD pipeline. Furthermore, IAST solutions are designed for DevOps and CI environments – without the need for DAST as an ‘enabler’ – and delivers results in zero time and with minimal effort, thus making the integration of security truly effortless within the application development process.



How IAST and SAST Complete Each Other

  • SAST scans static source code early in the SDLC, and IAST monitors a running application in testing environments
  • The synergy between SAST and IAST will be the key for DevSecOps success
  • SAST provides full code vulnerability coverage, and IAST provides runtime vulnerability coverage
  • SAST analyzes the full source code, while IAST scans a full stack application (including third-party libraries, frameworks, in-house code, and more)
  • SAST Shifts Left and IAST Shifts Right


The best approach to application security is to combine two or more solutions, and together, SAST and IAST provide complete coverage. This is the way to create a multi-layered security strategy with the goal of detecting as many vulnerabilities as possible before your application hits the market and to ensure that releases will be secure and on-time, minimizing the need for costly post-release maintenance. Though IAST is still the new kid on the block, the future of fighting cybercrime with IAST on our side looks bright.

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