Application security is the process of making software and web resources secure and impenetrable to hijacking attempts.
As an application is made up of thousands of lines of code and hundreds of resources, it is not possible to manually secure every aspect of the application.
Application security tools help automate this process and get the job done with lesser effort and increased efficiency.
Let's see what are some of the types of application security testing tools and how they help make applications secure.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Tools
These are the application security testing tools used when the tester knows the details of the software being tested. They have access to the things like the source code of the application and the software architecture diagram.
As the name "static" suggests, these tools test the code while it is in its non-functional or static state.
Static application security testing tools can work on both compiled or uncompiled code. The ones working on an uncompiled tool can detect the things like numerical and syntax errors and double as code analyzers too.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) Tools
If the person testing the tool has no access to the source code of the application, these tools are used.
DAST tools work on a running code and check for any conditions that might lead to a security vulnerability during the execution of the application.
DAST tools look for the following vulnerabilities in a code:
The most common mechanism of action of these testing tools is fuzzing. This is when a bulk of unexpected testing scenarios is thrown onto an application to analyze the response of the app.
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools
Software composition analysis tools examine software to test all the components used to make it. These tools scrutinize the components and libraries to see if any of them has a known security vulnerability.
These tools are the best to check applications that are composed of a large number of open source components. However, the vulnerabilities in custom-developed code and in-house designed components are generally not detected by these tools.
These tools make use of vulnerability databases like the NIST National Vulnerability Database Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures as a reference to check the code against.
These tools can work on source code, byte code, binary code, or a combination of all of them.
Database Security Scanning Tools
Although databases are not technically a part of the application, applications do rely heavily on databases to function properly.
The function of database security scanning tools is to check for updated patches and versions, detect weak passwords, look for configuration errors in databases, and find out access control list issues.
Some database security scanning tools can also analyze logs to look for irregular or suspicious patterns such as unrealistically high levels of administrative actions.
These tools generally run on static data that is at rest.
Hybrid Application Security Testing Tools
Hybrid application security testing approaches, also known as interactive application security testing have been available for quite a time. They have recently become popular.
These tools use a combination of static and dynamic testing. This enables these tools to detect vulnerabilities in the code and see how they actually behave in operation.
These tools employ the knowledge of application flow and data flow to simulate advanced attack scenarios.
These tools are being used vastly in modern application security testing as they take lesser time than static or dynamic application security testing tools alone.
Mobile Application Security Testing Tools
According to the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), the top 10 mobile application risks are:
Improper Platform Usage
Insecure Data Storage
Client Code Quality
MAST tools are like hybrid application security testing tools in many ways. They make use of static and dynamic testing. These tools are focused on analyzing the issues specific to mobile environments like jail-breaking, rooting, spoofed WiFi connections, prevention of data leakage, and handling and validation of certificates.
One of the biggest issues in application security testing is that of false positives. Correlation tools are used to cross-check these issues against a central repository.
The principle of working of these tools is based on the fact that different application security testing tools make use of different approaches. Correlation tools smartly compare the results of these scans to find out what's an actual issue and what is just a bug in the application security testing procedure.
As evident from the name, test coverage analyzers find out how much of the code of an application has been tested. These provide the tests in the form of statement coverage, a percentage of the code tested or branch coverage, the percentage of available paths tested.
Every application development team sets an acceptable percentage of code testing for it to be acceptable.
Coverage analysis tools make speed the test and deploy process up by providing a measure of how much of the code has been tested.
How To Select an Application Security Testing Tool?
There are a number of factors that you need to keep in mind while selecting a security testing tool for your project.
This selection depends mainly on the level of access the developer team has.
If the source code is available, it is the best approach to use static tools as they can analyze every single line of the code.
In the projects where the code is not available, dynamic application security testing tools are the right choice.
Likewise, if a considerable portion of the code is made of open source components, you'll need to test the code with a software composition analysis code.
For applications that are large and extensive, the best approach is to use hybrid tools as they speed up the testing process.
Mobile application security tools are the best approach for testing apps that are developed for mobile environments.
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