May 18, 2023

Dynamic Application Security Testing Best Practices

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) identifies vulnerabilities in running applications by simulating real-world attacks. Implement DAST with clear goals, appropriate tools, continuous monitoring, and integration with other testing methods for comprehensive security coverage.

Ensuring robust application security is of paramount importance. With the rise in cyber threats and sophisticated hacking techniques, companies can no longer afford to overlook application security. As businesses increasingly rely on web and mobile applications, it is vital to adopt a proactive approach to security. One such practice that has emerged as a crucial aspect of application security is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST). This article delves into the ins and outs of DAST, the steps involved in implementing it, and the tools and techniques that can help you stay ahead of security threats.

What is Dynamic Application Security Testing?

Dynamic Application Security Testing, or DAST, is a technique used for analyzing an application's security in real time while it’s running. It identifies vulnerabilities and potential threats within a live application by simulating attacks from external sources. As opposed to static testing methods, where code is inspected at the development stage, DAST focuses on analyzing the application during runtime.

This approach allows testers to identify issues that may not be evident during the development stage. It exposes vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by attackers, providing companies with valuable insights into potential weaknesses in their applications. By integrating DAST into their application security best practices, businesses can ensure that their applications are thoroughly tested and better protected against malicious attacks.

What are Some Key Advantages of Implementing DAST?

One of the key advantages of DAST is that it provides a more realistic view of an application's security posture. By simulating real-world attacks, DAST can identify vulnerabilities that may not be apparent through other testing methods. This is particularly important as cyber attacks become more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

Another benefit of DAST is that it can be integrated into the software development life cycle (SDLC) at multiple stages. This allows for continuous testing and monitoring of an application's security posture, ensuring that any new vulnerabilities are identified and addressed as early in the development lifecycle as possible.

However, it is important to note that DAST is not a silver bullet solution to application security. It should be used in conjunction with other testing methods, such as static analysis and penetration testing, to provide a comprehensive view of an application's security posture.

What are the Steps to Implementing DAST?

Implementing Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is crucial for organizations looking to secure their applications against potential cyber attacks. DAST is a process that involves testing an application's security using automated tools to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats. However, implementing DAST requires a thorough understanding of the process and the ability to integrate it into your organization's overall security strategy.

  1. Define testing scope. The first step in implementing DAST is to define the scope of testing. It is essential to identify the applications and components that will be subjected to DAST. This should focus on critical applications that store sensitive information or handle valuable transactions, as these are the most likely targets for potential attackers.
  2. Set goals and objectives. The second step, once the scope of testing has been defined, is to set goals and objectives. Clear goals and objectives should be established for your DAST efforts, such as identifying vulnerabilities, assessing the severity of potential threats, and evaluating the effectiveness of your current security measures.
  3. Choose tools and techniques. The third step is to select appropriate tools and techniques. It is crucial to choose the right DAST tools and techniques that align with your specific testing requirements and organizational policies. This ensures that the tools and techniques employed are compatible with your application's technology stack.
  4. Execute tests. After selecting the appropriate tools and techniques, the step four is to execute tests. Dynamic security testing should be performed on your applications in all technical environments, such as development, staging, and production. This ensures comprehensive testing and identification of vulnerabilities that may be environment-specific.
  5. Analyze results. Once the tests have been executed, step five is to analyze the results. The test results should be analyzed, identifying vulnerabilities and potential threats. It is essential to prioritize the identified issues according to their severity and potential impact on the application's overall security.
  6. Remediate vulnerabilities. The sixth step is to remediate vulnerabilities. Working collaboratively with your development team, appropriate fixes and enhancements should be implemented based on the test results and analysis. The final step is to monitor and maintain. Continuously monitoring your application's security and regularly performing DAST ensures that you stay ahead of emerging threats and newly discovered vulnerabilities.

Implementing DAST requires a commitment to continuous improvement and maintenance, as security threats are constantly evolving. By following these steps, your organization can effectively integrate dynamic security testing into its application security best practices.

What are Some Tools and Industry Best Practice Solutions for DAST?

DAST is an essential process for securing your application against potential cyber attacks, and it’s crucial to ensure that it is integrated into your organization's overall security strategy. When it comes to application security, there are a multitude of tools and techniques available. However, selecting the best ones for your specific needs can be a daunting task. That's why we've compiled a list of some of the most popular options in the industry.

DAST Scanners. One of the most common types of tools used for dynamic application security testing (DAST) are DAST scanners. These tools scan a live application, and identify potential vulnerabilities and threats by simulating attacks. OWASP ZAP, Acunetix, and IBM Security AppScan are some of the most popular DAST scanners used by organizations. Another technique used for DAST is fuzz testing, also known as fuzzing. This technique involves generating random and malformed inputs to stress-test an application. By doing so, it helps identify unexpected behavior or crashes, exposing potential security issues that may be exploited by an attacker.

WAFs. Web application firewalls (WAFs) are another popular tool used for application security. WAFs act as a protective layer for web applications, monitoring and filtering traffic between the app and the web. They detect and prevent possible attacks, providing an additional layer of security to augment DAST.API security testing is also a crucial component of application security. APIs are key components of modern applications and require testing to ensure their security. Specific DAST tools, such as Postman and SoapUI, focus on API testing to detect and prevent security vulnerabilities.

When selecting the most suitable tools and techniques for your organization, it's important to consider factors such as the technology stack, resources, and overall security strategy. By doing so, you can ensure that your organization has the best possible protection against potential security threats.

Be Prepared for Increasingly Sophisticated Cyber Threats With the rise of cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s now  more challenging for organizations to protect their valuable application assets. One of the most effective ways to stay ahead of security threats is to adopt dynamic and proactive approaches to application security. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is an essential tool that enables businesses to identify vulnerabilities during their application's runtime. By simulating real-world attacks, DAST provides valuable insights into potential weaknesses that may be exploited by attackers. However, it's not enough to simply implement DAST tools and techniques. To ensure that your organization's applications are thoroughly tested and adequately protected, it's important to follow a comprehensive approach to application security. This includes conducting regular vulnerability assessments, implementing secure coding practices, and maintaining up-to-date security policies and procedures.

In addition, it's crucial to maintain a continuous commitment to monitoring and improvement in order to stay ahead of evolving security threats. This means staying up-to-date with the latest security trends and best practices, as well as regularly reviewing and updating your organization's security posture. By taking a proactive and comprehensive approach to application security, your organization can minimize the risk of security breaches and protect its valuable assets. With the right tools and techniques, and a commitment to ongoing improvement, you can stay ahead of evolving security threats and maintain a strong defense for your organization's applications.

Dynamic Application Security Testing is a valuable tool for identifying vulnerabilities and potential threats within live applications. By integrating DAST into their application security best practices, businesses can ensure that their applications are thoroughly tested and better protected against malicious attacks.

How Harness Can Help

Harness Security Testing Orchestration (STO) provides proactive application security scanning and governance for engineering and DevSecOps. It can help companies replace manual efforts, reduce toil and minimize risk associated with software vulnerabilities, so they can:

  • Quickly understand the overall application vulnerability status across the enterprise.
  • Fix security vulnerabilities in real-time, ensuring security at every stage of software delivery.
  • Avoid the pain of determining what needs fixing; immediately know what to remediate, in what order, and how to remediate.

Want to learn more? Request a demo today. 

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