Improving security posture with static application security testing
Friday, February 12, 2021
Tim Jarrett, Senior Director of Product Management at Veracode talks about improving security posture with static application security testing, why SAST empowers developers to secure code, and how SAST integrates with other security and development tools.
Amid the worldwide pursuit of digital transformation, the software has seen a meteoric rise, and application security has become paramount. As more companies become software-centric, they publish more applications, increasing the risk vulnerable code will be released. To help reduce this risk, static application security testing (SAST) can help dev teams find and fix weaknesses in near-real-time. This means the software is made secure earlier in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), where it’s more cost-effective to fix and reduces overall risk.
More software means more vulnerabilities
Applications are the top attack vector for cybercriminals and the main source of breaches. Research has shown 83 percent of scanned applications contain at least one security flaw, and 20 percent contain at least one high severity security flaw. But it only takes one vulnerability for an attack to succeed.
Improving security posture with static application security testing
Organizations are pushing more code, more often than ever before - sometimes multiple times a day, making it increasingly challenging to find and fix flaws before they’re released. Case in point, recent research from d Enterprise Strategy Group revealed nearly half of the organizations regularly release vulnerable code, in part because they find flaws too late in the SDLC.
SAST empowers developers to secure their own code
Early SAST tools were used primarily by security professionals to discover weaknesses in source code. Unlike those early versions of static analysis tools that only assessed completed code at the end of the development cycle, today’s static analysis solutions check and secure code throughout the development cycle making them a valuable tool for app developers.
In keeping with the shift-left movement, developers are using SAST tools integrated with continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) and development environments to help build security into the development process and fix flaws in their code in their IDE.
There are several important benefits for organizations implementing SAST.
- Reduce time to fix security flaws in applications – SAST not only helps organizations identify and fix security flaws, but it can also reduce the length of time needed to fix them. This requires frequent scanning throughout the development cycle. Organizations that scan their code for security most frequently, fix security flaws 72% faster than those that scan the least.
- Improve application delivery speed and predictability – with the ever-increasing demand for applications, organizations are looking to speed up release cycles. That means organizations will need to increase their appsec oversight. By implementing SAST in the development phase, developers are enabled to find and fix security flaws in their own code in real-time.
- Reduce the overall cost of fixing vulnerabilities – according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the cost of fixing a vulnerability during post-production is 30x more expensive than addressing it during earlier stages. Addressing application security issues in the IDE reduces the risk of vulnerabilities reaching the production stage in the first place.
- Educate developers on secure coding practices – while the primary benefit of running SAST in the IDE is to fix security flaws quickly, it also serves as a real-time, hands-on learning tool that educates developers about security flaws and how to fix them.
This last point is particularly important as security education is nearly absent in most computer programming degrees, leaving such training to employers. However, the ESG research found 50 percent of organizations only provide developers with security training once a year or less, and security training programs are insufficient to meet the demands being put on developers today. SAST gives developers real-time security feedback as they are coding, which helps them improve their knowledge of code vulnerabilities.
Comprehensive application security scanning
SAST is an important and effective tool for prerelease application security scanning, but it’s just one part of a comprehensive strategy. As such, organizations must consider how SAST integrates with other security and development tools in the environment and invest accordingly.
- Static analysis is an important, early step in the AppSec process, but to be effective organizations should automate scanning at different stages of the SDLC. Research shows there are differences in the types of vulnerabilities discovered by examining applications dynamically at runtime, versus doing static tests in a non-runtime environment.
- 70% of applications have a security flaw in an open-source library on initial scan. That’s why it’s important to augment the static analysis of proprietary code with other prerelease testing tools such as software composition analysis (SCA), IAST, or DAST for complete prerelease security testing. As with SAST, look to integrate these additional testing tools into the CI/CD pipeline.
- To ensure the success of any application security initiative, it’s essential to work closely with developers so they understand the guidelines, strategies, policies, procedures, and security risks involved with application security. What’s more, they must be prepared and equipped to operate securely within their particular development processes. Hands-on security training such as that provided by SAST tools will be instrumental in educating developers on AppSec practices.
In an era of escalating threats and risks, it's essential to address application security as comprehensively as possible. Addressing code issues earlier in the SDLC is not only more cost-effective than remediating flaws later, but it also reduces risk overall. When implemented as part of a comprehensive, integrated application scanning program, SAST enables and empowers developers to take an active role in securing their code while increasing their security knowledge. And there’s no doubt educated, security-focused developers can improve the overall security posture of the application development environment.
This content is made possible by a guest author, or sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of App Developer Magazine's editorial staff.
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