Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Best DAST tools for DevOps & software development teams

Table Of Contents

    The strangest reality of application security in the age of "shift left" is the poor understanding of DAST tools (dynamic vulnerability scanning tools) and, particularly, the value that they the offer as part of a modern software development lifecycle.

    The most common misconception is that a DAST vulnerability scanner is only used by application security experts.

    However, most security-concious software team leaders believe that an automated DAST vulnerability scanning tool is as important in your software development lifecycle as your favourite Git repository (eg. Github) and your preferred CICD pipeline orchestration tool (eg. Jenkins).

    While SAST vs DAST is a never-ending debate, the top software teams with a culture of security have realised that both the tools are integral to ensuring a high web application security posture.

    You can see this in our representation of the different aspects of a best-practice application security structure:

    Best DAST scanning tool for DevOps

    How do DAST scanners enhance application security?

    These tools are also referred to as online pentest tools, because they allow for automated testing of applications as they are developed, which can catch vulnerabilities early in the development process. Keep in mind that a DAST tool tests applications from the user's perspective, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of potential vulnerabilities.

    One of the key benefits of DAST tools is their ability to provide accurate results. By actually testing the running application, DAST tools can find security risks quickly and provide detailed information about the issue. This can help your software engineering teams to remediate vulnerabilities faster, reducing the window of opportunity for attackers.

    Using DAST tools can also help your company meet compliance requirements, for example for ISO27001 certification or SOC2 certification.

    By identifying vulnerabilities that could be exploited to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, DAST tools can help your company avoid costly fines and damage to its reputation.

    Overall, the right, automated DAST tool is a valuable addition to your web application security testing program.

    It can help your software engineering teams to detect and remediate vulnerabilities quickly and effectively, without you constantly having to rely on external security testing consultants.

    How does a DAST tool work?

    DAST tools act like a hacker that tests your software application for vulnerabilities. It sends different inputs to the application, like a user would, and analyzes the responses to see if there are any weaknesses or security flaws.

    For example, if your application has a login page, the dynamic vulnerability scanner will try different combinations of usernames and passwords to see if it can bypass the login screen without the proper credentials.

    It can also try different kinds of attacks like SQL injection, code injection, or cross-site scripting to see if it can access sensitive data or take control of the application.

    By doing these tests, the best automated DAST solutions can help your software engineering teams identify security issues that could be exploited by hackers.

    This can help your company to fix these vulnerabilities before they are exploited, ensuring that your applications are secure and your data is protected.

    There's a clever DAST tool that makes CTOs wonder why they ever wasted their time looking at alternatives. Do you want to try it out too?

    How long do DAST scans take?

    How long is a piece of string?!

    I'm not trying to be cute here, but there is no one answer to this question. DAST vulnerability scans can take anywhere from a few mintues to a few hours.

    This is why you won't know the full answer until you actually run a scan on your application.

    The variance in scanning time depends on the:

    • Security weaknesses in your application.

    • Speed of your application and underlying infrastructure.

    • Number of web services that require security testing.

    • Number of user roles in your application.

    What are the pros and cons of DAST scanning tools?

    The biggest advantage for you as a software engineering leader is that only a dynamic application security testing tool can help you understand the vulnerabilities in your application while it is operational.

    So while such tools won't help you prevent all data breaches, they do add a necessary level of assurance when testing applications that are in a production environment or even non-prod environments.

    Advantages of a DAST solution

    Other advantages of automated DAST tools that are built to be used by software developers:

    1. Runtime results: DAST tools provide accurate results by testing the running application. This means that you can identify vulnerabilities more easily and prioritize them for remediation.

    2. Comprehensive testing: DAST tools can test applications from the user's perspective, helping to identify vulnerabilities that may not be apparent from other testing methods.

    3. Increase automation: DAST tools can be integrated into the software development life cycle, allowing for continuous scanning of your applications as they are developed. This can help to catch vulnerabilities early in the development process, reducing the time and effort required to fix them.

    4. No code access needed: Because these tools assess your app's security controls during runtime, you don't need to expose your codebase to the tool.

    5. Programming language agnostic: because DAST scans don't require access to your application code base, the scans are technology independent. This means that a tool like Cyber Chief can be easily integrated into your software deployment pipeleines to secure applications irrespective of your tech stack.

    6. Faster Remediation: DAST tools can identify vulnerabilities quickly and provide detailed remediation guidance, including the location and potential impact. This can help your software development teams to remediate vulnerabilities faster, reducing the window of opportunity for attackers.

    7. Save Money: Because DAST solutions that are built for software development teams don't need expensive security professionals to operate them, they save you a lot of time and money.

    8. Collaboration: Dynamic application security testing tools that have collaboration features allow deeper communication between security and development teams. This is collaboration is an essential ingredient in building a culture of security within your software development team.

    Most DAST tools are built for cyber experts, not software teams. Want to try one that gets 5-star reviews from software dev managers?

    Disadvantages of a DAST solution

    Nautrally, nothing is perfect and some people do report some concerns with dynamic scanners. Some of these peeves can include:

    1. False positives: Many older DAST tools have been known to generate false positives, which can be time-consuming to investigate and may lead to wasted effort in fixing non-existent vulnerabilities.

    2. Scope: DAST tools may not be able to detect all types of vulnerabilities, such as those that require authentication or access to the application's source code.

    3. Complex configurations: Configuring and using DAST tools can be complex and may require specialized knowledge or expertise. That's why a dynamic application security testing tool like Cyber Chief is great for software development teams - because it requires almost zero configuration and you can start scanning in minutes with no prior training needed.

    Are DAST tools only for web applications?

    Some of the older dynamic application security testing tools are very limited in their scope.

    However, new tools like Cyber Chief will not ony scan your web applications for security vulnerabilities but also your APIs, including SOAP, REST and GraphQL APIs.

    If you're building a modern web application or mobile application that heavily relies on APIs to function, then this API vulnerability scanning tool can help you put your web app and API security on auto-pilot.

    Cyber Chief is a dynamic vulnerability scanner that also helps you find, catalogue & scan your APIs. Want to try it?

    What is the difference between DAST and penetration tests?

    Dynamic vulnerability scanning and web application penetration tests are both methods of testing for vulnerabilities in your software applications, but they have different approaches.

    Automated dynamic application security testing tools assess the security controls of applications from the user's perspective, by sending different inputs to the application and analyzing the responses. This helps to find and fix security holes that can be exploited by attackers.

    Penetration tests, on the other hand, are performed by ethical hackers who attempt to simulate a real-world attack on your applications. They use a variety of techniques to try and penetrate your application's defenses, such as exploiting vulnerabilities, gaining unauthorized access to data, or taking control of the application.

    The main difference is that, despite the advancement in AI capability, DAST tools can only find 50-60% of all vulnerabilities in your application.

    Many vulnerabilities occur because of business logic errors or poor implementation of business rules. These types of security vulnerabilities can still only be found by expert security professionals as part of a manual web application penetration test.

    That's why we recommend a pentest-as-service solution, because it helps you cover the entire gamut of application security requirements - including automation and manual aspects.

    Do I need a dynamic vulnerability scanner even if I do annual penetration tests?

    Ideally, yes. In fact, the idea that one annual penetration test is enough to safeguard your application security 24/7 is one of the biggest fallacies ever invented in cyber security!

    I think it's fair to say that having this idea in your head is one of the biggest application security mistakes you can make.

    In reality, you should also consider integrating a SAST scanner into your development workflow after you have selected the best dynamic vulnerability testing tool for your needs.

    What is the difference between SAST vs DAST?

    TL;DR - watch this video to understand the difference between SAST and DAST application security tools:

    SAST (Static Application Security Testing) and Dynamic Application Security Testing are both methods of testing for vulnerabilities in your software applications, but they have different approaches.

    SAST tools analyze your application's source code for potential vulnerabilities, while DAST tool tests your application while it is running by sending different inputs to the application and analyzing the responses.

    An example to illustrate the difference between the two is the following: Imagine you have a web application that allows users to upload files. A static application security testing tool would analyze the code of your web applications to identify any potential vulnerabilities in the way the application processes these uploaded files, such as allowing users to upload files with malicious code that could harm the application or its users.

    A DAST tool, on the other hand, would test your web applications by actually uploading files and analyzing the response from the application to see if it can detect any vulnerabilities that may be present in the code.

    Both methods are important for a comprehensive application security program, and that is why we recommend you include both as part of a rigorous application security structure.

    Are there DAST tools for SDLC processes that software developers can use?

    We did a lengthy review of the 10 best web application penetration testing tools (paid & free) and had this to say about why Cyber Chief is the most suitable vulnerability assessment tool for software teams who want to find and fix security vulnerabilities before commiting code to prod:

    The good news is that Cyber Chief will not only show you the security vulnerabilities that hackers will exploit, but it will also show you the ways to fix them.

    The things that will make the most difference to your team is that Cyber Chief allows you to get started without having to invest in any on-premise licences or infrastructure.

    Nor does it require you to send your team on expensive training or certification courses. It literally is a turnkey tool for black box testing and gray box testing to help your team find and fix security issues in your web application and APIs.

    Ok but how will Cyber Chief help my developers and DevOps teams?

    Cyber Chief is a dynamic application security testing tool that helps your developers with vulnerability management for your web applications, APIs and cloud platform.

    It will help you automate security testing without you having to hire a specialist application security team.

    Dynamic application security testing has traditionally been performed by security experts as part of a penetration testing project.

    But now with Cyber Chief your own team has the ability to conduct web application security testing in your development environment so that you too can implement AppSec best practices and minimize security problems - without having to invest in expensive security teams.

    There are a number of reasons software development teams use Cyber Chief and these are some of the key features and reasons for their decision.

    Firstly the functional reasons:

    • Built for software development teams who need a "plug-n-play" vulnerability testing tool.
    • 4-in-1 tool that includes automated web app scanning, API security testing with its Bolt module, cloud security posture management with its Raider module and manual penetration testing as a service for when you need it.
    • Integrations frictionlessly with DevOps/CI-CD software deployment pipelines.
    • Performs APIs vulnerability scanning (including automated discovery and cataloging of your APIs).
    • "Zero-click" vulnerability scanning to protect your web applications proactively on autopilot - irrespective of the programming languages used in your web application and APIs.
    • Get started with application security testing DAST scans in just a few minutes.
    • Always reviewed as "user-friendly" with almost zero configuration or plugin setup required.
    • Isolate issues to each application environment by creating customised workspaces.
    • Super detailed vulnerability patching suggestions with code snippets.

    Secondly, the operational and productivity reasons that are harder to quantify, but probably even more important than key features of any application security testing DAST solution:

    • Outstanding human support team for training and helping you set up authenticated scans.
    • Intuitive vulnerability management technology and in-built collaboration features promotes team accountability.
    • You can run alonside your functional web application testing - which means your QA team can handle the security tests at the same time as functional tests.
    • Helps you stay in compliance with your SOC 2 certification and/or ISO 27001 certification and about 20 other certifications.
    • Very detailed (and beautiful) dashboard that gives you a quick view of your security posture but also allows you to deep-dive to make data-driven decisions.
    • Pre-baselined security checks means that your development team can concentrate on your application, rather than having to build new skills just to operate a new tool.
    • Unlike static application security testing tools, which are a form of white box testing and require access to your code base, Cyber Chief DAST scans will never need to access your code base.

    The most obvious question here is, "so what's the catch?"

    The catch is that Cyber Chief is not for you if you only have on-premises applications that are not internet-exposed. Unless you are able to whitelist our IP address range, in which case Cyber Chief can work for you even if you have your applications behind a firewall.

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    Can I use DAST tool for DevSecOps?

    First, let me give you a brief definition of DevSecOps. DevSecOps is an approach to software development that integrates application security into the entire software development life cycle, from design to deployment and maintenance.

    The goal is to create a culture of security that ensures applications are secure by design and maintained in a secure state throughout their entire life cycle.

    Now, back to the relationship between a DAST vulnerability scanning solution and DevSecOps software: these application security testing tools can be used to automate security testing as part of a DevSecOps approach.

    By integrating these types of continuous software security tools into your development pipeline, you can perform automated application security testing throughout the software development life cycle, allowing you to catch security vulnerabilities early in the process and remediate them quickly.

    It's like putting your web application security on autopilot.

    For example, let's say you have a web application that allows users to enter their personal information, such as their name, address, and credit card information. You can use a DAST tool to simulate an attack on the application by sending different inputs to find new vulnerabilities in your application. A good DAST application security testing tool will identify any vulnerabilities it finds and provide detailed information about the issue, including the location and potential impact.

    By integrating DAST tools into your DevOps development pipeline, you can catch these vulnerabilities early in the process and remediate them before they become more serious issues. This helps to ensure that your web applications are secure by design and maintained in a secure state throughout their entire life cycle, supporting the DevSecOps approach to software development.

    Can I get a DAST tool free trial?

    The answer is yes. Like most software, you can sign up for a Cyber Chief trial account. This allows you to test its features and functionality before you pay for it. 

    You only proceed to the next phase if you are satisfied with the results, which I'm sure you will be.

    Start your Cyber Chief 14-day free trial today.

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