How to run a dynamic application security test (DAST): Tips & tools
Since a website serves as a means to represent an organization, it is imperative to protect them from attackers and safeguard them from various cyberattacks.
Also, all the confidential data of the organization is saved in a database, and one of the ways to access this data is through websites — since web servers and databases are connected, thus making web applications more lucrative to attackers.
Web application security
Many resources are available that provide guidelines to protect your website: the major ones being Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) or the Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES).
The following are the major approaches followed at the industry level to secure websites:
- Dynamic application security test (DAST)
- Interactive application security test (IAST)
- Static application security test (SAST)
- Software composition analysis (SCA)
In this article, we’ll focus on the dynamic application security testing.
Dynamic application security test
A dynamic application security test (DAST) involves vulnerability scanning of the application using a scanner. DAST is a form of black-box testing in which neither the source code nor the architecture of the application is known. Thus, DAST uses the same technique which an attacker exercises for finding potential vulnerabilities in the application.
A typical DAST targets a broad range of vulnerabilities, including validation, authentication, authorization and misconfiguration-based attacks.
There are certain vulnerabilities in the application that when exploited can lead to complete disclosure of the database, gaining access to the user’s session and last but not least, access to other files present on the server. Vulnerabilities that can cause major casualties are SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), local and remote file execution (LFI/RFI), server-side request forgery (SSRF) and other injection-based attacks. If these vulnerabilities are exploited, attackers can rein as much havoc as possible and can gain access to sensitive data like credit card details or personally identifiable information, if present on the server.
DAST tools work similarly, giving development and security teams visibility into application security posture and potential weaknesses that could be exploited by an attacker. DAST tools continuously search for vulnerabilities in the application, looking for weaknesses that an attacker could exploit and illustrating how an attacker could break into the system if the vulnerability is exploited. The DAST tool then sends an automated alert to the security team for the presence of a vulnerability in the application so suitable action can be taken to remediate it.
Major benefits of using DAST include:
- Real-time attacks and threats simulation
- Discover vulnerabilities that are usually not found in the source code
- Flexible and customizable testing options can be configured
- Comprehensive assessment
- Scalable testing
How to include DAST in the software development life cycle
Ideally, DAST should be integrated and run when the application enters into the runtime. These runtime tests are important in finding vulnerabilities and threats that may be discovered once the web application has gone live.
DAST will continuously scan the website for vulnerabilities, which when discovered can raise an alert for the development team to fix before porting it to production.
Top 10 DAST software
Following are the best DAST software available to secure your web application from various cyberattacks:
- Rapid7 AppSpider
- Synopsys Seeker
- AppCheck Ltd
DAST pros and cons
Pros of using DAST tools
- Technology independent. Since DAST doesn’t need source code, it is language or platform-independent. Thus, one DAST tool can be run on all the applications.
- Low false positives. DAST generates a lower false-positive rate compared to other application security testing tools.
- Identifies configuration issues. DAST stands out when finding security vulnerabilities that can be discovered only when the application is live. In addition, DAST attacks the application from the outside in, placing itself in the position to find configuration mistakes that can be missed by other security tools.
Cons of using DAST tools
- Not highly scalable. DAST software is usually very difficult to scale.
- No code visibility. DAST does not have access to an application’s source code. This means DAST cannot point developers to problematic code for remediating the issue.
- Slow scans. DAST is not known for its speed, and many users complain about scans taking too long to complete.
While DAST has its pros and cons, it can be a very useful tool for your organization and for a variety of cybersecurity professionals. Take the time necessary to understand it and what it can do so you can put another skillset in your toolbox.
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