How to run a SAST (static application security test): tips & tools
There are a number of different was to test the security of web applications, such as:
- Dynamic application security testing (DAST)
- Interactive application security testing (IAST)
- Static application security testing (SAST)
- Software composition analysis (SCA)
This article focuses on SAST.
Static application security test
The static application security test (SAST) involves analyzing the source code of the application to find vulnerabilities present in it. Since SAST scans the code before it is compiled, it is a form of white-box testing.
SAST has been in practice for more than a decade. It allows developers to find security vulnerabilities in the earlier stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Also, SAST ensures conformance to secure coding standards without actually running or compiling the actual code.
How SAST helps in SDLC
SAST is integrated into the very early stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC) since it does not require the code to be executed or compiled. This helps developers locate vulnerable code in the initial stages of SDLC.
Developers can then make any modification accordingly to fix the vulnerable code without breaking any builds.
Key steps for an effective SAST
The following steps should be performed for implementing SAST effectively and efficiently:
- Finalize the tool: Select an SAST tool that can perform code review for the application written in the programming languages being used.
- Create the infrastructure and deploy the tool: After the tool has been chosen, further steps involve handling licensing requirements, setting up authentication and authorization and setting the infrastructure required to deploy the tool.
- Customize the tool: This step involves customizing the tool per the needs of the organization. Example: configuring the tool to bring down false positives, writing new rules for finding additional security vulnerabilities, integration of the tool into the build or CI/CD environment, creation of dashboards for tracking scan results and generating custom reports.
- Prioritize and onboard applications: All the applications should be scanned in this step. If there is a long list of applications, high-risk applications should be scanned first. Application scans should be synced with release cycles on a daily or monthly basis.
- Analyze scan results: In this step, the results are triaged to remove false positives. The set of issues that have been finalized is sent to the deployment teams for proper remediation.
Best SAST tools
The following are the best SAST software available to secure your web application from various cyberattacks:
- Micro Focus Fortify
Pros and cons of SAST
These are the pros of using SAST tools:
- Scales well and can run on a lot of software
- Useful for finding vulnerabilities having a major impact like buffer overflows, cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, hardcoded secrets and more.
- Produce verbose output for developers by highlighting the source files, line numbers and more.
The following are the cons of using SAST tools:
- Authentication and authorization-related issues, access control issues, insecure use of cryptography and more are difficult to find, though the tools are getting better
- Huge numbers of false positives
- Cannot find configuration-based issues
SAST can be a powerful tool to keep your web applications secure. However, it has its own set of pros and cons and you should consider which test, or combination of tests, works best for your projects and your organization.
What do SAST, DAST, IAST and RASP mean to developers?, SoftwareSecured
Source code analysis tools, OWASP
Static application security testing, Synopsys