Testing For Cyber Security – A Concise Yet Detailed Guide

Today, news of cyberattacks is common. The majority of cyberattacks capitalize on vulnerabilities of application security. According to Forbes, cybercrime is rising because most people think of it as someone else’s problem. To address cyber security concerns, businesses and developers have come up with ways of testing application security.

With the growing number of tools aimed at testing application security, developers can find it challenging to choose the right tool. Testing for cyber security begins by evaluating an application through the eyes of a cybercriminal. This guide provides various application testing tips that are necessary when testing for cyber security.

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

The functions of SAST tools resemble white-box or white-hat testing. In such tests, the tester has details about the software or system, including access to source code and architecture diagram. These tools evaluate the source code when the system is not running to detect and highlight weaknesses that pose security threats.

Some of the tools are source code analyzers that run on non-compiled code to examine for defects like numerical errors, path traversals, pointers and references, input validation, and more. Others are binary and byte code analyzers that do the same but on compiled code. Some other tools run on both.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

DAST tools resemble black-box or black-hat testing since the tester does not have prior knowledge of the system. These tools detect conditions that pose a security threat to an application when it is running. DAST tools examine operating code to detect issues with requests, authentication, sessions, interfaces, responses, data injection, scripting, and more. They use fuzzing, a technique that throws a large volume of known invalid and unexpected test cases at an application.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Manual inspection of software does not cut it when it comes to testing for cyber security. With SCA tools, developers can examine software to establish the origin of all libraries and components in the software. The tools are very effective at finding and establishing vulnerabilities in popular components, especially open-source components. However, these tools do not detect vulnerabilities in components developed in-house.

SCA tools are effective in finding vulnerabilities in popular components and libraries, especially open-source pieces. To do this, they compare known modules in the code to a list of established vulnerabilities. These tools will find components with documented vulnerabilities and advise if they have patches available.

When making comparisons, almost every SCA tool relies on the NIST National Vulnerability Database Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) to find known vulnerabilities. The tools can run on source code, binary code, or both. Snyk is an example of a trusted developer security platform integrating SAST, DAST, and SCA tools.

Database Security Scanning

Application developers rely heavily on databases. In return, applications can have a huge effect on databases. Fortunately, database security scanning tools help check for up-to-date patches and versions, configuration errors, weak passwords, and access control issues, among others. Some tools can evaluate logs in search of irregular actions or patterns like too many administrative actions.

Usually, database scanners run on static data while the database management system is running. Some are even capable of monitoring data in transit.

Hybrid Tools and Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

For a long time, developers have been using hybrid approaches to test for cyber security. IAST tools combine both dynamic and static analysis techniques. These test if known threats in code are exploitable when the application is running.

IAST tools utilize application knowledge and data flow to develop advanced attack cases and utilize dynamic analysis results recursively. As they perform dynamic scans, the tools will establish things about the application depending on how it responds to test scenarios. With this knowledge, some tools will create additional test cases that result in more test cases. IAST tools are brilliant at decreasing the number of false positives.

They are superb in environments where traditional standalone tools are time intensive during the development cycle.

Application Security Testing as a Service (ASTaaS)

In this approach, development teams pay someone to carry out security tests on their application. The service normally combines dynamic and static analysis, risk assessment, testing application programming interfaces (APIs), and penetration testing, among others. It applies to traditional applications such as mobile and web applications. ASTaaS is gaining momentum because of cloud applications since resources for testing are easy to marshal.

Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)

The top mobile security risks include improper platform use, insecure data storage, insufficient cryptography, extraneous functionality, and code tampering. MAST tools blend forensic, static, and dynamic analysis. However, they perform like the traditional dynamic and static analyzers; they also let mobile code run through most of these analyzers too.

The MAST tool has special features that pay attention to issues unique to mobile applications like jailbreaking or rooting of devices, preventing data leakage, handling and authentication of certificates, and spoofed Wi-Fi connections.

Test-Coverage Analyzers

These tools measure the amount of total program code analyzed. They present results as either the percentage of code tested or the percentage of available paths tested. In huge applications, allowable levels of coverage are set in advance and then compared to the test-coverage analyzer results. Thus, it accelerates the testing and release process.

Test-coverage analyzers can detect if specific logic branches or code lines cannot be reached during program execution. In such cases, it is a potential security threat. Some SAST tools include this function in their products. Thus, standalone coverage analyzers serve specific niches.

Correlation tools

In security testing, handling false positives is a huge problem. Correlation tools help decrease some of the noise by offering a central repository of findings from other application security testing tools.

Different correlation tools will have different findings since they correlate and analyze outcomes from different application security testing tools. These help with the prioritization and validation of findings. Although correlation tools integrate code scanners, their use is to import findings from other tools mainly.