There’s a better way to perform application security testing with automated tools that prioritize and fix vulnerabilities, making sure new commits and builds don’t introduce new security issues. Maksym Khymii, Automation QA Leader at QArea highlights five best practices to minimize security risks and protect clients from potential trouble.
As Agile, DevOps, and CI/CDOpens a new window practices continue to effectively replace traditional models, these new approaches to software development bring new quality assurance challenges. The increased pace of development and significantly tighter deadlines pressure businesses and startups to race to market with applications drowning in defects. And while delivering a product littered in usability and performance issues is bad enough, letting security vulnerabilities make it through into the release may as well be the end of your business.
Let’s take a look at some of the most efficient application securityOpens a new window testing practices tech companies use today to minimize security risks and protect their clients from potential trouble.
Use Automated Security Testing Tools and Techniques
Leverage the speed and quality of application securityOpens a new window testing tools and techniques that can be effectively integrated into your software development life cycle. Automation will not only improve the velocity of development but also considerably reduce the risk of running into security issues that can disrupt your workflows. Through automation, you can conduct testing continuously and with timely, high-quality feedback that enables you to prioritize and fix vulnerabilities better, making sure new commits and builds don’t introduce new security issues.
Here are some of the most efficient automated security testing tools and techniques:
- Fuzzing (or fuzz testing) is an automated testing technique that involves searching your app for exploitable bugs by feeding it unexpected, invalid, or random inputs. This helps your team discover vulnerabilities that would otherwise remain undetected.
- Software composition analysis (SCA) is a set of tools used for open-sourceOpens a new window component management. It provides your team with better visibility into the open-source parts in your code, helping you detect and fix security vulnerabilities associated with these components.
- Static application security testing (SAST) approach is used to analyze the source code of your application, its byte code, and binaries in a non-running state. This set of technologies helps you surface coding flaws and conditions that have security vulnerabilities.
- Dynamic application security testing (DAST) helps you identify security vulnerabilities and architectural weaknesses in an application in its running state. Unlike SAST, these black-box tools don’t have access to your source code and detect vulnerabilities by actually performing attacks.
- Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) is a hybrid technique that combines the best features of both static and dynamic analysis. IAST tools have access to your code and automatically interact with the application’s functionality to test whether known vulnerabilities are actually exploitable in a running application.
Whether it’s fuzzing or dynamic analysis, every testing tool, and technique has its own strengths. To cover each and all angles of your application and achieve the best results, try to diversify your testing approaches.
Introduce Security Testing as Early as Possible in SDLC
As with any kind of testing, the sooner you begin the better. Starting your application security testing in the early development phase will not only save you from accumulating considerable tech debt but also make it significantly cheaper to find and fix vulnerabilities in the long run. Even though the traditional approach sets testing as a final checkpoint before deployment, it’s no longer a feasible option due to the ever-increasing pace of today’s development practices in the highly competitive software market. Delaying security testingOpens a new window until the pre-deployment phase will only lead to costly, time-consuming rework with vulnerabilities and flaws very hard to get rid of.
In addition to implementing security testing early in your software development life cycle, it’s equally important to make sure that your developers learn from every vulnerability that your QA team documented. SAST, for example, is a great place to start. Use the testing results to train your developers, helping them understand what could’ve been done to avoid those vulnerabilities. It’s not just about the speed of discovering and fixing bugs, it’s about not introducing the very same flaws into your code over and over again.
Check your Third-party Code for Potential Vulnerabilities
With the ever-increasing market pace comes the abundant use of open-source and third-party components in software development. Whether it’s a simple app or a complex platform, companies often look for readymade solutions, building blocks they could leverage to increase the velocity to market. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using open-source and third-party components, it’s crucial that you thoroughly check every piece of code you introduce into your app for potential security and interoperability issues. With SCA, frequent testing, and thorough documentation, you can easily avoid or fix components filled with vulnerabilities.
Remember, just one little â€œopeningâ€ is enough for a massive security breach that can compromise your business, your reputation, and the safety of your entire user base.
Test Your App for Unexpected Behaviors
Compared to functional testing, security testing is not about verifying that your code successfully performs the function it is supposed to. It’s about making sure that your code doesn’t do anything unexpected. Your main goal here is to look out for any unexpected functionality, behaviors, or outcomesâ€”things that aren’t specified in the requirements, are not a part of the plan, and shouldn’t even be in your code.
These bugs are hard to find as they don’t visibly break the functionality of your software. Everything seems to be working as intended. Therefore, it is important to get creative when testing for such vulnerabilities. Put yourself in place of a malicious user. Try different ways an attacker could potentially misuse their interaction with the app and its features. Find and fix the flaws they could abuse to, for example, access data they aren’t supposed to be able to reach.
Your QA team should build and run as many abuse cases as they possibly can to discover and eliminate all the unexpected behaviors, exploits, and various misuse scenarios. For most efficiency, abuse cases can be scripted and integrated into your regression testing routine, so your development team can focus on building new features without having to worry about extra rework.
Bonus: Prioritize Process
These security testing practices will only help if you apply them consistently. Too often businesses dedicate plenty of time and energy to security Opens a new window testing at the start of their project (especially during initial releases), only to become more lax as time goes on. Inevitably bugs start to slip through the cracks and make it into production.
A good product can survive a localization mistake, UI/UX error, and sometimes even a functionality bug. However, let a security issue slip into the production version of your software, and you’re not only exposing your business to a reputational blow, but also (potentially) legal liability.
The best thing you can do for your project is to apply these 5 security testing practices early, and to apply them consistently while your project is being sold and used.
Prioritize Testing Business-Critical Components
It’s important to understand which systems and functionality are hackers most likely to attack, but it is even more essential to know what data carries the most value. Which assets would attackers most likely exploit or take hostage if your application was to be breached? When prioritizing your test cases and deciding on what should be checked first, focus on areas that carry business-critical value. Identify the areas directly related to your revenue stream and the well-being of your users to make sure the attackers have no possible way of accessing and using those assets to compromise your business.