8 ways to save time in application security testing

by | Mar 3, 2018 | Security Threats, Software Vulnerabilities

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The cost and time required for comprehensive application security testing often deters businesses from implementing a proper strategy for testing and remediation of vulnerabilities. Of course, that’s asking for trouble. Fortunately, the process can be streamlined, enabling you to conduct application security testing in a more efficient and timely manner.

We’ll review eight specific things that you can do, starting right away, that will help your appsec testing go more smoothly, with better results.

Application security testing: Are you wasting time?

There are three reasons why application security testing is important:

1. No matter how secure you think your code is, applications will always have vulnerabilities.

2. Application security testing is a proactive way to identify these vulnerabilities before they are exposed by outside hackers.

3. Identifying vulnerabilities before deployment saves a tremendous amount of time, money, and resources. Issues can be resolved before the application is in the hands of users; if the issues are discovered after release, you will need to send updates to the user base, and you may suffer loss of reputation and/or the danger of lawsuits.

Because testing and remediation of vulnerabilities takes time, the more efficient you can be, the better. You want to get the most relevant results from your testing, with the fewest number of false positives and overlapping results. Overlapping results – results identified by more than one tool – are quite common because no single tool finds all the errors. Most developers use more than one tool. This automatically introduces inefficiencies, because each tool has its own user interface and reporting methods. Your developers must learn how to use more than one tool, but the findings and recommendations are often presented differently – and often overlap.

How to streamline your application security testing

Here are the “best practices” for streamlining the application security testing process, so it can be more easily integrated in the development process.

1. Utilize application vulnerability correlation (AVC) tools AVC tools aggregate data from multiple tools, de-duplicating the results. You can use filters to focus on the areas that are most critical. You may have defined various severity levels, or you might focus on OWASP guidelines. AVC tools identify gaps in security coverage. They also normalize results and severity scales. For example, Code Dx is an AVC tool that allows developers to use one common language, which can be customized within an organization or from one project to another. A user can use the default description for SQL Injection with references and remediation advice, or tailor the prescriptive guidance to their organization – possibly with internal portal links or internal software libraries that help address the security concern.

2. Correlate vulnerability findings into one cohesive report – Findings must be correlated from multiple types of testing and techniques, including SAST, DAST, IAST, component analysis, manual pentesting, code reviews, and threat modeling. This can be an extremely time-intensive endeavor and make remediation even more challenging as developers receive information in various formats and from multiple sources. A correlation tool streamlines this by compiling, de-duplicating, and analyzing the results from the various testing methods. Developers receive one report that is clear and easy to follow. This is a vast improvement over multiple, overlapping or even conflicting reports.

3. Employ application security orchestration – This type of tool allows you to manage multiple appsec tools in one location. You can easily swap out one vendor for another without disrupting the workflow. Code Dx integrates with Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), the Jenkins build server plugin, and other build servers through its REST API, making it easy to fit Code Dx within existing pipelines. You can also automatically incorporate certain SAST tools via automatic configurations. The program determines which tools should be run based on the application being tested.

4. Speed up development remediation and collaboration – If security analysts and developers are connected via a testing tool, they can communicate on issues and progress, and testing and development will become a more efficient and integrated process. One way this can be done is by using a tool such as Code Dx, which automatically enters identified threats in Jira, keeping developers up to date on potential vulnerabilities. Code Dx also provides the ability to assign tasks, track progress, and make comments. Users can employ consistent descriptions for vulnerabilities; outputs from all tools will use the same terminology. You can also customize terminology to match your organization’s language.

5. Store data in a centralized repository – Storing all application security information in one central, secure location makes the data accessible by all interested parties within your organization. Users are able to search and sort results, assign tasks, and even run reports on vulnerabilities.

6. Stay compliant – Ensuring your application is compliant with any pertinent regulations protects your reputation and prevents you from having to pay fines for any violations. Use a tool that automatically checks your vulnerabilities against common compliance standards. Code Dx does this for many standards, including OWASP Top 10 Mobile, HIPAA, DISA Security Technical Implementation Guides, NIST 800-53, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

7. Integrate with Integrated Development Environment (IDE) – Integrating application security testing with your IDE saves time by identifying and addressing threats during the development process. If your developers are working in Eclipse or Visual Studio, for example, they can address issues raised during testing from this interface. They do not need to switch to another tool. They can incorporate remediation right into their current work environment.

8. Provide appropriate security training – Comprehensive training should be provided for all individuals involved in both the development and testing process. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined. Training should be kept fresh and continually updated to stay on top of the latest threats to ensure the testing and resolution process is more efficient.

Application security testing does not have to be a struggle. Using multiple tools is a necessary evil, but there are ways to sort, collate, and analyze the results. Streamlining the process means you can identify issues quickly, address them appropriately, and track them through the remediation process. All of this can be done efficiently in a pre-production environment, protecting your assets and your reputation.

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