According to research, the primary reason apps easily fall victim to cybercriminals is software weaknesses. A whopping 84 percent of software breaches take advantage of vulnerabilities at the application layer. Cybercriminals are no longer spending most of their time implanting apps with bugs. Instead, they are exploiting the weaknesses that are already present.
As a developer, you owe it to your users to ensure your app is as free from vulnerabilities as possible. Truth be told, you cannot accomplish this feat without app-security vulnerability scanners.
Why is AppSec Scanning So Important?
The most significant motive of application security is prevention. As an AppSec must-have, vulnerability scanning is the best way to uncover potential weaknesses. Scanners identify architectural weak points in an app by launching a series of different attack types and analyzing the results. The outcome of the scans can tell you precisely where the vulnerabilities are so that you can mitigate them accordingly.
Vulnerability scanning is a continuous process that fits throughout an app’s software development life cycle (SDLC). Frequent scanning, especially in the early stages of development before upstream components are layered onto the source code, makes it much easier to fix issues before they become costly problems.
Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of developers acknowledge the importance of multi-layered vulnerability management. However, most of them do not venture beyond the use of just one scanner. To this group of developers, vulnerability scanning is a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. Therefore, they would rather use the one scanner they feel reveals most of the important vulnerabilities in their app.
The danger of this approach, of course, is that a hacker merely needs one weakness in your entire application to wreak havoc.
The Diverse World of App Security Scanners
Like the vulnerabilities they uncover, AppSec scanning takes numerous forms. Below are some of the most important software vulnerability scans and why to use them.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST)
SAST was developed over a decade ago when most code was proprietary and incorporating snippets was not as straightforward as copying and pasting. A SAST scanner inspects proprietary, static source code and reports quality and security problems. You can use a SAST scanner for any code if its programming language is supported.
SAST scanning happens early in the SDLC as it does not need a working application. You can identify and fix issues without breaking builds or transferring vulnerabilities to the next development phase.
SAST scanners can uncover many of the OWASP Top 10 AppSec risks by analyzing vulnerabilities in source code. However, it cannot identify weaknesses outside code, such as those that come with third-party interfaces. It also cannot uncover runtime and configuration errors. Because misconfigurations are a major cause of vulnerabilities, SAST alone is not adequate to guarantee application security.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
SAST analyses an app from the inside out by scanning its source code. DAST, on the other hand, probes the app from the outside-in, testing the app during runtime. It treats software as a black box and tests all exposed interfaces for weaknesses.
DAST scanning can be performed for any app, including third-party applications where the source code might not be available.
DAST scanning is fast and effective in finding vulnerabilities outside the source code. Its downside, however, is that it only scans exposed interfaces. It presumes that an attacker would only have external access. On the contrary, insider threats are among the most dangerous today.
Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)
IAST improves on DAST by going deeper than just exposed interfaces. IAST Scanners are DAST scanners with some SAST capabilities. They test whether known code vulnerabilities can be exploited in the running app.
IAST tools can be effective in Agile and DevOps environments that require faster and more in-depth scanning than stand-alone DAST and SAST can offer. However, their high cost makes them less of an option for most developers. They also require expertise to implement and manage. Moreover, a single IAST tool cannot give you combined coverage across a variety of programming languages and frameworks.
Mobile Application Security Testing
MAST scanners are specifically intended to run on mobile device platforms. They use a combination of static and dynamic analysis to uncover issues that are specific to mobile environments, such as device rooting or jail-breaking, a spoofed Wi-Fi network, invalid certificates, data leaks, and so on.
MAST is critical in a mobile app’s SDLC. Mobile apps typically modify registry entries and change OS configurations. An app with vulnerabilities can, therefore, be an attacker’s gateway into a user’s entire device.
MAST targets to detect vulnerabilities in mobile apps, but the distinctive characteristics of mobile devices present some unique challenges. Often, developers are faced with the need to combine traditional MAST scanning with other testing approaches, such as mobile forensics and penetration testing.
Software Composition Analysis (SCA)
SCA scanning is a technology that solves a different problem. In current environments, developers procure software from an upstream supply chain. SCA scanners analyze apps to identify open source components as well as third-party APIs. They facilitate the creation of an application’s “bill of materials” and ultimately uncover the risks of using these components. The results of SCA scanners are reports about overall component quality metrics, including vulnerabilities and architecture.
Open source components are the foundation of modern app development. Therefore, a security approach that only includes standard AST techniques leaves out some serious gaps. With SCA, you can complete the picture by mapping open source components to known vulnerabilities.
By nature, APIs expose application interfaces and sensitive data. As a result, they have increasingly become easy prey for attackers.
API scanning focuses on uncovering existing and potential security vulnerabilities like SQL Injection, Content Type Missing, Misused Exception Handling, and Parameter Tampering. An API scanning solution can run scans to mimic standard hacking techniques or enable you to create custom scans to cater to your own use.
Developers often layer API scanners over other tools, such as SAST and DAST, to ensure their APIs stay secure, even after a code or interface change.
Software containers are valuable components of app development. They isolate software from its surroundings so that code can run the same, regardless of its environment. For all their worth, however, containers prevent developers from seeing the code underneath.
Container scanners are critical for unearthing underlying vulnerabilities. They scan Docker containers and images to reveal weaknesses associated with open source libraries and globally installed packages.
Using a container scanner the moment you introduce a container can enable you to promptly decide on the right course of action, be it proceeding with the vulnerabilities identified, mitigating the issues, updating to more secure versions of the libraries, or exploring alternative libraries and base images
License analysis comes in handy when you want to determine the license data for specific app components, especially dependencies.
A license analysis scanner drills down to review and investigate licenses for every component in your app. It can give you information about any component’s license, including declarations and observations, and whether an updated version of the component exists. With this information, you can determine the legitimacy of a license and avoid hidden risks.
App secrets, such as API keys, security certificates, and database credentials can provide attackers access to sensitive systems.
Secrets detection scans an app’s code, logs, and other files for secrets. Because most secrets are generally high entropy strings that are meant to appear random, secret detection scanners feature advanced classification algorithms.
Like SAST, secret detection scans through an app’s source code. However, while SAST merely concerns itself with the current version of code, secret detection scans through the entire history of a project, including previous versions of source code stored in version-controlled systems like Git.
Why Do You Need Multiple AppSec Scanners?
Undoubtedly, the AppSec industry has a generous array of vulnerability scanners. However, as you have probably deduced, all scanners are incomplete on their own. Therefore, relying on just one solution is not an option.
Below are five convincing reasons why deploying multiple AppSec scanners is the way to go.
A more secure foundation
Source code, dependencies, repositories, containers, and interfaces are the building blocks of an app. Vulnerabilities in any of them can compromise your entire project.
Using a combination of tools is the only way to ensure your components are combed for issues before you use them. Combining SCA and license analysis, for instance, gives you the best chance at acquiring and using legitimate, high-quality components.
When properly implemented, scanning can become a natural part of your development process without slowing you down.
Depending on its testing capabilities, a scanner can be implemented in some stages of the SDLC but not others. According to studies, the new production vulnerabilities identified by DAST drop by as much as 50 percent when SAST is introduced. This drop has been shown to correspond to a 25 percent reduction in the average time it takes to fix vulnerabilities.
Mobile app scanners, on the other hand, are specific to mobile devices and how attacks can leverage their vulnerabilities. However, most applications also use components that need broader scanning than MAST alone can provide.
Application security is not binary. It is a sliding scale where every additional security scanner you introduce gets you closer to an acceptable level of software vulnerability. Using multiple scanners enables you to scan as much of your application as possible.
Fewer false positives
False positives are the single biggest problem with security tools. Studies show that 50 percent of all AST results are false positives. They increase the workload on already stretched security and development resources, which make it challenging to identify and prioritize the most critical flaws.
Individual scanners are prone to false positives. However, when different scanners are aggregated and correlated, one can use the results of another to eliminate a sizable number of its invalid results.
SAST, for instance, pours through your app’s source code to identify potential vulnerabilities, but it does not tell you which weaknesses are exploitable. Because DAST scans exposed interfaces, aggregating and correlating SAST and DAST can help you to pick out and prioritize the source code vulnerabilities that present real threats.
A more effective shift-left approach
Often, developers quickly go through initial SDLC stages with the intention of identifying and fixing errors and bugs when the app is closer to launch. For matters security, however, embracing the Shift Left approach can tremendously benefit your app.
Having more than one scanner enables you to deploy the right AST tool as and when you need it. This way, you can address issues as they are created, rather than pass them on to the next development stage.
Easy compliance to industry security standards
A holistic approach to AppSec testing is essential for highly secure app development. It is needed for ISO 27001 certification, HIPAA, DISMA, PCI DSS, and OWASP methodology, and sometimes, even mandated by cybersecurity law.
Using multiple scanners makes it easier to remain compliant with industry standards and regulations. If your sector is mobile apps, for instance, having MAST and mobile API scanning in your arsenal is necessary, if not mandatory.
The headache of using multiple app-security scanners
Developers using multiple scanners are assuredly doing AppSec right. However, the use of different scanning technologies comes with a significant challenge.
Security teams are getting lost downloading, consolidating, analyzing, correlating, and prioritizing a multitude of results from a variety of sources, mostly in different formats. Already squeezed by tight deadlines, developers are often left with no choice but to fix the critical issues and leave the rest for future updates.
Additionally, AST scanners are needed in different SDLC stages for different purposes. Therefore, managing different scanners individually can get very tasking. You need to manually pick out the right scanners, depending on your app’s architecture, language, and components.
Many AppSec departments, especially those of mid-market businesses lack the resources to throw at the complicated tasks of managing multiple scanners and the results that come from them. Some lack an AppSec team altogether and instead rely on a contracted developer. A more simplistic approach to multi-layered app security scanning is needed.
Embracing a holistic approach to vulnerability scanning
As a developer, you cannot ignore the need for multiple vulnerability scanners. But must you settle for the pain of managing different AST tools? Thankfully, the answer to this question is no longer Yes.
Innovation in the AppSec space has seen the birth of AST orchestrating, which offers a single platform for developers to see consolidated outcomes of individual scans.
A single platform for reporting scan results can refine the way you develop and track KPIs. Fed by output from various scanners, orchestrating tools can tell you the risk of specific vulnerabilities relative to the overall risk profile of your project. With these results, you can set KPIs while prioritizing the metrics that will give you the best results.
Orchestration also makes it easier to integrate vulnerability scanning into your CI/CD processes. The right orchestrating solution will save you the trouble of picking and configuring individual scanners manually by doing all the work for you.
Moreover, by consolidating the output of different scanners, orchestration makes it possible to create a custom rulebook that you can use to grant a definitive green or red light to an application. This approach can eliminate the time-consuming process of reviewing the security health of all your projects manually before release.
What does Sken bring to the table?
The appeal of AST orchestration to present-day developers is unquestionable. Sken.ai brings AppSec and DevOps together to offer your CI/CD workflow a host of open-source community-tested scanners on one automated SaaS platform. By adding an orchestration layer across different scanners, Sken inherently solves the challenges that come with using them individually.
Sken automatically determines the right open-source scanners for SAST, DAST, MAST, SCA, Licenses and Secrets, depending on your app’s language and architecture. The SaaS layer aggregates the results from all the scanners into a unified dashboard equipped with robust vulnerability management capabilities. Furthermore, the dashboard uses AI-based technology.to keep false positives at a minimum.
Orchestration is about simplifying AppSec scanning. With Sken, you do not need to be a highly skilled security engineer to improve your app’s security. Sken brings everything to your table in an easily consumable way so that you can focus on fixing vulnerabilities rather than finding them.
For more information about orchestrating open-source scanners with SaaS, check out our blog on Open Source + SaaS.