7 Reasons Why DAST Is the Multitool of Web Application Testing

Zbigniew Banach - Wed, 09 Dec 2020 -

The versatility of modern DAST has made it an indispensable part of any web application security toolkit. Let’s take a look at 7 things that truly make DAST the multitool of application security testing.

7 Reasons Why DAST Is the Multitool of Web Application Testing

DAST is fast becoming an indispensable part of any web application security toolkit. The versatility of modern dynamic tools brings advantages that extend far beyond typical vulnerability scanning scenarios. Let’s take a look at 7 things that make DAST the multitool of application security testing.

DAST is the multitool of application security testing

#1: Test Every Website and Application

The most important advantage of dynamic application security testing (DAST) is the ability to scan all web assets, regardless of origin, technology, or source code availability. Modern web applications are often complicated patchworks of template code, external libraries, legacy business systems – and only then the actual custom application code. DAST is the only approach to testing that can handle all these cases and check the resulting web application as it appears to users and attackers, regardless of the underlying architecture and technologies.

#2: Stay Secure in Any Environment

One of the things that set web application development apart from traditional software development is the breakneck pace of change. Agile development with frequent deployments is the order of the day, as is introducing new dependencies, technologies, or even languages with very little notice. Because DAST is executed on the resulting application, not the underlying code, it delivers dependable results and remains fully usable regardless of changes in your application environment or even your organization.

#3: Run Security Testing During Development

One long-standing myth about DAST is that you can’t use it in development. Fortunately, this is no longer true and tools like Netsparker can be readily integrated into development workflows. With the right integration set up, commits can be automatically scanned for vulnerabilities to identify security issues as early as possible in the software development lifecycle. By finding and fixing issues early, you can build security from the ground up and avoid the costs and delays associated with discovering and addressing security bugs at later stages.

#4: Check Production Deployments for Vulnerabilities

The traditional division of labor in application security testing has been SAST in development, DAST in staging, and manual testing in production. But just as modern DAST can be employed during development, so it can also be used to scan production environments. In fact, this is where new deployments can see the greatest security benefits because you can quickly gauge the level of security of live environments. It is also best practice to periodically scan existing production deployments to detect any issues introduced by configuration changes or check for newly discovered vulnerabilities.

#5: Integrate Security into DevOps Workflows

The versatility of modern DAST combined with workflow integrations allows you to incorporate application security testing into DevOps processes to build DevSecOps. The crucial requirement here is for automation, which in turn requires accuracy so you don’t act on false alarms. In the case of Netsparker, you get out-of-the-box integration with popular issue trackers and CI/CD tools, while Proof-Based Scanning™ delivers verified results that can be confidently automated. This is a vital step on the road to building a systematic security program.

#6: Streamline Penetration Testing

Manual penetration testing was how dynamic web application security testing started and it is still a vital component of the security mix. By using a quality DAST tool, penetration testers (whether in-house or external) can automate the grunt work to quickly identify vulnerable areas and focus on confirming and reporting real issues. In the case of Netsparker, many common vulnerabilities are confirmed automatically using Proof-Based Scanning™ to deliver ready results, allowing testers to focus on more complex vulnerabilities.

#7: Gain a Broad View of Application Security

Dynamic application testing has a unique advantage compared to point solutions: it can provide an overall view of your real-life application security posture. We’ve already seen that DAST can test all accessible web assets, no matter where they originated, what programming language they use, and who controls the source code. Assuming your DAST tool is as accurate as Netsparker, the results will give you a very good idea of your overall web security status here and now. To provide even more visibility across your web environment, Netsparker also features asset discovery and detects outdated web technologies.

Never Leave Home Without Your DAST

To be clear, there is no tool that does absolutely everything, especially in an area as complicated as web application security. A mature security program needs a balanced mix of tools and processes to be effective and maximize testing coverage, so the typical “SAST or DAST” discussion is missing the point. If you want to cover all bases, you need both static and dynamic testing – and more.

However, most security testing tools only work on their specialized piece of the puzzle, so any gaps in the toolchain could mean gaps in security. This is where the versatility of modern DAST really shines through. Apart from its core role of dynamic testing in QA and staging, it can also be used at other points of the SDLC, filling in gaps, complementing existing tools, and providing vital overall visibility.

DAST is the essential multitool in your appsec toolbox, so no matter where you are on your security journey, make sure you have it with you.

Zbigniew Banach

About the Author

Zbigniew Banach

Technical Content Writer at Netsparker. Drawing on his experience as an IT journalist and technical translator, he does his best to bring web security to a wider audience on the Netsparker blog and website.