5 Reasons Why Proof-Based Scanning is a Game-changer

Zbigniew Banach - Wed, 25 Nov 2020 -

Making decisions based on probabilities and hunches instead of solid facts is bad not just for business but also for web security. Netsparker uses Proof-Based Scanning™ to cut through the uncertainty and show which web vulnerabilities are real and exploitable. Learn how this changes the entire approach to application security testing.

5 Reasons Why Proof-Based Scanning is a Game-changer

Making decisions based on probabilities and hunches instead of solid facts is bad not just for business but also for web security. Netsparker uses its proprietary Proof-Based Scanning™ technology to cut through the uncertainty and show beyond any doubt which web vulnerabilities are real and exploitable by attackers right now. This clarity completely changes the entire approach to application security testing – let’s see why.

Reason #1: Restoring Trust in DAST

Modern dynamic application security testing (DAST) has come a long way from the simple web application testing tools of the early 2000s. The first dynamic tools were little more than aids to manual testing, created with simple static web pages in mind. As web technologies advanced by leaps and bounds, legacy DAST products simply could not keep up, giving rise to the stereotype of DAST as limited in scope, accuracy, and usefulness.

Even though modern solutions represent a completely new generation of DAST, users still have low expectations of automated testing tools and tend to be skeptical of any new claims of effectiveness. After all, everyone claims to have higher accuracy and fewer false positives than the competition. Netsparker was built on the deceptively simple idea that to convince users that a vulnerability is real, you need to deliver solid proof – and this is how Proof-Based Scanning™ was born.

The real innovation is that an automated tool can identify vulnerabilities with the same level of certainty as a penetration tester or bounty hunter. The “Confirmed” stamp that you see in vulnerability reports verified by Netsparker is more than an icon – it means that the issue is real and you can move to address it without any additional checking by the security team. Quite simply, if you see “Confirmed”, you have a vulnerability that you need to fix. Period.

Reason #2: The Shift to Fact-based Web Application Security

Proof-Based Scanning™ works by safely exploiting an identified vulnerability and extracting sample data to prove that an attack is possible. This is not just another feature to tick off on the list but a fundamental change in the way vulnerability scanning operates. Proven DAST results are no longer things you should probably take a look at – they are vulnerabilities that really exist and can get you hacked right now. They are the facts, pure and simple.

Without proof, every single result from even the best DAST could be a false alarm until somebody checks it manually. In a large web environment, you can have thousands of reported issues – but until they are verified, you simply don’t know your current security status. Proof-Based Scanning™ cuts through the uncertainty by automatically showing (and proving beyond any doubt) which issues are definitely real and not false positives. This eliminates guesswork and enables the move to fact-based web application security at any scale.

Reason #3: Accurate Prioritization and Planning

In any web application environment, you will get a variety of issues that differ in type, importance, and potential impact. To get measurable security improvements from day one, you need to focus your resources where they will make the biggest difference at a given time, starting with vulnerabilities that are directly exploitable and would have the greatest impact if targeted by attackers.

This is where Proof-Based Scanning™ really shines. Every confirmed vulnerability that is accompanied by proof has already been safely exploited by Netsparker, so you know for a fact that attackers could exploit it as well. Combined with severity ratings and technical information provided in each vulnerability report, this gives you accurate data to plan and prioritize your resolution efforts for maximum effectiveness and rapid time-to-value.

Reason #4: True Automation and Scalability

Modern web application development relies on automation and cloud-based scalability. Build environments, continuous integration pipelines, containerized deployments – everything is heavily automated because that’s the only way to build and operate extremely complex and dynamic environments with limited human resources. Yet when you try to add automated security testing to this mix, things don’t always mesh smoothly.

Automation is all about eliminating as much manual work as possible. But what if results from your DAST solution need to be verified manually before you can turn them into developer tickets? This is where most DAST products stumble, leading to the misconception that you can’t use DAST in CI/CD pipelines. Of course you can – but only if you have Proof-Based Scanning™ to ensure that only real and exploitable security issues are automated and you don’t inject false-positive results into the development and testing workflow.

To take security automation and scalability further, Netsparker integrates with many popular issue trackers so that automatically confirmed vulnerability reports can go directly to developers without burdening the security team. You can also set up automatic fix retesting to go from security bug report to fix deployment without any manual steps by security staff. Proven and fully trusted vulnerability scan results open the way to confident automation and true scalability.

Reason #5: Improved Workflows and Working Relations

Last but certainly not least, Proof-Based Scanning™ completely changes the developer-security team dynamic by eliminating misunderstandings and minimizing back-and-forth. When a developer gets a security bug report confirmed by Netsparker, they can immediately see proof that the vulnerability really exists and is exploitable. They also get detailed information about the issue, its impact, and ways to fix it. This is a huge time-saver for security testers, who can now focus on managing vulnerabilities and providing security advice to developers rather than manually confirming and documenting issues.

Moving from lengthy exchanges triggered by “this code is insecure, fix it” to detailed bug reports accompanied by actual proof eliminates unnecessary communication overhead, streamlines workflows, and greatly improves working relations. No more finger-pointing and throwing issues over the wall – now everyone works with solid data to understand root causes, eliminate vulnerabilities, and improve security in the long run. Developers get actionable tickets so they can quickly fix security bugs and focus on building better software, while security testers can concentrate on complex vulnerabilities that really need human expertise.

Always Demand Proof

There are lots of vulnerability scanners on the DAST market and vendors are all making similar claims about accuracy, low false positives, great coverage... It can get pretty confusing out there. At Netsparker, we value straight talking. When we say a vulnerability is confirmed and proven, the issue is definitely real – because we have already safely exploited it. Here is your bug, here is your proof, go fix it. Web application security doesn’t get any simpler.

Download a PDF on Netsparker's Proof-Based Scanning - The Key to Confident Automation.

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.