Posted on May 26, 2023 at 6:38 PM
How to select the right Static Application Security Testing (SAST) solution
When it comes to securing applications, the best solution that any organization can use is Static Application Security Testing (SAST). This is not only a great solution but a crucial part of any comprehensive application security strategy. By using SAST, you can secure software, bring greater security to the entire business, and reduce risks, in general. Plus, all that while cutting down on costs and reducing the speed time to development, delivery, and deployment of applications.
SAST comes with a number of benefits, including the ability to scan code early during the development process, so the development team won’t find themselves in a situation where they have to fix major vulnerabilities right as the time to launch approaches. With it, you can avoid unpleasant surprises or situations where you have to delay the launch. Best of all, you won’t find yourself in a situation where you have to release risky software to respect the launch deadline.
However, if you really wish to switch to SAST, you should try to get the best possible SAST solution. With some of them being better than others, there are things you must consider in order to pick the right one.
Know what to focus on
When it comes to SAST solutions, there are plenty of players in the market. Some of them are making very competing claims, so it is not easy to know which one is actually the best and which ones you should pass on. A way to differentiate between the two is to understand what each claim means and then check if it matches what the product actually does.
Some solutions might even seem good at first, but then the organization outgrows them, or other teams start using them. So, the real question is, what SAST solution is the best for you and your organization?
A solution that fits into your AppSec program
Start by looking for a solution that fits well into your AppSec program. With a comprehensive application security platform, you can make security simple. A good solution can provide you with all the needed information with a single scan, including APIs, IaC, applicative code, supply chains, and more.
When you find a SAST that is part of a unified AppSec platform, this can provide the best value to secure modern applications. A complete platform can offer centralized management for SCA, SCS, DAST, API security, IaC security, container security, and, of course, SAST. A platform also needs to be able to grow with your organization, especially as its needs and requirements change and evolve.
A solution that is flexible
No two applications are the same, and different stakeholders also have different needs. This is why you need a flexible solution, as stakeholders sometimes might need an overview of the risk in an application and “scan wide,” while other times a “scan deep” is a better option.
With a solution that can do both, you can ensure that you are ready for any situation. SAST solutions should also come with a range of presets (rulesets) — groups of scan rules that can be used in various scans. You should have presses that offer the “big picture” overview of the code risks and vulnerabilities, but also more specific scans, all depending on need.
A solution that is as accurate as possible
A SAST is only useful if it is accurate, which makes sense when you consider that accuracy can either result in false positives or it can miss important vulnerabilities and issues. False positives will waste your team’s time and resources while missing vulnerabilities can lead to increased risk.
You can reduce false negatives by using application-centric solutions that understand how your application works. Such solutions track data flow through code and execute code with symbolic inputs. That way, they can explore different paths and find potential exploits.
Alternatively, you can use the right profile for the codebase and create custom queries when necessary.
A solution that works for developers
When it comes to solving any problem, the most important part is to identify its source. That way, you can eliminate any issues that emerge as consequences once and for all. However, the solution does not lie in fast scans or forcing developers to comb the entire solution for errors.
Any issue that emerges needs to be fixed fast, and SAST solutions can help by offering the “best fix location.” This will help developers identify the exact location where fixing the vulnerability will have the best impact. Plus, it will save time, energy, and resources. A lot of times, a very complex problem can be solved with a single fix, and the biggest trick is finding the right spot to implement it.
Make your SAST work with your developers, and preferable results will be achieved much faster.
A solution that supports your software development life cycle
Technology continues to advance, and all aspects of it evolve over time, including frameworks and languages. However, your SAST solution should not. In other words, it is important to have a solution that will be able to keep up with the latest language updates and that supports new languages as they appear.
Essentially, you wish to avoid having to change to a different solution after already going through the trouble of implementing one. The best way to go about it is to implement the best solution out there and ensure that it will be able to provide permanent quality coverage.
Discovering APIs in your source code
The last few years have brought numerous high-profile data breaches that have caused a lot of concern. There is now a growing awareness that APIs could act as a gateway for attackers, who might use them to get to your applications. However, APIs come with a number of challenges, and for most of them, a quality security solution is among the biggest ones. The reason for this is that they are all shift-right.
Ultimately, each API is different and comes with its own security challenges. This is why it is important for developers to document their APIs so that solutions like WAF and DAST know what to test and protect. The good news is that API is written in code, so SAST solutions should be capable of discovering endpoints of APIs, as defined in the code, and then inventory them. Ideally, SAST will also be able to identify specific vulnerabilities if there are any.
Balancing SAST and DAST together
The point of scanning code with SAST is the detection of coding errors that could end up causing vulnerabilities. However, there is also value in using DAST tools alongside SAST. DAST and SAST seek different types of flaws, so neither one of these can do the job fully on its own. Having both on the same platform will let you see all the flaws in one place and then manage and triage them in a single process.
Once discovered and cataloged, you can simply send them to your developers and have them fix them in the same workflow.
Find a solution that will let you shift security
One last thing to remember is that as you start researching SAST solutions, you will hear a number of promises to shift your AppSec left. However, keep in mind that this is not enough anymore. Modern applications are different from the old ones, and development practices are relying on APIs more than ever, as well as on open-source code and other innovations. These days, everything is an application, so you must be able to shift your application security everywhere.