Application security, Vulnerability Management

Four benefits of running continuous DAST in production environments


Organizations disregard the criticality of continuous vulnerability scanning in production environments, fixating instead on security measures that are merely superficial compliance checkboxes or optional extras. It's important for them to fundamentally change their approach towards building their app sec program and recognize the indispensable role of production scanning as a fundamental security pillar.

Moreover, it’s crucial to emphasize the substantial disparity between ad hoc processes and a proactive, ongoing approach to vulnerability testing. Distinguishing between these two approaches can help fortify the security of an organization and production environments. Considering that threat actors readily target production websites, apps, and software, relying solely on static application security testing (SAST) and software composition analysis (SCA) tools has become insufficient. To bolster your defenses, it’s imperative to adopt a comprehensive dynamic application security testing (DAST) product. Ideally, it should conduct continuous scans on a production environment, ensuring that the organization has immediate access to real-time vulnerability information.

All organizations are vulnerable

Let’s start with a reality check: while it’s not realistic to eliminate all potential vulnerabilities, most organizations knowingly or unknowingly wind up pushing vulnerable code into production despite running security tests throughout their software development lifecycle (SDLC). In a recent survey, nearly 70% of respondents reported using 11 or more AST tools on more than half their codebase, and 69% of them rated the effectiveness of their security program as an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. And yet, nearly 80% of the same organizations admitted to pushing code with known vulnerabilities to production at least occasionally (with nearly 50% admitting doing it regularly).

According to Forrester, applications are the most common attack vector for threat actors. While it’s generally ideal if organizations had robust teams of full-time security professions to carry out testing and remediate vulnerabilities, it’s just not realistic. Budgets aside, qualified experts are in demand and often overloaded. In a recent report published by 451 Research, survey respondents identified the factors that inhibit their security testing tool use:

  • Lack of staff expertise: 37%
  • Solution complexity: 25%
  • Complexity in setting up: 24%
  • Solution usability: 23%
  • Inadequate staffing: 20%

Here’s the solution 

Security teams need to consider implementing continuous DAST in production environments. The ultimate test of an application's security posture is in its ability to withstand attacks in production. DAST empowers organizations to employ the very techniques that malicious actors would use to target web applications. In essence, DAST serves as an application security program that lets security teams simulate scenarios that threat actors might exploit. By proactively managing vulnerabilities, organizations can effectively mitigate risks before they are exploited.

By implementing continuous DAST in a production environments, security teams can significantly reduce the window of time between the introduction of a vulnerability and its discovery. This proactive approach lets security teams swiftly address vulnerabilities and uphold the security of their organization.

This “always on” approach offers the following:

  • Automatic detection and analysis of code changes to web applications. This helps improve the security of web applications by automatically detecting and analyzing code changes. Don't leave the organization exposed to exploits from security errors that get pushed to production during the intervals between testing cadences. Push incremental code changes with confidence.
  • Alerts for newly discovered vulnerabilities such as Log4j. DAST should evolve in real time. Ensure that a DAST product offers the most up-to-date exploit information in every scan.
  • An unlimited number of websites and applications onboarded and scanned concurrently. Cloud-based delivery simplifies implementation and helps organizations scale fast. This means no matter how many applications an organization runs, the continuous DAST product should scale to it with minimum effort. Furthermore, onboarding services are also important and should be considered when assessing the best DAST solution for an organization; thus ensuring that everything runs smoothly and there’s minimum impact on internal resources.
  • Asynchronous testing. After starting a scan of an organization's entire web app ecosystem, teams don’t have to wait for those tests to finish running before starting a test for a single feature or app. This means teams don't have to hesitate to run comprehensive tests out of fear that doing so will hold up testing incremental changes that might get pushed through concurrently.

Implementing continuous DAST in a production environment lets organizations detect vulnerabilities before they become opportunities for threat actors to exploit. This robust security measure ensures that organizations can remain one step ahead in safeguarding their assets, allowing them to focus on driving business growth with confidence.

Vishrut Iyengar, senior solution manager, Synopsys Software Integrity Group

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