Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

What is DAST?

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is the process of analyzing web applications through the front end to root out any vulnerabilities via simulated attacks. This approach scrutinizes the application from the “outside-in” by attacking an application like a threat actor would.

Once a DAST scanner has carried out these attacks, it looks for any results that are not part of what was expected in the set of results. It then pinpoints where the security vulnerabilities lie and whether or not the application could be susceptible to an actual attack.

Pros of DAST 

  • Because DAST can mimic the behavior of malicious actors, it can reveal how a business’s applications behave in a live environment, proactively rooting out risks so the necessary fixes can be made to prevent a successful attack in the future.
  • In this way, problems that slip past development teams are uncovered before they become an issue or can be exploited by bad actors.
  • Malefactors tend to exploit a security vulnerability for as long as possible and remain hidden, which may go unnoticed by security practitioners until it’s too late.
  • DAST can also root out issues that other forms of testing cannot, such as server misconfiguration or authentication issues.
  • DAST methods test at the black box level and don’t depend on or even consider source code. Therefore, they can try any application and find problems other tests miss.
  • DAST is crucial in maintaining compliance and making regulatory reporting easier, as it helps mitigate security risks that could lead to a breach. 

Cons of DAST 

  • One disadvantage of DAST is that while it can depend on security professionals to create the proper test procedures, it’s hard to make comprehensive testing for every application.
  • DAST may create false positives, recognizing a legitimate element of an application as a vulnerability or threat.
  • Too many false positives can overwhelm security analysts and make it hard to determine whether or not the results are valid.
  • Another way that DAST tools are imperfect is that they only indicate that a problem exists; they can’t identify issues within the actual code.
  • On its own, DAST cannot tell developers exactly where to start fixing the problem.
  • In addition, DAST tools focus on requests and responses that sometimes miss several flaws that may be hidden in the architectural design.
  • DAST also runs relatively sluggishly, taking days or weeks to complete testing.
  • Because DAST happens late in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), issues can create increased tasks for the development teams, which increases time to market and costs.

How DAST works

DAST tools work by interacting with applications while they are running. It involves several steps.

  • Scanning:The DAST solution scans the web application being tested to pinpoint the entry points and assess the app’s security posture.
  • Attack simulation:It then simulates a real-life attack by sending requests to the application, attempting to exploit any vulnerabilities.
  • Vulnerability detection:The scanner then analyzes the responses from the application to determine if any vulnerabilities or weaknesses were exposed in the process. If a vulnerability is discovered, it will generate a report to show what type and how severe the issue is.
  • Reporting:At its conclusion, DAST presents a detailed report on the outcomes of the test, such as information on any vulnerabilities found, as well as recommendations about how to fix them.

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Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
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