Choosing an MSSP? Ask about DAST for your web application security

When evaluating managed security service providers (MSSPs), companies should make sure that web application security is part of the offering – and that a quality DAST solution is on hand to provide regular and scalable security testing.

Choosing an MSSP? Ask about DAST for your web application security

Key takeaways


  • Companies that don’t have the in-house resources to handle web application security need to make sure they partner with an MSP/MSSP that has expertise with DAST tools. 
  • DAST identifies security vulnerabilities in running web applications so developers can fix them before they are exploited by malicious actors. 
  • Combined with additional tools like IAST, a scalable and accurate DAST solution is crucial for maintaining security across today’s online business operations.

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are just as much in cyberattackers’ line of fire as larger companies. But because they don’t necessarily have the resources to hire specialized, dedicated security professionals to safeguard their applications, many seek the help of managed service providers (MSPs) or dedicated managed security service providers (MSSPs). 

However, not all MSSPs are created equal. To ensure the integrity of their web-based applications, SMBs should evaluate potential providers based on whether they offer modern solutions and services for dynamic application security testing (DAST) and potentially also interactive application security testing (IAST). 

Automating application security testing

DAST solutions have become security table stakes in a world where web apps are a regular target of attacks and purely manual screening methods are too slow and limited in scope to consistently cover all application vulnerabilities. “Endpoints and humans are often the weak points, and web-facing apps are now being attacked more frequently,” said Matt Hubbell, Invicti’s Director of MSSP, North America. 

Unfortunately, application security isn’t always given the attention it needs. According to Akamai’s recent “Web Application and API Threat Report,” web application attack attempts against Akamai customers grew by more than 300% year over year in the first half of 2022 – the largest increase ever observed. This only serves to reinforce why it’s important that companies choose an MSSP that provides application security testing services. By incorporating DAST, MSSPs can schedule regularly occurring automated scans to help protect their customers’ web applications and quickly bring vulnerabilities to the attention of developers. 

“People who just scan their apps once in a while aren’t really protecting themselves,” warned Hubbell.

DAST tools analyze running web applications and application programming interfaces (APIs) from the outside in, safely simulate external attacks on production systems, and then observe the responses. Used correctly, DAST can improve a company’s overall security posture and reduce the risk of a cyberattack. 

Some DAST solutions can also include IAST tools to examine web apps from the inside by integrating security testing into the runtime environment. IAST tools monitor running code to detect security vulnerabilities in real time and identify and isolate the root causes of vulnerabilities at the code level, including those that are not visible from external API interactions. IAST fills the gap between static application security testing (SAST), which checks static code, and DAST, which checks the running application’s behavior. 

The sooner in the software development process a company can find and fix security issues, the safer its business will be – especially in this age of continuous deployment and integration (CI/CD), where code is refined daily or even hourly. Everyone makes mistakes; for example, a common coding error could allow unverified inputs, which could turn into SQL injection attacks that may result in data leaks. The challenge is to find those mistakes in a timely fashion, and MSSPs must be able to scale up their testing regime, said Hubbell. Advanced DAST solutions can help them accomplish that. 

“The goal is to make these tools part of the software stack to identify and prevent vulnerabilities,” he said. “And the faster the tool is to run, the more accurate its findings can be.”

Good DAST benefits everyone

A quality DAST solution offers key benefits to both MSSPs and their customers. Among them are:

  • Cost-effectiveness: DAST can identify application vulnerabilities quickly and efficiently by running regular automated scans across an MSSP customer’s entire applications portfolio. This helps to optimize the costs of time-consuming manual testing while also quickly spotting potential issues before they result in a data breach or costly downtime. 
  • Compliance: Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, have compliance requirements that mandate regular vulnerability scanning and testing of web apps and APIs. By offering DAST capabilities as part of their services, MSSPs help their customers meet these requirements and avoid potential fines, penalties, or the need to fix problems flagged by security audits. 
  • Data integrity: Web applications and APIs often handle sensitive business and customer data, such as personal information, financial data, and medical records. By identifying vulnerabilities with DAST, companies can protect their customer data from unauthorized access or theft in case of a breach.

Application security is more important than ever in this fast-paced digital world. By outsourcing security to an MSSP that provides a quality DAST, companies can demonstrate to their own customers, partners, and stakeholders their commitment to a more comprehensive security solution that covers web application and API security.

About the Author

David Strom - Contributing Writer

David Strom is one of the leading experts on network and Internet technologies and has written and spoken extensively on topics such as security, cloud computing, network management, Internet applications and wireless and Web services for more than 35 years.