Decluttering security with effective application scanning tools
Application security can get noisy, especially when organizations are balancing multiple tools of varying quality and integration levels. Luckily, you don’t have to be Marie Kondo to declutter your web AppSec program – provided you use accurate DAST and build it into your workflows.
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Without proper scanning tools built with accuracy in mind, application security (AppSec) can be noisy and confusing. The path toward clearer and more effective security needs to be paved with modern scanning solutions that combine accuracy with automation to let your developers and security professionals cut through the clutter and work on the issues that matter most.
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.– Hans Hofmann
Painter Hans Hofmann might’ve been talking about minimalism in art when he made that statement, but it applies to technology, too – you may have heard of the KISS principle. Steering clear of complexity is especially important to building and maintaining secure software. With good reason: when you’re moving at breakneck speed to build innovative apps quickly atop an abundance of APIs and integrations, the world of application security can get messy, and fast.
Toss in a plethora of code application scanning tools that generate confusing results with a lot of false positives, and it’s easy to see why AppSec becomes noisy mayhem for some organizations. And cyberattacks aren’t slowing down amidst the noise. Web applications in particular are the number one attack vector for bad actors looking for an easy way in, and a whopping 75% of organizations are spending as much or more time on false positives as they are on actual attacks. There’s a lot of time wasted sifting through AppSec noise while threat actors work away in the background, and teams run the risk of leaving actual severe threats on the table while they’re busy chasing phantom flaws.
The need to check (and re-check) work is not only time-consuming but also discouraging. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, expert declutterer Marie Kondo said it well: “Repetition and wasted effort can kill motivation, and therefore it must be avoided.” The same goes for software security, where development and security teams often suffer the mental effects of inaccurate scan results leading to tedious manual checks. That crushes confidence in security processes, fast, and leads to more skipped steps.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be the Marie Kondo of cybersecurity to declutter your AppSec, reduce noise, and strike the right minimalistic balance that even Hans Hofmann would appreciate. Here’s how selecting the right application scanning tools designed with accuracy as a foundational feature means your team can spend less time chasing flimsy results and put more energy toward secure development.
Focus on tried-and-true application scanning tools with DAST
It’s not always easy to get good results from your application scanning tool. Sometimes, the solutions you have at the ready generate too many mistakes or just don’t cover enough ground. Modern dynamic application security testing (DAST) solutions probe the running application to find dynamic vulnerabilities and give you a clear, high-level view of your security posture to help you better understand the realistic risks.
When you have a clear view of your entire application from the outside in with DAST, you’re looking at it through the same lens as an attacker and can close immediate security gaps more easily. In particular, switching from legacy DAST to a modern DAST solution can be an eye-opener, as you get more detailed and accurate crawl results, more extensive tracking of attack points all across your web attack surface, and clear vulnerability reports that tell you exactly what to do and when.
Perhaps the most gainful feature of Invicti’s DAST tool is Proof-Based Scanning, which automatically confirms the majority of exploitable vulnerabilities with 99.98% accuracy. Such high accuracy means that developers and security professionals immediately see which issues to tackle first – without any unnecessary noise. That level of confidence is priceless, especially when deadlines loom.
Automate, automate, and then automate – but keep humans in the mix
Automating tedious processes is a must in web application security as it is in development, which is why the best modern scanning tools have it baked in as a core time-saving (and sanity-saving) feature. Having application scanning tools without efficient automation might even lead to teams ignoring security altogether just to get an app out the door and into the world, even if it is riddled with flaws that weren’t found or addressed in time.
When teams are forced to tackle these tasks manually, they can hit a whole bevy of obstacles, including quality assurance issues, missed or skipped testing steps, and the after-effects of extreme delays on app releases. Automated scanners can take the manual work out of detecting vulnerabilities and scheduling scans, freeing up time for more valuable tasks and projects.
While it’s true that human expertise will always be a crucial part of AppSec (especially as DAST and humans go hand-in-hand), automating away the tedium greatly reduces the everyday clutter of security. It all becomes far less noisy when the scanner is working away in the background, testing hundreds or thousands of web applications quickly and accurately to reduce risk, leaving humans to do what they do best: innovate.
Reduce security debt and shrink your attack surface
Just as Hans Hofmann noted, eliminating the unnecessary from your environment allows the necessary elements to speak. In the world of software security, this can translate to the reduction of security debt – that buildup of fudged fixes and downplayed vulnerabilities that are often symptoms of more serious ailments. Debt piles up because DevSecOps processes are subpar or nonexistent, and insecure choices in design or implementation are waved through due to time, budget, or team constraints. Over time, security debt can slow everything down, even and it sits there collecting dust as a potential backdoor for bad guys.
Haphazard AppSec gets noisy and inefficient, relentlessly pushing more issues onto your security debt pile. Luckily, there are ways you can pay down your debt to reduce some of that unnecessary and risky mess. First and foremost, don’t rush security to deliver code. Pushing code to production without going through the proper security checks and tools may seem like a time-saver but only adds to lingering debt in the long run.
Scanners with automation baked in can help teams to continuously improve their security posture by not adding to that mountain of debt. Using the time reclaimed through automation, your security experts can define and maintain realistic plans to pay down the existing security debt by prioritizing and addressing the vulnerabilities that make a difference. Opt for application scanning tools with features like continuous asset discovery to crack down on blind spots where security debt might linger. When you have a clearer picture of your threat exposure and a better handle on your current risk posture, it’s easier to triage the backlog of debt and avoid adding more to the pile.
Tired of noisy AppSec? Read this report from ESG to learn how automated application security can help improve software development through comprehensive scanning that includes DAST.