Betting big on SAST and DAST tools in 2023? Keep these three things in mind

As organizations go all-in on cybersecurity budgets and strategize to fortify their web applications, there are three major considerations they should keep in mind if they want to maximize results – and get the best ROI from their SAST and DAST tools.

Betting big on SAST and DAST tools in 2023? Keep these three things in mind

On the heels of more economic slowdown, organizations are prepping for the worst: a recent study by Spiceworks Ziff Davis (SWZD) shows that half (50%) of surveyed companies plan on taking precautionary measures in preparation for a tumbling economy in 2023. Strategies for protecting business during the impending recession include re-evaluating vendor contracts and reducing non-essential spending. 

But the same SWZD report also shows that as concerns around security rise, there is an expected increase in IT budgets for over half (51%) of organizations, with particular growth in spending on managed security services. For organizations looking to protect their business-critical applications, an increased cybersecurity budget should mean they’re better prepared to weather the economic storm ahead. 

These trends track with the data from our most recent Invicti AppSec Indicator report which found that 73% of companies anticipate an increase in application security (AppSec) investments in 2023. As more organizations integrate solutions for static and dynamic application security testing into their development processes and look for ways to close gaps in security coverage with these SAST and DAST tools, there are a few crucial considerations that can improve the overall effectiveness and adoption of these efforts in 2023 and beyond. 

Key questions to ask before investing in SAST and DAST tools

When allocating more budget for cybersecurity efforts and building an effective strategy, it’s important to step back and think about the big picture. Asking the right questions to determine which tools, services, and processes are really needed will help set your organization up for success. Good questions to start from include:

  • What are the top reasons we’re investing in our AppSec program? Sometimes it’s a knee-jerk reaction to a recent data breach, other times an effort to meet compliance standards. While there’s no wrong answer to this one, you need to know your most pressing issues so you can pick the best path to face them down.
  • What are our main goals, and do we have KPIs to track how we get there? Clear goals and KPIs can make all the difference in a successful, measurable AppSec program that improves year over year. Your goals may also dictate specific types of tools and solutions you will need in order to meet KPIs. 
  • Which tools and services do we need to upgrade, and what are we missing? Simply piling on new tools can lead to inefficiencies and create more problems than it solves. Getting the lay of the land is thus a vital first step to crafting an AppSec strategy that closes security gaps, reduces risk, and improves processes across the board.

Armed with these answers, you can at least fit together the foundational elements of your security program puzzle. But to get real security improvements accompanied by measurable ROI, you should also keep an eye on three crucial considerations: automation, coverage, and adoption. 

Automation in security testing should help humans work smarter

The scale and pace of modern web development make automation a must, and that includes security testing. Reliable automatic security testing can make the lives of your developers and security engineers much easier by taking most of the tedious manual work out of finding and verifying vulnerabilities. Getting a handle on web vulnerabilities is vital for eliminating gaps in your security coverage, especially considering that web applications were the number one attack vector last year – but automation isn’t there to replace the human element of AppSec. On the contrary, it complements existing skills so that your developers and security professionals can work smarter, not harder. 

Automating communication and security checks by integrating SAST and DAST tools speeds up new and existing workflows and makes it easier to scale security efforts. Perhaps most beneficial, with the right tools in place, it can take the guesswork out of AppSec. Modern security tools designed with automation and accuracy in mind can take your scan results to the next level and supplement existing skills so the experts on your DevSecOps team can use their expertise and intuition more effectively.

Coverage should mean checking every corner of your attack surface

Did you know there are over 1.5 billion websites around today? Not only do those sites rely on integrations and components that may be vulnerable to attack but also more are being designed and built every single day. Under business pressure to release new sites and web application functionality, development organizations are often chasing deadlines and find they don’t have time to find and eliminate all security defects. This is a dangerous trap to fall into – and that’s even before considering that your latest release is likely only a tiny part of your total web attack surface.

The hard truth is: you can’t secure what you don’t know about. Security tools that offer features like continuous asset discovery enable more effective planning and remediation because they uncover sites and applications that your existing security efforts might not cover. Add to that a software bill of materials (SBOM) that clearly outlines your components and dependencies, and also make sure you know and test all your APIs. When you give your security team a clear view of exactly where the risks are within the current threat landscape, you know your AppSec program is doing more than scratching the surface.

Put people first when investing in security tools

In tech, good talent stays put when strong leadership operates on clear communication and invests in smart solutions. Because security is everyone’s job, from the CISO to the newest hire, security directives must come from the top as integral parts of your strategy. When leadership is open and honest about challenges and the tactical steps needed to overcome them, the entire organization has more confidence in seeing these efforts through. For a practical AppSec program, make sure you:

  • Present a measurable strategy to the company with clearly defined metrics that show how security initiatives will save time, money, and sanity. 
  • Use language that speaks to everyone regardless of their skill sets or expertise, ensuring that the entire company is on board with the strategy. 
  • Make realistic requests and demonstrate how they can be achieved in a reasonable timeframe, showing how tools fold into existing workflows for easy adoption. 
  • Present frameworks for security plans and automated features that will solve problems immediately and act as proof points of success. 

When investing in cybersecurity solutions, you need to look not only for the features your security strategy requires but also for the usability to drive efficiency and adoption. Mismatched or low-quality tools can compound existing security debt or flood your workflows with false positives that translate to headaches and additional risk. The successful adoption of a DevSecOps strategy often comes down to which tools work best for your software development lifecycle (SDLC), and that can vary from organization to organization. 

For example, even though SAST tools are generally easy to integrate within your SDLC, they tend to introduce a lot of false positives and require extensive manual tuning to be effective at scale. For many companies, DAST solutions are a more attractive choice for their ease of deployment and ability to discover a wider range of vulnerabilities – including runtime issues. With leading modern solutions, DAST can also integrate into the SDLC, provide automatic vulnerability confirmation, and deliver remediation guidance to take the busywork out of application security.

Setting the stage for successful AppSec investments 

As more IT budgets are allocated to cybersecurity in 2023, organizations will need to work on fine-tuning and improving their strategies if they want to keep up with evolving threats and also get the most bang for their buck. Thinking through the important details of your strategy – like prioritizing business-critical applications, understanding your full threat landscape, and selecting tools that help to build DevSecOps – is key to setting up a program that everyone feels confident adopting.

Read the latest Invicti AppSec Indicator report to dig deeper into budget trends for security initiatives and learn why DAST is a critical component of modern AppSec programs.