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Compare SAST vs. DAST vs. SCA for DevSecOps

SAST, DAST and SCA DevSecOps tools can automate code security testing. Discover what each testing method does, and review some open source options to choose from.

Modern software development is a painstakingly complex process. Software must be rigorously tested against vulnerabilities and exploits before deployment and after it is in production.

To accelerate the software security testing process, security teams should adopt a DevSecOps mindset. By adapting DevOps' continuous lifecycle practices for security, testing via DevSecOps can make code security testing substantially easier.

Here, learn about the three main DevSecOps testing methods and tools: SAST, DAST and SCA.

Static application security testing

Scrubbing source code to identify and eliminate security vulnerabilities is known as static application security testing (SAST). Companies conduct the white box security testing practice in the early stages of the software development lifecycle. It is also often rerun at various intervals or when adds or changes are required.

Tailor-made for automation as DevSecOps products, SAST tools sift through code line by line to identify weak areas that can be bolstered to protect against known exploits. While this type of security scanning only detects what many consider low-hanging-fruit vulnerabilities, the automated tools are easy to run and interpret.

One of the major drawbacks to automated SAST tools is false positives. The tool does not have the intelligence required to analyze code that is in early stages and that cannot be compiled. However, baking greater levels of AI into these tools has shown to reduce false-positive events.

OWASP provides a list and breakdown of open source, free and commercial SAST tools. Popular open source options that can be added to your integrated development environment include the following:

  • Bandit
  • Flawfinder
  • GitHub Advanced Security
  • OWASP Automated Software Security Toolkit

Dynamic application security testing

While SAST looks at source code from the inside, dynamic application security testing (DAST) approaches security from the outside. A black box security testing practice, DAST tools identify network, system and OS vulnerabilities throughout a corporate infrastructure.

Because DAST requires applications be fully compiled and operational, run tests inside test/dev environments prior to production. Set up tools with preconfigured testing parameters, and automatically initiate multiple crawling activities and associated penetration tests to detect vulnerabilities. This reduces the risk of putting potentially vulnerable software in the hands of business users.

A drawback is DAST tools may not reach wide enough to test the entire attack surface, leading to some missed vulnerabilities.

OWASP provides a list of open source and commercial DAST tools. Popular open source options include the following:

  • Deepfence ThreatMapper
  • Nikto
  • OpenVAS
  • OWASP Zed Attack Proxy

Software composition analysis

For organizations that rely on open source software for parts or the entirety of an application, software composition analysis (SCA) tools can be used to automate the identification of vulnerabilities in entire container images, packaged binary files and source code. SCA tools are also useful to identify and manage licensing, as well as for best practice code integrations.

Managers, files and images can be scanned against one or more relevant databases that contain a store of known vulnerabilities and exploits. The result is a fast and efficient way to quickly identify security issues in open source software and reusable code.

Companies should understand that issues can arise if open source code and images are not properly tracked. Use a software bill of materials to track code and help prevent visibility gaps.

SCA tools provide a reliable method for automating vulnerability and exploit identification in a timely manner. G2 lists a number of SCA tools that offer free trial versions, including the following:

  • GitLab
  • ThreatWorx
  • JFrog Xray
This was last published in August 2022

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