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What is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)? All You Need to Know

Updated on: September 18, 2021

What is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)? All You Need to Know

With more than 1.7 Billion websites (according to internetlivestats) globally , it is no surprise that number of security vulnerabilities are on the rise. According to a study by CNBC, more than 75% of applications vulnerable in some way or another, there is simply no way that security vulnerabilities in applications are going away anytime soon; that’s where Application Security Testing (AST) comes in.

What is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)?

DAST is the process of finding security vulnerabilities while the application is in the production phase which includes both manual and automation testing using various kinds of testing tools.

Application security testing (AST) is one of the hottest topics in the IT (Information Technology) industry, but what is AST? Application Security Testing is the process to test applications for vulnerabilities that cyber criminals could exploit to gain unauthorized access to potentially sensitive data of your application.

Dynamic application security testing is a type of application security testing which is a type of black-box testing (with no knowledge of infrastructure, network or code) that tests your application from a malicious person’s perspective, also known as an Attacker or Hacker.

Related Guide – IT Security Audit

Applications depend on inputs and outputs to operate, which means that if there is suspicion in the user-based input, something similar might also reflect the response. Minor security misconfigurations by developers such as improper validation of user input, server version disclosure, using vulnerable software libraries leads to major security issues.

DAST can help you find vulnerabilities in your software, even before any input is given. It is not designed to work on specific software but on the application layer, where the actual applications are vulnerable.

Related GuideWhat is Penetration testing

When you think of DAST, you might wonder how it is different from traditional penetration testing which used to be slow, static and very time consuming. The difference is that DAST is dynamic. That means the tests are run in real-time, simulating real-world application behavior. Dynamic testing is usually conducted on the live system, also known as Production Environments.

What are various types of DAST?

Most people consider DAST as an Automated approach, but it’s not. Dynamic Application Security Testing is widely divided into two types:

  • Manual DAST: Software vulnerability scanners and penetration testing tools can be a great help when it comes to securing an application. However, they are no match for a human mind, which makes mistakes of its own. This is where manual DAST comes into play, who can use their experience and knowledge of the field to find vulnerabilities that automated scanners would miss. Manual testing includes the team of security professionals testing the application for bugs that are usually missed by automated scanners.
  • Automation DAST: Automated Dynamic testing includes testing of applications using software and feeding them required data. This type of testing includes using Crawlers, Fuzzers, Regex to find and replace essential keywords, which results in different kinds of vulnerabilities such as SQL Injection, Cross-Site Scripting, Server Side Request Forgery etc.

How DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) works?

DAST is the the process of finding security issues using manual and automation testing tools that simulates external attacks on an application to identify outcomes that are not part of a typical user experience. One example is a SQL injection flaw. By sending a large string of characters, a DAST attack can help identify a SQL injection flaw. 

DAST tests all kinds of endpoints including hidden endpoints and stimulates different kinds of attacks to find security vulnerabilities. Automated testing tool for DAST simulates malicious attacks on an application to identify outcomes not part of an everyday user experience.

Related Guide – What is Pentesting Report [Download PDF Template]

DAST requires no prior knowledge of the programming language being used, due to which the application is tested end to end without getting into the source code. This makes DAST very convenient to use. Other application security testing methodologies do not cover a wide range of vulnerability testing. However, DAST looks for vulnerabilities in the source code at runtime, which means that DAST does not require an application to be rebuilt to test for vulnerabilities.

Integration of DAST in SDLC

Software development life cycle (SDLC) is one of the essential terms in software development because it is the framework that unifies the entire process of the development of the software or the application. Regardless of the type of software you are developing, an established software development life cycle is critical to success.

The integration of such tools, with SDLC, is the key to building secure applications. 

The primary focus of DAST is to identify vulnerabilities in the early phase of the SDLC, thus enabling development teams to resolve issues before they become more significant problems. DAST was introduced to the software development lifecycle (SDLC) to provide developers with an opportunity to identify vulnerabilities in an application before hackers exploit it.

Developers, testers, and project managers have always relied upon various scan technologies during the SDLC. However, before DAST, it was difficult for teams to integrate scan results into the development lifecycle.

Organizations that integrate DAST into their SDLC processes have a competitive advantage over those that don’t. Dynamic application security testing is a critical component of a comprehensive application security program that can detect and prevent vulnerabilities from being introduced into software applications, as well as to detect existing vulnerabilities.

6 Reasons Why DAST is Important for Your Application?

DAST is a relatively new testing practice that focuses on assessing the security of software applications at runtime. It allows us to perform testing on the production environment, thereby offering several otherwise unavailable benefits.

So what are these benefits? Let’s have a look at them in more detail:

1. No syntactic knowledge of application:

DAST required little or no knowledge of the programming language used to develop the application. Their are automated scanners available in the market that tests the application based on the input and output, no matter what the language is. DAST isn’t programming language-specific. It’s not tied to specific languages, making it a much more agile testing method than manual code review or penetration testing. This means that it’s possible to adapt DAST to whatever programming languages are being used.

Related GuidePenetration Testing Cost

2. Very few false positives:

DAST scanners result in very few false positives compared to other AST methodologies because of end-to-end testing irrespective of components, language and platform.

3. Scan what matters:

With the emergence of microservices and functional programming, application architectures and code bases have become more complicated. The days of a single monolithic application are long gone. Modern applications consist of multiple components and systems built by various teams and often multiple companies. Since DAST exercises applications and services using their web interfaces, it tests the result of all of these components and systems interacting with each other and highlights real-world vulnerabilities without the need for much insight into each component.

4. Real-world scenarios:

DAST scanners aren’t designed to work within internal intranets, so their methodology is consistent with typical external attacks. It stimulates attacks like a real-world attack that helps applications become secure before a hacker tries to attack them.

5. Integration with SDLC:

Organizations implement DAST into the SDLC to reduce the vulnerabilities and security risks in their applications in the CI/CD pipelining phase, resulting in a higher chance of successfully mitigating vulnerabilities.

6. Easy and continuous setup:

DAST is easy to setup and is continuous scanner which keeps on checking for security vulnerabilities making it easy for development and management team.

How does Astra’s DAST tool work?

Automated scanners are great at picking up on vulnerabilities that are obvious to software. These are the low-hanging fruit. The more complicated part of testing is the unnoticed vulnerabilities that are usually left in automated scans.

Astra’s vulnerability scanner is equipped with natural hacker intelligence gathered from 1000+ vulnerability assessments and penetration tests (VAPT) done by our security experts on varied applications.

Astra’s Pentest is the only solution that gives you the manual and automated DAST. It is an end to end solution for all the security problems. 

Benefits of using Astra’s Pentest:

  • Automated and Manual tests to make sure no vulnerability is left behind.
  • 2600+ tests to keep your application safe.
  • Easy, accessible reports that you can interpret at a glance with the dashboard.
  • Collaborate with developers from within the dashboard.
  • Get detailed steps on bug fixing tailored to your issues and know exactly how to reproduce vulnerabilities with video Proof of Concepts (PoCs).
  • Why keep your security status private? Showcase Astra’s Publicly verifiable certificate.
  • Post pentest, Astra shows a potential loss in $$$ for each vulnerability, making it easier for everyone to understand the impact. 
  • For each vulnerability, Astra gives an intelligently calculated risk score.
Astra's Pentest Suite

Conclusion

When it comes to security, no aspect is more critical than testing. Dynamic application security testing can help you find and fix vulnerabilities in your code before they become a problem. At Astra Security, we test software applications for bugs and vulnerabilities in the runtime environment providing you with proper steps to reproduce and fix the issue. As automated and manual dynamic security testing has its benefits, Astra’s solution includes both manual and automatic DAST, keeping our applications secure.

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Keshav Malik

Keshav is a hacker by heart. He loves playing with fire (code) and loves discovering bugs. Not only in web applications but in all kinds of software. His first introduction to the world of Cyber Security was through bug bounty programs. He quickly made a name for himself as a bug hunter and now actively participates in bug bounty programs. Other than Infosec, he loves creating full stack web applications using cutting edge technologies.
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