What is SAST? Unveiling the Definition of Static Application Security Testing
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is a critical component of modern software development. With software vulnerabilities on the rise—CVE details report an increase in the number of recorded vulnerabilities from 6,281 in 2016 to 18,678 in 2021—SAST offers a proactive approach to finding and fixing security flaws in the code. This glossary page delves into the definition, workings, and benefits of SAST, along with its use cases, best practices, and recommended books for further understanding.
“SAST is like a compass guiding us through the ever-evolving landscape of programming, helping us establish robust security measures from the very beginning.” – Tim Berners-Lee
What is SAST? Definition of Static Application Security Testing
According to Gartner, SAST is “a set of technologies designed to analyze application source code, byte code, and binary code for coding and design conditions that are indicative of security vulnerabilities.” In simpler terms, SAST allows developers to analyze their code for any security vulnerabilities before deploying the application. By examining the code during the software development lifecycle, SAST streamlines the process of addressing potential security risks.
ℹ️ Synonyms: Static Application Security Testing, Source Code Analysis, Code Auditing, Software Security Analysis.
How it Works
SAST tools work by scanning an application’s source, byte, or binary code to identify any patterns or conditions that might lead to security vulnerabilities. The tools perform this analysis either during the coding stage or as part of an integrated build process. SAST tools typically rely on rule-based, dataflow-based, and context-based techniques to search for security weaknesses. These techniques allow SAST tools to identify vulnerabilities in various coding languages and application architectures, even if the code relies on complex dependencies.
Benefits of using SAST
- Early detection of vulnerabilities: Using SAST during development helps identify security flaws before the application goes live, reducing the potential risk to users and the cost of fixing vulnerabilities.
- Improved code quality: SAST tools not only analyze for security issues but also check for coding best practices, resulting in higher overall code quality.
- Compliance assurance: SAST can help organizations comply with industry standards and regulations like GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA.
- Faster release cycles: By integrating SAST into the CI/CD pipeline, developers can identify and remediate vulnerabilities more efficiently, speeding up the release process.
- Better collaboration: SAST tools often provide user-friendly interfaces and collaboration features, enabling development teams to work together to address security issues.
SAST use cases
SAST tools are used to secure various types of applications and deployments, including:
1. Web applications: SAST helps developers protect web applications, including eCommerce stores and content management systems, from threats like cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and remote code execution.
2. Mobile applications: Mobile apps are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals, and SAST provides an effective way to analyze mobile application code for vulnerabilities.
3. APIs: As APIs become more prevalent in modern software architecture, ensuring their security is paramount. SAST helps identify vulnerabilities in the implementation of API endpoints.
4. DevOps environments: SAST tools integrate seamlessly into continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, helping development teams identify vulnerabilities as they build and deploy applications.
To maximize the benefits of SAST, developers should implement a comprehensive approach that includes the following principles:
1. Integrate SAST right from the start; this means incorporating it into the initial design and development stages.
2. Regularly update the SAST tool to ensure it stays current with the latest security threats and coding best practices.
3. Collaborate with other team members by sharing SAST findings and leveraging the tool’s reporting and tracking functionalities.
4. Combine SAST with other application security testing methods, such as Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) and Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), to ensure a more robust security posture.
5. Customize SAST tools to align with industry-specific regulatory requirements for comprehensive compliance coverage.
Most recommended books about SAST
For those interested in diving deeper into SAST and application security, the following books are highly recommended:
1. The Art of Software Security Assessment by Mark Dowd, John McDonald, and Justin Schuh
2. Secure by Design by Dan Bergh Johnsson, Daniel Deogun, and Daniel Sawano
3. Threat Modeling: Designing for Security by Adam Shostack
4. Building Secure and Reliable Systems by Heather Adkins, Betsy Beyer, Paul Blankinship, Piotr Lewandowski, and Ana Oprea
In today’s ever-evolving threat landscape, ensuring application security is of utmost importance. Static Application Security Testing (SAST) provides a proactive means of identifying and remedying security vulnerabilities during the software development process. By understanding the benefits, use cases, and best practices for SAST, development teams can build more secure, reliable, and compliant applications for the protection of their users and their organizations.