How to Run a Dynamic Application Security Test: A Beginner’s Guide

The task of securing websites can be overwhelming. There are just so many tests, audits, tools, and other things to choose from. It might be tough to determine which security solution will get the job done. It may be even more difficult to know where to begin. That’s why we’ve written this article discussing one such testing method known as DAST. Read on to find out how DAST can help protect your website and what are the benefits of using this security testing method.

What is DAST security testing?

DAST, Dynamic Application Security Testing is the practice of testing web applications while they are running. Unlike static code analysis, which tests code without running it, DAST assesses how the application behaves when subjected to malicious input in real-time. It takes a black-box testing approach in the sense, it tests from the outside, without viewing the code.

Types of DAST

There are three main types of DAST:

  • Manual DAST – Performed by a security expert who manually tries to exploit vulnerabilities in the web applications.
  • Automated DAST – Uses automated tools to scan the application for common security vulnerabilities.

DAST vs. SAST vs. IAST

DAST should not be confused with two other popular security testing methods: static application security testing (SAST) and interactive application security testing (IAST).

DAST is different from SAST in that it tests the live application, while SAST tests code without running it. DAST is also different from IAST in that IAST uses software to continuously analyse the code during automated or manual testing.

Benefits of DAST

There are several benefits of using Dast for web application security:

  • Helps you find flaws such as runtime errors that may not be found with other security testing methods such as SAST.
  • Tests how the application behaves when subjected to malicious input, which can help identify previously unknown vulnerabilities.
  • Can be used to assess the security of both public-facing and internal web applications.
  • DAST may be applied at any point in the software development life cycle. This also results in fewer false positives.

Who should perform DAST?

Any individual or business that owns a web application and deals with sensitive customer data should consider performing DAST. This includes, but is not limited to, banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers, and e-commerce websites.

DAST should be performed by a security expert who has experience in identifying vulnerabilities in web applications. However, automated DAST tools are also available which can help scan the application for common security vulnerabilities.

Why is DAST important?

DAST is a newer testing method and has gained popularity for good reasons. When you perform DAST at every stage of development, you make sure that the application is secure from the ground up. This can help prevent costly security breaches that can damage your business’ reputation and cost you a great loss of customers. Because of how effective DAST has proven to be, all businesses should consider using this security testing method.

Top 5 DAST Tools

There are many different DAST tools available, but here are five of the most popular:

  1. Astra Pentest: This is an automated penetration testing tool that can also be used for DAST. The best part about it is that it can even work with SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) cloud applications. It is also designed to test for the OWASP top ten. Astra Security also provides manual testing should you require it. So if you are looking for a commercial web application security testing tool, look no further.
  2. WebInspect: A commercial automated DAST tool made by HP that scans for a wide range of vulnerabilities, including cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and remote code execution. It works well to detect configuration issues.
  3. OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP): Performing your first scan with ZAP is as easy as entering the website URL. This one certainly covers the OWASP top ten since it is developed by the same foundation. ZAP is great because it’s free and suggests tips for fixing each vulnerability as well as giving you a risk rating which you can use to prioritise which bug to fix first.
  4. Burp Suite Pro: This is an integrated platform and has both a scanner and a proxy that you can use to intercept traffic between the client and server. This allows you to modify requests and responses, making it possible to test for vulnerabilities that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to exploit.
  5. HCL AppScan: This was first developed by IBM and is now owned by HCL. It is a commercial web application security scanner that can be used to identify vulnerabilities in applications across different platforms, such as Java, .NET, and PHP.

Steps to Perform DAST

Now that we’ve discussed what is DAST, what are the different types, and who should perform it, let’s take a look at the steps involved in performing DAST:

Step One: Identify the web application to be tested.

Step Two: Gather information such as user id, passwords, important URLs, etc.

Step Three: Select the type of DAST to be performed.

Step Four: Select your tools and/or resources for carrying out the test.

Step Five: Begin testing the web application for vulnerabilities.

Step Six: Review the results and fix any vulnerabilities that were identified.

Go on to repeat these six steps for every stage of development, and until no more serious threats persist.

Conclusion

In conclusion, dynamic application security testing should be considered by all businesses as an important step in securing their web applications. DAST is a newer testing method that has proven to be quite effective in identifying vulnerabilities in web applications. There are numerous DAST tools available, but the five mentioned here are among the most well-known. When performing DAST, make sure you gather information about the web application first and select the right type of test for your needs. Then use your chosen tools to scan the application for vulnerabilities. Finally, review and fix as many security concerns as possible. Repeat these steps for every stage of development till major threats no longer persist.

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