Application Security

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) Tools Buyers Guide 2024

How to choose the right DAST software.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) Tools Buyers Guide 2024

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools emulate the behavior of an attacker in order to test the security of your application. The DAST space is highly competitive, and it can be a real challenge to decide which solution to invest in.  

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • Why DAST matters
  • How DAST works
  • Best DAST tools on the marker
  • A features checklist
  • Our recommendations
  • Future Trends

Why DAST Matters: Software vulnerabilities are one of the most common causes of security breaches.

  • 75% of attacks exploited flaws within web applications that had been present for at least 2 years (Medium)
  • RPA (Robotic Process Automation) within testing regimes typically gives a 250% ROI (Automation Anywhere)
  • According to Crowdstrike, only 54% of major code changes undergo a full security review before (Crowdstrike)

How DAST Can Help: DAST tools interact with the application in the same way that an attacker would. This makes it easier for them to identify security issues like SQL injection and other vulnerabilities. They essentially attack your application in order to provide actionable insights on how to fix code and ensure that your application is robust and secure when it is deployed.

How It Works: DAST works by imitating an attacker to search for vulnerabilities and weaknesses. By probing the exterior of an application, the DAST tool can search for weaknesses that are apparent (from the outside) to an attacker. 

The DAST process involves the following steps:

  1. Scanning: Any vulnerabilities or loopholes are probed to gain an understanding of the severity and scale of the issue
  2. Alerting: The nature of the vulnerability will be flagged, with automated triaging methods to guide remediation
    • As DAST does not have access to source code, it cannot identify the specific section of code that is the cause of the vulnerability
  3. Interpretation: Security Analysts will interpret the alerts and decide on the best way for it to be resolved
  4. Remediation: The fix can be deployed, ensuring that the vulnerability is properly addressed
  5. Rescanning: Your application can then be rescanned to provide assurance that the vulnerability has been fixed and your code is secure

DAST Challenges: When considering a DAST tool, be aware of these common issues:

  • DAST does not find the precise location of vulnerability or code error – this is because the solution does not scan the source code, but looks at the effect of the code 
  • Knowledge of security and coding is needed to interpret results – again, as the solution highlights the impact of the code, a specialist is needed to fully understand why that vulnerability has come about
  • Comprehensive tests can be time consuming – this can have an impact on overall software development productivity
  • Vulnerabilities can only be identified late in the CI/CD lifecycle – because the solution looks at the software as a whole application, your application must be near to fully complete before DAST can play a role
  • DAST is an incredibly useful tool, but does not offer comprehensive enough coverage to address all of your security needs – it should be used as part of a wider security suite 

Best Providers: We’ve put together shortlists of the top application security testing providers across multiple categories.

Features Checklist: When selecting a DAST tool, Expert Insights recommends looking for the following features:

  • Real-Time Reporting: Provides immediate feedback on vulnerabilities identified
  • Attack Simulation: Complex attack simulation ensures that your software can be assessed for a range of different attack types
  • Automatic Triage: By understanding the severity and scope of a vulnerability, you can focus your efforts on fixing the most urgent issues
  • Accuracy: Low false positive rate and high detection accuracy ensures that your staff’s time is used productively and not on unnecessary tasks
  • Automation: The ability to automate scans within the development lifecycle and ensure this is carried out consistently and regularly will save time as well as maintaining standards
  • Compliance: Ensuring that you software adheres to industry standards and regulatory compliance means that it can be released in multiple regulated markets without needing to make additional changes
  • Remediation Guidance: Provides actionable recommendations to fix identified vulnerabilities – this can be complicated with DAST tools as they do not analyze code at source
  • Performance: Efficient scanning without affecting application performance – this includes the ability to scale as your applications grow in size and complexity
  • Comprehensive Coverage: Ability to scan all aspects of web applications and range of threat types
  • Integration: Compatibility with CI/CD pipelines and other security tools

Our Recommendations: When deciding which DAST platform to use, it doesn’t just come down to the key features, there are other aspects that you should take into account to make a fully informed decision.

  1. Prioritize accurate scans that minimize false positives – precision is key as it will ensure that your time can be spent productively addressing real issues
  2. Invest in automation to save manual time – these scans can be automated to run at off-peak times, thereby reducing the impact on developers and productivity
  3. Look for solutions that will help with remediation as well as finding issues – while some degree of technical knowledge is needed to resolve DAST issues, having a solution that will advise on remediation can help to speed up this process
  4. Make sure you look for a solution that cover your apps and languages – while this may sound obvious, it is important that you find a platform that works for your environment
  5. Shortlist 2-3 solutions and test them out in your environment. There is no shortcut trying each application out

Future Trends: The pace of technology evolution is ever increasing, constantly aiming to get one up on malicious actors conspiring against you. Expert Insights predicts that we’ll see the following changes over the next few years:

  1. AI and ML Integration: Enhanced capabilities using AI to improve vulnerability detection and reduce false positives. This will be used to efficiently predict where vulnerabilities reside, as well as allowing you to assess security swiftly.
  2. Unified Product Suites: DAST tools will be integrated with comprehensive DevSecOps solutions that will provide comprehensive insights into software security. By embedding security into every stage of the development process, you can easily gain a comprehensive assessment of your development, rather than having to switch between multiple tools.
  3. Shift Left: There will be a concerted effort to embed security into the DevOps process, rather than incorporating it later in the process, as an extra. This ensures that security measures are effective, whilst also ensuring that issues do not become unnecessarily entrenched.

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