Application Security

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Tools Buyers Guide 2024

How to choose the right SAST software.

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Tools Buyers Guide 2024

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is a critical part of the software development processes. It allows developers to accurately detect security vulnerabilities in their applications. Finding the right solution is a challenge in a crowded and complex market space. 

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • Why SAST matters
  • How SAST tools work
  • The best SAST tools on the market
  • A features checklist
  • Our recommendations
  • Future trends

Why SAST Matters: Many teams don’t have the time or resources to perform manual reviews of hundreds of lines of code, especially open source code, which can lead to vulnerabilities in live applications.

  • The Software Engineering Institute estimates that 90% of security incidents result from exploits against defects in software code (CISA)
  • 91% of the codebases assed for risk contained components that were 10 versions or more behind the current version of the component (OSSRA)
  • 61% of applications were found to have at least one high or critically severe vulnerability that was not included on the OWASP Top 10 (Gartner)

How SAST Solutions Help: SAST tools can automatically scan millions of lines of code for vulnerabilities in minutes. Some SAST solutions will highlight risky code in real-time, helping developers to pinpoints the exact location of errors. SAST is an integral part of CI/CD workflows, ensuring that security is baked into applications from day one. This automated approach helps you to build more secure applications. 

The best SAST solutions are integrated across your SDLC and DevOps pipeline. This means alerts for errors and vulnerabilities will show up in one dashboard, rather than developers needing to manage multiple tools. 

How SAST Works: SAST tools scan code in real-time to alert developers to security vulnerabilities and other potential errors. Vulnerabilities are commonly defined based on the OWASP Top 10 and SANS Top 25.

When conducting scans, SAST tools will carry out:

  • Configuration analysis which ensures security practices align with industry best practices and can identify any common misconfigurations
  • Semantic analysis to examine syntax and identifiers within context
  • Dataflow analysis ensures that data throughput is validated before it is used as well as for SQL injection mitigation
  • Control flow analysis which ensures that operations occur in the correct order to prevent misconfigurations
  • Structural analysis to assess language specific code to identify inconsistencies
  • Identifies issues with generating cryptographic material and hardcode passwords

Fixing The Issue: SAST solutions do not fix software vulnerabilities. Rather they flag issues for developers to resolve. The best solutions can look at surrounding context to prioritize the most important errors to fix. They also provide actionable advice to help developers get a fix in place as quickly as possible.

  • SAST does not actually execute the code. It simply analyzes the static code and uses various analysis techniques (which vary by vendor) to alert developers to issues.
  • Once a fix has been deployed, the SAST tool will rescan and verify that the fix has been effective.

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

  • Alert fatigue: Developers often site noise as being a major headache. SAST tools that ping hundreds of errors may end up being ignored by developers.
  • False Positives: As the processes happens so early in the code development lifecycle, the lack of context can result in issues being overlooked or incorrectly flagged.
  • Language limitations: While SAST tools are compatible with popular programming languages, for more niche or sector specific languages, SAST tools may not be compatible.

Features Checklist: When looking for a SAST solution, we recommend looking for: 

  • Language Support: Ability to analyze multiple programming languages, particularly those that are in used by your organization (this will differ depending on the type of software that is being developed). This should also include any potentially emerging languages and libraries.
  • Integration: Compatibility (or as part of a comprehensive IDE solution) ensures that you can gain a comprehensive and complete insight into your vulnerabilities
  • Accuracy: Low false positive rate and high detection accuracy
  • Scalability: Ability to handle large codebases and scale with organizational needs
  • Remediation Guidance: Provides actionable recommendations to fix identified vulnerabilities – this should be based on OWASP Top 10 to ensure that industry practices and standards are maintained
  • Automation: Ability to automate scans within the development lifecycle to ensure that issues are identified and resolved efficiently
  • Triaging: By prioritizing the vulnerabilities based on severity, you can spend time fixing the critical issues, ensuring that your time is spent efficiently
  • Custom Rules: It can also be useful to have a degree of flexibility, allowing you to set custom rules that address issues specific to your environment

Best Providers: We’ve put together a list of the top SAST providers, explaining their key features and use-cases. 

SAST Recommendations: Our recommendations for teams looking to implement a SAST solution are:

  • Look for a solution that has low noise, low false positive rates – otherwise software developers might be inclined to ignore the results
  • Consolidate tools where possible, look for application security platforms that can also perform DAST and IAST tasks, rather than operating as standalone tools, get buy in from the whole team on this
  • Speed and scale is important – look for tools that meet your requirements and the future trajectory of your software development
  • Reporting, integration, and automation are key features developers will want to be able to easily manage the solution and provide critical insights
  • You will need to test the tool yourself to get the right solution in place. Get a trial before deploying it – ensure that it fits within your environment 

Frank Catucci, Invicti’s CEO: 

“Narrow down your your selections and put those products through their paces. Don’t rely on documentation and things of that nature. You need to understand what works for your organisation and your environment and what you really need to put it through its paces. You need to see the results with your own eyes. You need to make sure that you’re getting the coverage that you want.”

Future Trends:

As the SAST market continues to grow and evolve, we will see numerous companies enter the market, each innovating how the tools work, incorporating new technologies and methodologies.

  • Enhanced Integration and Automation: More organizations are automating security testing within their development pipelines. By integrating multiple technologies within one SAST tool, you can deliver comprehensive visibility and insights into risks and vulnerabilities.
  • AI and Machine Learning: Integration of AI and ML can improve vulnerability detection and reduce false positives. This can reduce the chances of errors being overlooked, resulting in safer, more secure code. AI can also improve efforts to fix vulnerabilities by automatically generating fixes. 
  • Shift Left Security: Emphasis on finding and fixing vulnerabilities earlier in the development lifecycle. This drives down the complexity of issues by ensuring that they do not become too engrained in future software design.

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