What is Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)?

What is Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)?

It is vital to keep security in mind when developing a new type of service or application. After all, security breaches can result in unquantifiable consequences for your company in the blink of an eye. Therefore, to keep your apps secure, you should work to consistently improve your interactive application security testing tool. 

What is Interactive Application Security Testing? 

Interactive application security testing – IAST inspects source code for security flaws when the app is used by an automated test, a human tester, or any other activity that “interacts” with its functionality. This solution provides real-time vulnerability reports, thus it doesn’t require any additional processing time from your CI/CD workflow.

With the aid of dynamic testing (commonly referred to as runtime testing) approaches, vulnerabilities in live online applications can be found. Interactive application security testing solutions assist organizations in identifying and managing security risks associated with these vulnerabilities. IAST operates through the process of software instrumentation, which is the use of tools to track an application’s activity while it is in use and collect data on how well it functions.

What is Interactive Application Security Testing? 

IAST solutions instrument applications by placing agents and sensors in active applications and continually monitoring all application interactions started by manual, automated, or a combination of both types of tests to find vulnerabilities in real time. A few solutions also incorporate software composition analysis (SCA) technologies to address known vulnerabilities in open source frameworks and components. Now you have understood the definition of IAST, so what is interactive application security testing’s benefit? 

The benefits of IAST

1. IAST rearranges testing in the SDLC

In the test/QA phase of the software development life cycle, IAST typically occurs (SDLC). IAST successfully moves testing to the left so issues are discovered earlier in the development cycle, minimizing expenses and delays associated with correction. Tools for continuous development (CD) and integration (CI) can incorporate a wide variety of tools. The most recent technologies assist developers find vulnerabilities even sooner in the development process by returning results as soon as updated code is recompiled and the running app is retested.

2. IAST delivers precise outcomes for quick triage

Organizations require precise, automated security testing solutions that can handle hundreds of thousands of HTTP requests and produce results with low false-positive rates in order to keep up with the demand for the rapid development of web applications. DAST tools frequently produce a large number of false positives but don’t list the lines of code for detected vulnerabilities, making it challenging to sort through the results and quickly rule out false positives. To assist development and security teams in prioritizing test findings, IAST and SAST both offer precise information (including lines of code).

3. IAST identifies the origin of vulnerabilities

IAST can access application code, runtime control and data flow information, memory and stack trace information, HTTP requests and responses, libraries, frameworks, and other components and can analyze code within applications (via an SCA tool). Developers can easily patch vulnerabilities by locating their origins thanks to this study.

4. IAST integrates into CI/CD effortlessly

Teams working on web applications and DevOps teams need AppSec technologies that interact with common build, test, and QA tools without requiring a lot of configuration or tuning to minimize false positives. To suit the needs of large enterprises, these solutions should be simple to scale, deploy, and upgrade. The only dynamic testing method that integrates without any issues into CI/CD workflows is IAST.

5. IAST enables more rapid and affordable fixes

Early in the SDLC, when developers are most familiar with their code and errors and vulnerabilities are least expensive to address in terms of resources and security risk posture, security and development teams require AppSec technologies that identify vulnerabilities and allow developers to remedy them. The development stage is often when SAST and SCA tools are utilized, but the test/QA stage is when IAST is employed. Developers receive feedback on the findings and then address vulnerabilities when they are found.

The benefits of IAST

How to run interactive application security testing effectively?

  • Implement DevOps. Integration of IAST into your CI/CD setup is necessary.
  • Select your tool. Choose a solution that supports the underlying framework used by your software and can do code reviews of apps created in the programming languages you employ.
  • Build the infrastructure for scanning, then introduce the tool. To install the tool, configure access control, authorization, and any necessary integrations, such as Jira for bug tracking.
  • Make the tool your own. Adjust the tool to your organization’s requirements. Create dashboards to track scan findings, integrate the tool into the build environment, and produce personalized reports.
  • Add applications and set priorities. Include your applications as soon as the tool is ready. Prioritize the high-risk online applications to scan first if you have a lot of applications.
  • Investigate scan results. Check your scan findings for false positives and eliminate them. Track and fix any security problems as early as possible in the SDLC.
  • Impart instruction. Your development and security teams should receive training on how to use the IAST tool’s results effectively and how to incorporate them into the creation and deployment of applications.

IAST and DAST in comparison

With DAST, security professionals examine the program from the front end, which is a non-functional testing method. Using a “black-box” methodology, DAST relies on simulated assaults to identify potential security flaws without giving testers access to the application’s source code.

Although both IAST and DAST security testing methodologies rely on dynamic analysis of source code to find security problems, there are significant variations in how they function. Here is a brief contrast of the IAST and DAST testing methodologies.

Testing approach Black-box testing Gray-box testing
Testing Velocity Slower due to additional setups necessary for CI/CD integration. Embedded agents provide rapid and immediate testing and resolution of issues.
Actionable vulnerability reports Provides just basic instructions for repairing the vulnerabilities reported. Real-time data and actionable reports on where to identify and how to resolve reported issues
Code coverage Application-level vulnerability scanning is performed by performing simulated attacks and detecting runtime vulnerabilities. Comprehensive testing is carried out using both dynamic testing and static code analysis. Discovers runtime weaknesses and integrations, as well as third-party libraries and source code problems.
Test frequency Periodic testing necessitates the creation of tests by security specialists and relies on a dedicated testing environment. Continuously iterates test cases while seamlessly integrating with other existing functional testing procedures.

Basic features of a suitable IAST tool

An interactive application security testing tools should include the following features:

  • Web APIs for integrating security testing into the development pipeline on a continuous basis
  • Compatibility with all existing testing methods, including traditional methods
  • Analysis in real time with few false-positives
  • Scalability is excellent.
  • Models of automated deployment
  • Native support for many architectural patterns like microservices, cloud-native, monoliths, etc,..

11 interactive application security testing tools for your project

Tools Name Description Industries Market Segment
Invicti (formerly Netsparker) Invicti enables enterprises with complex settings to automate their web security with confidence by providing security teams with the most unique DAST + IAST scanning capabilities on the industry. – Financial Services

– Telecommunications

– 47% Enterprise

– 27% Mid-Market

Contrast Security Contrast Security is the industry’s most advanced and complete Application Security Platform, reducing security roadblocks and enabling organizations to build and deploy secure application code more quickly. – 80% Enterprise

– 20% Mid-Market

Checkmarx Checkmarx, the AppSec testing leader, offers the industry’s most comprehensive AST platform, Checkmarx One, which provides developers and security teams with unparalleled accuracy, coverage, visibility, and guidance to reduce risk across all components of modern software—including proprietary code, open source, APIs, and infrastructure as code. – Computer Software

– Information Technology and Services

– 61% Enterprise

– 19% Mid-Market

HCL AppScan HCL AppScan is a comprehensive on-premises and cloud-based suite of market-leading application security testing solutions (SAST, DAST, IAST, SCA, API). These sophisticated DevSecOps technologies identify application vulnerabilities and enable rapid remediation throughout the software development lifecycle. Information Technology and Services – 66% Enterprise

– 21% Small-Business

Micro Focus Fortify On Demand Fortify on Demand (FoD) provides full Application Security as a Service. It provides a simple approach to get started with the ability to scale. Information Technology and Services – 52% Enterprise

– 29% Mid-Market

Veracode Application Security Platform Veracode is a one-of-a-kind combination of SaaS technology and on-demand experience that allows DevSecOps through pipeline integration, empowers developers to solve security flaws, and grows your program through best practices to reach your desired results. Information Technology and Services – 75% Enterprise

– 30% Mid-Market

Semgrep Semgrep checks first and third-party code for security problems specific to a company. Semgrep is used by organizations to swiftly obtain actionable and low-noise findings in the workflow of engineers. – Computer Software

– Financial Services

– 56% Mid-Market

– 39% Enterprise

NowSecure NowSecure Inc., situated in Oak Park, Illinois, was founded in 2009 with the goal of advancing mobile security globally. – 41% Mid-Market

– 35% Enterprise

GuardRails GuardRails is an end-to-end security platform that empowers developers to find, fix, and prevent vulnerabilities in their web and mobile applications.  – 50% Small-Business

– 50% Mid-Market

PT Application Inspector PT Application Inspector™ (PT AI™) is a comprehensive source code analysis tool that offers protection for web applications of any scale. Its holistic approach combines the advantages of static, dynamic, and interactive analysis to maintain application security throughout every stage of development—from the very first line of code to the go-live.  – 67% Enterprise

– 33% Small-Business

Data Theorem RamQuest’s solutions include our fully integrated closing, escrow accounting, imaging, transaction management, esigning, and digital marketplace solutions and are available on-premise or in a hosted environment 100% Enterprise

As such, although interactive application security testing has been around for a few years, it is still finding its foothold in the security and development communities. The fact is that each instrument has its own distinct advantage, and it is not always correct to prefer one over the other. You have seen some characteristics of IAST that make it a tool that every business should have at their disposal if they truly want to avoid the risk of resolving vulnerabilities at a higher cost in the future.

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