What Is Sast And How Is It The Next Big Thing In Cybersecurity
What Is Sast And How Is It The Next Big Thing In Cybersecurity Pixabay

The Biden administration has issued a sweeping directive for federal supply chains and their derivatives to patch hundreds of cybersecurity vulnerabilities that organizations had balked at fixing in the past.

The responsibility for ensuring supply chain security, an area that includes practices and tools that developers need to adopt in order to protect against supply chain attacks, continues to torment businesses and governments alike. The new requirement covers 200 security flaws that were identified by cybersecurity professionals in the years 2017 to 2020, as well as 90 vulnerabilities dredged up in 2021 alone.

Although this directive targets federal supply chains, a November 8th statement released by the White House made it clear that “cyber threats are a concern for every American, every business regardless of size, and every community.”

According to business adviser Shelly Palmer, most of us tend to gloss over cybersecurity, since IT security is like oxygen - we take it for granted. In reality, businesses are under cyber-attack every second of the day. Or to restate, about 26,000 businesses are attacked each day. It’s not just the big institutions with their legacy systems that are at risk, it’s our small businesses, one-man pony shows, and entrepreneurs too.

How does Sast help me shore up my cybersecurity?

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is like that combat engineer who precedes the troops to clear the path from mines. It’s similar to a computer compiler in that it reduces your developer’s high-level code to lower-level language, only in this case scouting the code for vulnerabilities. Sast methodology is slow - that’s one of its faults - but it’s thorough. Developers precede each one of their commits with running a Sast analyzer through their codes, hunting for flaws before these mushrooms into threats that cost their companies expense and time to desensitize.

Sast, Dast, Iast

Models similar to Sast include dynamic application security testing (Dast) and interactive application security testing (Iast). Dast tools tackle full-fledged applications rather than the actual homegrown code. Agents sit outside the running application scouting for vulnerabilities, in contrast to the faster, more modernized Iast analysis, where agents conduct real-time analysis from within. Sast improves on these tools since it traps flaws before they bob to the surface.

Thorough developers may want to couple Sast with Iast and Dast, although Sast is sufficient for detecting defects before they become expensive mistakes.

How do Sast tools work?

Developers write proprietary code and use a static code analysis (SCA) tool to parse that code through a representative model that screens your original code for weaknesses. This SCA uses a multitude of analyzers, each of which scouts through multiple levels of analysis that include sequences of instruction, files, and one or more grouped programs, for embedded errors. Rules are updated all the time, as cybersecurity professionals identify more vulnerabilities.

After the SCA tool has parsed your code, it delivers its report - one long rambling list - for you to take action on.

Which Sast tool do I choose?

Each Sast vendor has its specialties. So, while one scales to thousands of developers and analyzes your code as you program, the other scouts for vulnerabilities, not just in your proprietary code, but in OS library source codes too.

You can use these solutions together or apart, depending on your business challenges and the scope of your analysis. OWASPs list of criteria helps you narrow your options.

Bottom line

Forrester’s recent State of Application Security predicts that as applications become more complex and incorporate new frameworks, they’ll continue to be the most common source of external attack. Your best methodology for rooting out these vulnerabilities is a Sast tool that helps developers tackle bugs before their remediation costs accelerate to ten, if not one hundred times as much, in testing and later in production.

Sast tools do generate a lot of false positives, and you’ll find them slower than Dast and Iast tools, but they help you find and fix security vulnerabilities earlier on in the IT life cycle and can detect more cyber vulnerabilities than other types of tools can.

Our suggestion?

Couple Sast with manual code reviews for best cybersecurity results. That will be enough to comply with Biden’s Executive Order on improving your cybersecurity.