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Protecting Data: What is Application Security Testing?

Someone entering a password on a laptop.

Apps range from social media to shopping to fun games, to banking. They’ve become more than a regular part of life. Long gone are the days of simple apps like the lighter and police siren apps. Apps are now more robust and offer important services for people’s everyday lives.

There is so much information stored in apps. Not too long ago, computers had antivirus software to stop any hackers or data breaches. Nowadays, application security is the way information is protected.

What Does Application Security Mean?

The goal of application security is to prevent any data from being stolen from apps. It protects data within the app and the data stored on your phone, computer, and tablet. It also includes apps that are installed specifically to protect your data.

Application security services try to identify vulnerabilities that can lead to large data breaches. They work with developers during development, when it goes live, and periodically after that.

A mysterious-looking figure in a hoodie facing a computer screen.

Why Application Security is So Important

This field of work is very important in today’s world. Essentially everything we do on our phones is on apps. It’s the gateway to important data, networks, and services.

Our lives are online and if any app is attacked, someone could get their hands on everything about us. Even seemingly benign apps with minimal information can be used with malicious intent.

If app development is an interest for you, you should be well versed in application security testing (AST). The REDC offers a Fundamentals of Application Security online course that will teach you the basics of this field. You can take it at your own pace and start working your way toward any career that includes app security testing.

The Tools of Application Security Testing

There are two broad approaches to application security testing. These two categories are:

  • White box testing - Testing by examining the inner working of the app and code

  • Black box testing - testing without looking at code. For both of these approaches there are several different tools, but the three most agreed upon are:

  • Static application security testing

  • Dynamic application security testing

  • Interactive application security testing

Static Application Security Testing

Static application security testing (SAST) is a tool for white box testing. It works by comparing source code with known bugs and pre-existing rules. During this process, it looks for any vulnerabilities and gives developers the option to add any parameters.

Dynamic Application Security Testing

Dynamic application security testing (DAST) is a black box tool that looks for security vulnerabilities during runtime. It’s an input simulator that monitors what happens when faulty, fraudulent, or hacking software is fed into the software. It compares the intended result and the actual result and looks for any discrepancies.

Two people viewing code and security issues together.

Interactive Application Security Testing

This tool is typically run alongside SAST and DAST. The way it works is similar to DAST in that it simulates inputs. However, this security assessment simulates user interaction.

IAST used to test performance, and as a security tool, it can give continuous feedback after rollout.

Other Testing Tools and Types

There are several other application security assessment tools available to development teams.

  • Mobile Application Security Test This tool is used to test for mobile-specific issues. It combines DAST and SAST to look for vulnerabilities prevalent in mobile applications including insecure authenticity, improper platform usage, etc.

  • Manual Application Penetration This kind of test is a lot like DAST because it simulates attacks on the application. This form of penetration testing helps test specific kinds of attacks.

  • Software Composition Analysis This test is run to find any inconsistencies or vulnerabilities within third-party or open-source components. It’s an audit of sorts for parts that weren’t coded in-house.

Who Performs the AST?

Often, app developers and engineers are the ones who are doing AST. During the software development lifecycle, they’ll run various tests to ensure the application has no security issues. However, the bosses of the business also need to be involved.

There are a lot of legal issues that come with data breaches. Therefore the people paying for the projects must have a good understanding of any risks. Developers need to know how to find vulnerabilities and how to fix them. They aren’t just creating a web application, they’re protecting it.

If you want to make a secure application, integrating security is important. If you’re not sure where to start, there are also software firms who specialize in this field.

When is AST Performed?

The “when” of security testing is just as important as the “who”. Security testing is a 24/7 battle that businesses should be fighting. Vigilance is key when it comes to protecting data. Therefore, it’s paramount to be running vulnerability scans periodically and depper testing regularly.

It’s an ever changing world and software is always improving. That includes software used to break security. Businesses should be investing in regular security tests to ensure their application is safe.

A developer looking at multiple screens of code.

Get Specialized AST Training

Getting specialized training is the only way to learn the ins and outs of this crucial step in app development. If AST security is of any interest to you, take a course and learn about how it works.

The REDC also offers an extensive list of other computer science courses you can use to jumpstart your career.

Home LinkThe REDC is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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