Application Security – What is IAST?

Application Security testing is a pretty challenging process because it involves a developer who has to recheck code and make changes again and again until there are no vulnerabilities or the application is scheduled to release.

A continuous integration server is also used to build applications and run automated tests. A bug tracking system is also used to find and fix the issues. This is the traditional cycle that keeps repeating itself until or unless the Application is set to release.

This approach is more prone to security risks that occur just before the release of the application. To prevent all this pain, the Interactive Application Security Testing approach is used to automate all the processes to prevent any threats.

IAST — Defined

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) is a runtime testing approach used to locate and manage vulnerabilities in a web application. With IAST, security testing becomes a part of your SDLC that allows you to track and fix vulnerabilities prior to the release of the application.

IAST fits within your application’s DevOps and SDLC infrastructure to actively track vulnerabilities by simulating attacks. Instrumenting applications through IAST solutions involves deploying agents and sensors in running applications in order to identify vulnerabilities in real-time, by analyzing all their interactions initiated by manual testing, automated testing, or a combination of both.

When IAST is Deployed?

IAST is deployed in a QA environment with automated functional testing enabled. IAST can be utilized during this SDLC stage to effectively locate and fix the vulnerabilities.

Advantages of IAST

With the correct implementation of an IAST system, it provides a range of benefits:

  • IAST fits within SDLC: All remaining testing is actively carried by IAST in the QA testing stage of the development cycle. Hence, there is less delay.
  • Integration of IAST with CI/CD: IAST is the only dynamic testing technique capable of integrating seamlessly into CI/CD pipelines.
  • Finding Roots of Vulnerabilities: As IAST has access to all over the application, hence it allows the detection of the source of the vulnerability to easily fix it.
  • Fix Vulnerabilities Earlier: It is much easier to locate and fix vulnerabilities during SDLC as developers are more familiar with code and errors.

Disadvantages of IAST

This security testing method is extremely reliable but it still comes with a few downsides:

  • Slows Down Operations: A slow down in the operation of the application may result from using IAST tools. Adding agents to the code makes it less performant since they serve only as added instrumentation.
  • Relatively New Technology: Since it is a relatively new technology, some of the issues may not yet have been discovered.

IAST Requirements

Application developers should first analyze their technology stack and other processes before choosing a reliable IAST system. As IAST is a new technology, hence it might not be an excellent option for applications written in various programming languages. Hence, it is important to study the processes before opting for an IAST system/

IAST vs DAST & SAST

SAST is capable of uncovering highly complex vulnerabilities during the start of the SDLC process. However, it is not very reliable in real-time testing. DAST potentially finds runtime issues that are not quite possible with SAST but it is not suitable for the early stages of the application.

The major difference between all three security testing methodologies is that IAST operates inside the application while DAST and SAST operate outside the application. Moreover, the data coverage for IAST is massive as compared to the other two security testing models. 

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