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The Ultimate Guide to Application Security Tools

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With the emergence of new software security threats, businesses need robust, flexible and affordable methods to ensure their applications are protected throughout the whole application lifecycle. Application security is essential for software companies, but now more than ever, many more organizations need to make AppSec a priority.

What are Application Security tools?

Application Security tools shield a range of applications against data theft or other types of malicious intent. Applications often contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals, and these products help protect against loss of data, critical information, or other malicious intent. They can be used for a variety of applications, including desktop, cloud and mobile.  Moreover, they can be used for any application that is used by employees, contractors, partners, and customers.

These tools must be relatively simple to deploy and have enough range to cover the necessary security for every app type.

Why application security is important

Today, organizations must invest in application security to protect confidential information, maintain their brand image and ensure compliance.

Cybercriminals can expose businesses in a variety of ways. But whilst many businesses understand the importance of more generalised cybersecurity, few organizations take action when it comes to securing their applications directly.

This is partly because of the ever-changing digital landscape where customer demand is continually evolving. Companies often feel compelled to publish applications as fast as they can, without giving security enough thought.  However, the consequences of poorly secured applications can be devastating for a business.

Loss of customer trust/brand reputation

Releasing an application that lacks robust security can cause a business to suffer from loss of public image. A brand’s reputation can be severely affected following an attack, and the indirect financial repercussions can be challenging to recover from.

In 2018, the importance of application security was emphasised on a global level when Facebook was implicated in a major data breach with political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.  This led to wider discussions relating to cybersecurity and big data and resulted in Facebook implementing a number of security measures.  

Identity theft and loss of critical information

Individuals are increasingly savvy about the need to keep their personal information private. Bank account details, addresses, and sensitive work data are examples of information that must be protected from cybercriminals.

By investing in application security, customers will be more willing to trust businesses with their confidential information. Many individuals will avoid organizations with a poor track record of security breaches. 

Types of Application Security Tools and when you need them

 

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Code

SAST Tools - Static Application Security Testing

SAST tools are essential in preventing cybercriminals from exploiting vulnerable code in applications. Developers use SAST tools to discover, for instance, authentication issues or access problems.

IaC - Infrastructure as Code Checkers 

Rather than managing and provisioning infrastructure through a manual process, IaC uses code instead.  By automating the process, developers don’t have to waste time manually configuring servers, OS, storage and other elements during app development or deployment. 

Components 

SCA - Static Code Analysis Tools 

SCA, a type of SAST tool, evaluates code against a coding standard for security violations.  This method of debugging aids developers by identifying issues early on using an auto feedback loop.  

Container - Container security analysis 

This type of security analysis works by finding vulnerabilities inside containers (units that comprise code and its dependencies so applications run smoothly and efficiently).  Container security analysis monitors threats regularly to flag any issues that may arise.

Staging 

DAST - Dynamic Application Security Testing 

Dynamic analysis assesses an application for weaknesses during runtime. Developers use these tools to correct bugs, memory problems and unexpected crashes.  

IAST - Interactive Application Security Testing 

IAST tests code for security weaknesses whilst the app is being executed by either an automated or manual process, and reports any issues in real-time. This tool is generally introduced in the application post-build. 

Deploy 

Cloud - Cloud Platform & Config Security Checks 

Cloud security checks ensure an organization’s cloud infrastructure is protected from any vulnerabilities.  The assessment looks for possible points of entry, identifies evidence of exploitation, and issues a report on how to tackle future attacks. 

Infrastructure - Infrastructure Security Probes and Patches 

Patch management is an essential part of application security, ensuring updates are regularly pushed out to software and the wider infrastructure.  This helps to create more robust programs, especially those that are susceptible to cyberattacks.    

Categories of Application Security Tools 

Commercial 

Easy to use and covering a wider range of security controls, commercial solutions offer an all-in-one package.  However, the high price point may make these tools difficult or impossible for smaller businesses to adopt.  

OpenSource 

Their free use makes them an obvious choice for those looking for a cost-effective testing option.  However, OpenSource tools usually come with a caveat of less functionality and reporting abilities.

Custom 

Custom tools are generally created in-house. This means that developers can tailor the tool to their organization’s specific needs. However, some of these tools are difficult to incorporate into an automated application security program.

How to choose the right Application Security Tools for you

Cultural fit

Application security must be thought of in terms of risk, instead of vulnerabilities.

Project managers and stakeholders might not immediately understand the need to fix a certain vulnerability, but if they realise the risk involved could cost them millions, their approach to the problem will almost certainly change.

Regulations & requirements

It’s now clear that applications are the biggest source of data breaches, which is why regulatory bodies are pushing for more application security measures. As a result, requirements have been introduced to control and guide the complex protocols involved.  

Examples of these include the newest version of PCI DSS (2.0) standard, which now includes secure coding standards for compliance.  Furthermore, FISMA (Federal Information Security Act) and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) require organizations to implement security evaluations into the software development life cycle.  

Challenges with Application Security

Cybersecurity threats are changing and evolving faster than ever before.

A medium-sized financial company, for example, may have a portfolio consisting of more than 1000 apps. Each of those apps has hundreds or thousands of lines of code.  This is a huge amount to manage, and demonstrates the enormous challenge faced by development teams.  

This is why powerful application security tools and strategies are imperative to keeping applications secure.

WHO IS ULESKA?

Uleska helps security and development teams manage application security at scale by automating and orchestrating their preferred security tools within CI/CD.

With Uleska, teams can confidently start an AppSec program using open-source, commercial, and custom tools and then quickly change, add or scale tools as the technology and business needs evolve. Uleska also brings speed and scale when integrating into development tools, and reporting of metrics and risk.

By bringing security, DevOps and development teams together, we help reduce manual tasks so application security takes less time, cost and can scale, allowing teams to focus resources on the issues and metrics that matter.

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