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Static application security testing (SAST)

What is static application security testing?

Static application security testing (SAST) — A security practice of locating vulnerabilities by scanning applications’ source and byte code and their binaries to review the status of the code and how it’s configured. SAST tools monitor applications with white-box testing when the applications are not running.

Why is SAST important?

With the frequency of cyberattacks on the rise, businesses must manage their risks and harden their security practices to remain protected from emerging threats.

SAST tools review source code to discover code and composition faults that could lead to the injection of malicious code. They discover applications’ vulnerabilities in pre-production, so that major problems can be dealt with early and to allow security teams to update and retest their applications, ensuring that they operate effectively and securely.

SAST tools help enterprises identify vulnerabilities listed in OWASP’s Top 10 security risks. In fact, according to Gartner, SAST tools detect up to 70% of vulnerabilities in the development phase.1

If applications are deployed before vulnerabilities have been addressed, any resulting incident could lead to significant financial and reputational damage.

SAST tools effectively help organizations locate vulnerabilities and manage risks, allowing them to keep up with the threat landscape.

Who uses SAST tools?

SAST tools are used by application security, DevSecOps, and delivery teams.

Application security: This team uses SAST tools to monitor the integrity of applications and determine which vulnerabilities to target.

DevSecOps: This team uses SAST tools to review the security of their applications and see which vulnerabilities are present.

Delivery teams: This team uses SAST tools to remediate vulnerabilities in applications before they are deployed across the organization's environment or to consumers.

Business benefits of SAST

SAST tools deliver instant feedback, informing users of problems early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). To accomplish this, teams must routinely scan applications and builds each time code is reviewed or released.

These tools also show vulnerabilities and suspicious code while offering context on how to remediate vulnerabilities and prevent similar incidents.

Additionally, SAST tools generate custom reports that are exported and tracked across their dashboards. This helps users remain organized, understand important issues, and quickly resolve issues while consistently releasing secure applications.

SAST tools provide teams with detailed vulnerability scanning with instant detection and custom reporting, supporting efficient remediation and visibility into applications’ integrity.

How to properly use SAST tools

SAST tools can be effective across enterprises that have many applications that use different languages, frameworks, and platforms. A few guidelines are helpful, such as selecting the right tool, integrating the tools into the environment effectively, adjusting the tooling to fit your specific needs, and reviewing the results so that modifications can be made as needed.

Select the right tool: Identify the SAST tool that best fits your organization's needs by working with the languages that your applications are programmed with and supporting your infrastructure.

Effectively integrate SAST into your environment: Follow licensing provisions and grant access to the resources that the tool needs to operate.

Adjust your tooling to fit your needs: Configure your tools to scan for and review the issues that matter most by creating policies to find specific vulnerabilities, reduce noise, and increase visibility.

Review results: Analyze scanning results to get rid of false positives and forward information to deployment teams so they can eliminate issues.

Challenges with SAST tools

SAST tools can produce many false positives, are not suitable for finding vulnerabilities in constantly changing environments, and sometimes produce obsolete reports.

False positives: Noisy alerts prevent users from targeting urgent issues in a timely manner, reducing efficiency and response times.

Changing environments: Static testing is a snapshot into your application’s integrity at a single point in time. With changing environments, the application’s composition and risks may change too quickly for the scan to be relevant.

Obsolete reports: With static testing monitoring security at a single point in time, reports can quickly become obsolete and will not accurately reflect the state of your applications or environment.

How SAST compares to other app sec tools

SAST - Tests internally developed source code, identifies vulnerabilities and where they are located in pre-production, and supports whitebox security testing.

DAST - Tests running applications, identifies misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in production, and supports blackbox security testing.

SCA - Determines risks and vulnerabilities for open source components, supplies built in policies and compliance checks, and collects a software bill of materials (SBOM).

Learn more

For further insights into SAST, explore the following articles:


Why Traditional App Sec Testing Fails on Supply Chain Security

Why Traditional App Sec Testing Fails on Supply Chain Security

Upgrade your software supply chain tools to maintain velocity and security

The state of CI/CD security: Upgrade your software supply chain tools to maintain velocity and security

A Fireside Chat with Derek Fisher, author of “The Application Security Program Handbook”

A Fireside Chat with Derek Fisher, author of “The Application Security Program Handbook”