SAST vs. DAST vs. IAST: How is a Developer to Choose? - Part 1
March 06, 2023

Dotan Nahum
Check Point Software Technologies

Security and software go together like peanut butter and jelly (PB&J). They're a good thing apart but a great thing together. So why are many developers prioritizing one or the other and not leveraging this awesome combination?

More than 90% of modern applications contain personal data from users, meaning they're susceptible to attacks. However, conducting manual application security tests is a hectic task that involves a significant amount of time and resources and slows down your project's development velocity.

For this reason, developers are often forced to compromise security to improve delivery times. For example, even as cloud technologies are taking over, only 40% of global enterprises have security policies to protect their cloud infrastructure, development processes, and applications, according to research findings. And this is a very bad thing.

With the increasing threat of cyber attacks, developers need to take the necessary steps to protect applications and find a middle ground between security and delivery time. Just like a PB&J, it'll be worth it in the end.

What is SAST?

SAST (Static Application Security Testing) detects vulnerabilities in an application at the code level by scanning source code. As we all know, fixing issues after going live with a new or updated application takes a significant effort. SAST solves this problem by helping you find security flaws during the initial design and build stages.

Integrating SAST into your existing development environment promotes automation to streamline the assessments, and its analytics capabilities act as a learning tool for devs by providing them with feedback.

These tools support the existing language that your dev teams use and plug into common IDEs to perform comprehensive code-level security assessments; SAST tools give devs a helping hand in fixing vulnerabilities while meeting security industry standards like OWASP Top 10.

What is DAST?

Rather than analyzing the source code, DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) infiltrates the application and provides a real-time assessment of the exposed vulnerabilities by mimicking the actions of an attacker. Kind of like putting your red hat on.

This strategy emulates a black-box testing approach to find misconfigurations within servers that affect the web application at runtime, authentication, and encryption, essentially covering what a typical SAST doesn't.

DAST doesn't offer the feedback and dev learning capabilities of SAST. In fact, dynamic testing falls into the hands of dedicated QA teams just before deployment in the latter stages of the SDLC, after the code compilation. Of course, detection later in the SDLC makes remediation more expensive, so DAST is pricier than SAST.

Finally, What is IAST?

You guessed it, next up is IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing), which brings together the best of SAST and DAST while addressing the drawbacks of each. IAST conducts dynamic assessments of the application during operation, similar to DAST, and it also runs from inside the application server to analyze the code, like SAST. Interactive analysis provides devs with information and real-time insights into the root cause of vulnerabilities. It evaluates a focused part of the application and runs during the testing phase of the development lifecycle.

Although IAST works well with modern apps, legacy applications might run into trouble because this strategy offers limited language support. In situations like this, you can use RASP (Runtime Application Self Protection), an evolution of the typical testing approach that focuses more on end-user and traffic analysis to prevent attacks at runtime rather than security testing.

Go to SAST vs. DAST vs. IAST: How is a Developer to Choose? - Part 2

Dotan Nahum is Head of Developer-First Security at Check Point Software Technologies
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