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Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) technology helps address security challenges by combining Static Application Testing tools (SAST) and Dynamic Application Testing tools (DAST) approaches. 

IAST tools work dynamically to identify issues during production, like DAST tools do. The main difference is the IAST tools run inside the application server, where the tool evaluates code, like SAST tools do. 

IAST solutions evaluate only certain parts of the application used during the testing and quality assurance (QA) stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC). IAST tools are typically implemented in QA environments with automated functional tests or in addition to other tools.


  1. IAST Use Cases

    Here are the most common applications of IAST technology:

    • Apply IAST technology during the development phase—IAST technology can help you identify and fix vulnerabilities during the early stages of the development stage. Early discovery and remediation can cut back on overhead that might accumulate if the vulnerabilities will be detected during final testing stages or after the program is already released.
    • Apply IAST during the QA phase—while modern development pipelines like DevSecOpts typically apply testing and security measures on a continuous basis from the beginning of the cycle, some pipelines, lille the traditional waterfall approach and even DevOps cycles still perform testing in the end. If you haven’t shifted security left yet, you can still apply IAST during QA and get the chance to remediate before your software is released.
    • Apply IAST during production—this can help you locate the vulnerabilities you haven’t caught previously, and apply remediation as needed. You can use IAST tools to determine which vulnerabilities are most pressing, and then prioritize remediation accordingly. This can help you release the most critical patches more quickly and monitor the viability of your system.

  2. IAST vs SAST and DAST

    IAST tools were developed to help solve challenges remaining in SAST and DAST technology. Here are the main differences between the technologies. 

    IAST vs SAST

    Static Application Security Testing (SAST) technology examines the source code in a non-runtime environment during early stages of the SDLC. SAST tools try to detect suspicious code patterns which might indicate various security risks. 

    However, while SAST tools are relatively easy to deploy, they generate far too many false positives, because the tool does not account for the presence of other security measures, and lack visibility during runtime. 

    A SAST tool typically runs inside your integrated development environment (IDE) during the compilation stage. Because the scanning process takes time to work, the tool creates delays. 

    Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) technology, on the other hand, is much more flexible, because the technology does not require direct access to your source code and can therefore be applied during production runtime environments.

    IAST vs DAST

    Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) technology works like a black-box scanner. The tool executes application requests and tries to detect security risks. DAST tools assess the exterior of the applications while trying to determine the presence of risks. 

    DAST tools look at the response of the server during multiple tests, but provide no visibility into the internal operations of the application. Another major disadvantage is that DAST tests can be difficult to automate. This is because, to be truly useful, DAST tools should be operated by experienced application security (AppSec) teams, like penetration testers. 

    According to Forrester, the duration of a DAST test can take between 5-7 days, while IAST testing is performed in real-time operation.

    IAST Advantages over SAST and DAST

    Here are key advantages of using IAST:

    • False positives—are a critical issue created by security tools. These false alerts are sent to security teams, increasing their workload and making it difficult to detect critical flaws. However, IAST provides interactive testing, which leverages more data and leads to better and more accurate discoveries.
    • Vulnerability coverage—interactive analysis is often said to combine the best features of both dynamic and static testing. For one, interactive testing technology focused on the most critical flaws. Additionally, IAST enables you to create custom rules and personalize your threat coverage strategy according to specific enterprises and industries.
    • Code coverage—static testing tools do not examine frameworks or libraries. This significantly limits the scope of the vulnerability analysis. Dynamic testing tools can examine only the exposed surface of the application. Both of these tools do not cover huge portions of the application. Interactive testing technology, on the other hand, can examine the entire application, providing much better coverage.
    • Scalability—both dynamic and static tools do not scale well, because these tools often require experts to implement and run the tool and then interpret the results. Interactive testing tools, on the other hand, can handle any application size, including large operations.
    • Instant feedback—dynamic and static tools are applied on a periodic basis. This results in lag time before vulnerability detection occurs. In the meanwhile, the vulnerability can be exploited. Interactive testing tools, on the other hand, provide immediate feedback.
  3. What are the Key Steps to Run IAST Effectively?

    1. Deploy DevOps—you need to integrate your IAST tool into your entire CI/CD pipeline.
    2. Choose a compatible tool—the IAST you introduce should be compatible with the programming languages as well as the underlying framework of your software.
    3. Create the scanning infrastructure and deploy the tool—you need to properly configure security measures, like authorization and access control, as well as other required integrations before deploying the tool.
    4. Customize the tool—according to your needs. You can integrate the tool into your build environment, build your own custom reports, and create dashboards.
    5. Prioritize and add applications—if you need to add many applications, you should prioritize and scan first high-risk web applications.
    6. Analyze scan results—assess the scan results and remove false positives. Try to remediate vulnerability issues as quickly as possible.
  4. Conclusion

    Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) provides a quick and effective solution to vulnerability detection. You can leverage IAST to scan the entire codebase of the application in real-time, and then apply patches quickly. This can significantly reduce false positives and help ensure you catch vulnerabilities on time, rather than only months or even years later on.

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