What is IAST

Whenever a company deploys a new computer or node one of the top priorities is to make sure that the device is protected against cyberattackers. Enterprises will deploy antivirus and anti-malware tools to protect physical devices but often fail to protect applications (a potentially costly mistake). However, there are some companies that use Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) to find vulnerabilities. But what is IAST?

IAST Explained

cybersecurity graphic with lock

IAST is a methodology of application testing where code is analyzed for security vulnerabilities while an application is running. IAST tools deploy agents and sensors in applications to detect issues in real-time during a test. The application can be run by an automated test or by a human tester to find vulnerabilities in the application.

To help the user find coding issues the IAST tool will highlight the segments of code that feature vulnerabilities. Highlighting the code allows the developer to see what code they need to change to remove the vulnerability.

Why is IAST Important?

The importance of using application testing and IAST cannot be overstated. The 2017 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 29.5% of breaches were caused by web application attacks. Cyber attackers are turning to application layer attacks to get through network defenses. Once they have broken through they can cause damage to sensitive data and put important services out of action.

If you don’t have any defenses in place to protect against application attacks, you’re at high risk of falling victim to a cyber-criminal. Testing models like IAST are critical for finding and eliminating the vulnerabilities an attacker would be looking for.

IAST gives you an opportunity to fix known vulnerabilities before any bad actors can use them as an entry point. To put it another way, application testing helps you to find an entry point and close the door before anyone has a chance to open it.

IAST vs SAST vs DAST: Application Testing Methodologies

IAST isn’t the only type of application testing used today. Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) are two other methodologies used to test applications. Each model is different with its own advantages and disadvantages.

SAST or static analysis is where source code is scanned while the application isn’t running. SAST tools can scan code segments and discover vulnerabilities. Once a problem is found the tool highlights it and provides an onscreen recommendation so that a developer can take action to remedy the issue.

SAST tools are widely used because they are easy to deploy and can detect problems in the source code. These solutions also have a low rate of false positives making it easy for developers to make improvements. SAST tools are used early in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) so that developers can address vulnerabilities ahead of the release.

DAST is a model of testing where applications are scanned while they are running. DAST solutions don’t have access to the source code but allow you to perform a penetration test to find configuration errors and validation issues that attackers use during an SQL injection attack.

DAST is great for penetration testing but it doesn’t highlight source code vulnerabilities like DAST. IAST builds on the foundations laid by DAST and SAST to offer automated scanning. Essentially, IAST is a hybrid solution that combines the best of both solutions. An IAST tool can listen to applications in real-time and highlight errors that make it effective for addressing issues efficiently.

One of the key advantages IAST tools have over other testing methodologies is that they are easy to deploy and scalable, meaning that they fit well within larger environments. Automation functions also allow it to integrate into CI/CD workflows that automate the software delivery process.

The benefits of IAST

As an application testing model, IAST has many advantages over other forms of testing.

In this section we’re going to look at some of the main benefits of IAST:

  • Low false-positive rate
  • Fast testing
  • Easy to deploy
  • On-demand feedback

Low false-positive rate

IAST can automatically scan through code to find vulnerabilities without false positives. That means all the code that is highlighted to the user is genuinely faulty and needs to be rewritten.

When using an IAST the user knows that the highlighted code segments and recommendations are legitimate so they can take action to address them immediately. Low false positives stop developers from wasting time investigating functional code.

Fast Testing

The automation included with IAST solutions speeds up the testing process through automatic testing. Even the largest applications can be tested in a matter of hours when the software only scans new or edited code. Faster testing is also sped up further through onscreen recommendations.

The user can view highlighted code segments and recommendations to easily find ways to improve application security quickly and efficiently. Faster testing and recommendations come together to speed up the application testing process significantly.

Easy to Deploy

IAST platforms are ready to deploy out-of-the-box. They don’t need any custom configurations in order to function. That means you can implement an IAST solution and start scanning immediately.

They are also inherently scalable, and able to work well with both large and small applications. The fast deployment and low maintenance scanning capabilities of IAST solutions help to drive the SDLC forward painlessly.

On-Demand Feedback

IAST solutions provide on-demand feedback in a way that static and dynamic testing tools cannot. You can run a scan and receive actionable feedback in a matter of seconds. DAST and SAST scans usually take place periodically, which means there is a lot of time between when applications are tested.

Continuous scanning provides instant feedback that a developer can use to improve the application now. That means less time and money wasted on waiting for code to be scanned and less time exposed to vulnerabilities.

IAST Tools

Every IAST tool on the market takes a slightly different approach to discovering application vulnerabilities. The biggest difference between IAST products is the application programming language that they use. When searching for an IAST tool it is important to pick one that matches the programming language and framework of the applications that you use.

In addition, you should select a tool that can monitor vulnerabilities in any open source code that you use. Many products use Software Composition Analysis (SCA) to identify open-source entry points.

Here is our list of four top IAST tools:

  • Invicti (FREE DEMO) A vulnerability scanner that includes IAST checks and specializes in testing Web applications. This tool is particularly useful for testing during CI/CD pipelines. Available as a cloud platform service or for installation on Windows and Windows Server.
  • Acunetix (FREE DEMO) A choice of packages that offer on-demand or continuous vulnerability scanning. Editions are suitable for penetration testing development teams or IT operations. Offered as a hosted SaaS package or for installation on Windows, macOS, or Linux.
  • Hdiv Detection (IAST) A cloud-based vulnerability testing system that deploys IAST to spot vulnerabilities in source code. IT will tell you exactly which liner of a program is the problem.
  • Seeker IAST This is a scanner for web applications that uses active verification and data tracking to check for vulnerabilities. This is a cloud-based service.

You can read more about each of these IAST systems in the following sections.

Invicti (FREE DEMO)

Invicti

Invicti – formerly Netsparker – is a SaaS platform that offers DAST, SAST, and IAST scanning of Web applications. Those applications can be running live or under development, so the system is a very good choice for use in DevOps environments.

The Invicti vulnerability scanner can be run on demand or set to operate continuously. The service is able to integrate with project management tools and issue tracking services, so it works well as part of a CI/CD pipeline. The scanner doesn’t just work through a list of vulnerabilities because it uses AI-based heuristic detection services to spot potential problems with modules that are under development.

When used as a vulnerability scanner for live Web applications, this system checks through the CVE list of known exploits. The system is able to drill down through APIs to check through the backend code that supplies that services’ functions.

Invicti offers the option of getting the software for the vulnerability scanning service and installing it on your own site instead of using the cloud-hosted version. This software package installs on Windows and Windows Server and it is available for assessment through a demo system.

Pros:

  • Highly visual interface – great for pen-testing teams, NOCs, or lone administrators
  • Color coding helps teams prioritize remediation with color coding and automatic threat scoring
  • Runs continuously – no need to schedule scans or manually run checks
  • Includes pentesting tools – great for companies with internal “red” teams
  • Comes in multiple packages, making Netsparker accessible to any size organization

Cons:

  • Offers a wide range of features that can take time to fully explore

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Invicti is our top pick for an IAST tool because it is available as an on-demand tester and also as a continuously running vulnerability scanner. This tool specializes in seeking out web application vulnerabilities. IT can be integrated into the CI/CD pipeline for SecDevOps environments, tracking c ode weaknesses and highlighting system settings problems from the developer through to the IT operations section.

Access FREE Demo: invicti.com/get-demo/

Operating system: Cloud-based or available for install on Windows and Windows Server

Acunetix (FREE DEMO)

Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner

Acunetix is a vulnerability scanner that includes a module called AcuSensor that implements IAST. The service also includes DAST processes and static code scanning to provide SAST. AcuSensor combs through code written in JavaScript, PHP, and .NET framework.

The Acunetix system can be launched on demand or set up to run continuously. You can use the system to scan live Web applications and APIs. This service looks for more than 7,000 known vulnerabilities, including the OWASP Top 10. There is also an edition of Acunetix that will scan networks. This has a list of more than 50,000 system weaknesses to look for.

Acunetix is marketed in three editions: Standard, Premium, and Enterprise. The Standard version only offers manually launched vulnerability scans. All plans are suitable for use to scan Web applications but the Premium edition is the plan that also includes network scanning. You can access the system as a hosted cloud-based service or acquire it as a software package for installation on Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can assess Acunetix by accessing at the demo system.

Pros:

  • Available for a wide range of environments (Windows, Mac OS, and Linux)
  • Integrates with a large number of other tools such as OpenVAS
  • Can detect and alert when misconfigurations are discovered
  • Leverages automation to immediately stop threats and escalate issues based on the severity

Cons:

  • Would like to see a trial version for testing

Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner Access FREE Demo

Hdiv Detection (IAST)

HDIV Detection

Hdiv Detection is an IAST tool that can detect application vulnerabilities in source code with a runtime dataflow technique. When the software finds a vulnerability it reports on the file and line number so that a developer can easily find it and fix the problem. The program can also detect third party software with known vulnerabilities.

Configuring Hdiv Detection is extremely easy, as you only need to install an agent inside the application server. From that moment onwards you can start protecting your applications from unauthorized entry. The centralized perspective of the dashboard allows you to view a Vulnerability Detail page which provides you with additional information about security issues found during scanning.

Pros:

  • Highlights exactly where vulnerabilities are present within the source code
  • Runs as a cloud tool making it highly versatile
  • Simple installation

Cons:

  • Would like to see more threat and data visualization options

If you’re looking for an IAST solution with zero false positives then take a look at Hdiv Detection. If you’d like a quote you will have to message the sales team. You can sign up online for a demo.

Seeker IAST

Seeker IAST

Seeker IAST is another IAST tool that uses active verification and data tracking to analyze web-based applications. Active verification technology can automatically test known vulnerabilities and assess whether they are exploitable. The main difference between this platform and other solutions is that Seeker IAST can determine whether a vulnerability can be exploited by an attacker.

The Seeker IAST application provides you with a real-time view of the top security vulnerabilities in your applications. With almost zero-false positives you can be certain that the vulnerabilities you see are legitimate. The program also has an SCA solution called Black Duck Binary Analysis onboard, which can identify vulnerabilities in open-source software.

Integration is where Seeker IAST is at its strongest. There are native integrations, web APIs, and plugins to help your DevOps team to onboard the program straight into your environment. Likewise, these features mean the software fits neatly into your CI/CD workflow.

Pros:

  • Offers great visuals and an intuitive dashboard
  • Ranks vulnerabilities automatically and does so accurately
  • Has extensive documentation and numerous plugins for integrations

Cons:

  • Must request quote from sales

If you’re looking for a solution that’s easy to use with lots of integration and an SCA, Seeker IAST is an excellent choice. However, you will have to request a quote from the sales team.

What is IAST? A Cybersecurity Essential

Application testing is no longer an option, it’s a must-have. Enterprises that are using or deploying applications need to monitor them to make sure there are no entry points for attackers to exploit. It only takes one vulnerability for an attacker to breach a network and wreak havoc.

Most companies wouldn’t leave a computer unprotected so they shouldn’t do the same with an application. Application attacks are a reality now and enterprises have to adapt to stay secure.

Deploying an IAST platform can go a long way towards closing down any entry points into your network and making sure your applications are secure. Taking the time to develop a secure application will help to reduce the chance of downtime or damage to personal data.