Application Security (AppSec) is the process of identifying, testing, and fixing security flaws in an application. It’s not so much about a singular technology or technique. Instead, it’s a mindset and an approach to application development. Application security testing tools are the primary way to apply application security in the development process. There are many security concerns in the application that need attention, such as authentication, authorization, availability, confidentiality, integrity, and more. Each application security tool has its specialty. Alongside the variety of AppSec tools out there, the application security field is ever evolving, and innovations will add more security layers and tools to the applications, such as:
Automation – application security automation uses tools to automate tasks, scans, etc., so there’s less manual effort needed from the team.
A focus on all apps and flaws, which is a deviation from historically segmented and siloed approaches to AppSec.
Making AppSec an expectation and standard requirement. As DevOps transitions to DevSecOps, the focus on AppSec is increasingly vital for many software businesses.
The goal of AppSec in DevOps is to establish a set of best practices, functions, and features for software to help keep the software released safe and secure. This also includes any initiatives to remediate threats from attackers and breaches.
Here’s Why Application Security in DevOps Matters
AppSec should be a top priority for businesses of all sizes, from small startups to giant tech companies.
There’s more to lose than before. With every application evolution, more data is at risk. Data is everywhere these days, so businesses should go above and beyond to protect the massive amounts of data embedded and stored in applications.
There are more threats than ever. Today’s application environment is a tough one. Breaches, leaks, and exposed vulnerabilities are inevitable, but with the best AppSec and application security monitoring, you don’t have to be a part of the statistics.
The cloud revolution is here. More and more organizations are adopting the cloud. More cloud application security utilities should be used with more applications moving to the cloud.
It saves you time, money, and headaches in the long run. Taking a proactive approach to security isn’t just about keeping things locked down and secure. It allows enjoying the application security benefits. A security flaw found in the development process instead of in the production environment can save you massive amounts of time, money, and headache, so you and your development team can spend less time on remediating issues.
5 Ways AppSec Keeps Your Business Running Smoothly & Efficiently
The road to securing your application starts with security monitoring and testing, goes through application security assessments, and ends with patching security flaws. Applying AppSec's best practices can help your business proactively focus on the most important risks instead of constantly putting out fires reactively.
#1 Helps Reduce Risk from Internal and Third-Party Sources
Taking a proactive and engaged approach to AppSec helps mitigate the risks involved with both internal and third-party applications. Code should constantly undergo application security testing. Application Security Testing (AST) is the process of testing an application in various ways to find security issues and then fixing them as part of the secure application development process.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) are just a couple examples of AST tools. SAST scans the code statically, and DAST builds the code then looks for security issues. Another popular type of security testing is Software Composition Analysis (SCA) which analyzes an application’s third-party dependencies to evaluates whether these dependencies contain vulnerabilities. When development teams take a security-first approach during every phase of the SDLC, it’s easier to spot potential vulnerabilities and security issues.
Using Application Security Testing is an integral part of AppSec DevOps methodology. Some general AST tools, such as ZAP and other platforms, have their own dedicated AST framework. For example, QARK and MobSF are mobile application security testing tools.
#2 Protects Sensitive Data from Leaks
Software has become seamlessly integrated into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, including parts of our lives that include sensitive information, such as, health data, financial information, and identity-related data. That’s why AppSec is a must. Security shouldn’t be an afterthought when there’s so much sensitive data at risk. When hackers or malicious programs gain access to sensitive data, it can never be made private again. Once private data is exposed, it’s exposed forever.
It’s always recommended to consider the OWASP top 10 when trying to address the issue of how to build a secure web application or any other type of application. It’s a list of top security risks updated each year. An adversary, by exploiting some of the top attack vectors to compromise your organization, can detect and leak sensitive organization secrets such as remote servers’ connection keys and passwords.
#3 Keeps Your Customer Data Secure
Even if data is not technically “sensitive,” customers still value privacy and security. A data security breach violates your customers' trust in your business. Violations can have devastating and long-lasting consequences. Strong application security helps keep your business running optimally because breaches lead to operational downtime as all focus shifts to remediation. For example, customer success teams are unable to focus on upselling or cross-selling their accounts when they are instead too busy fielding customer complaints and inquiries regarding a data breach.
There are application security testing tools that find sensitive data in your code, such as Legit Security's secret scanner. For GitHub users, there’s also GitHub’s secret scanning program. Besides secrets in code, constantly conducting application security assessments as part of your DevOps process will ensure that breaches are detected quickly, and you won’t have to worry that customer data will be accidentally exposed to malicious actors. Security assessments should be an ongoing part of your DevOps process. They should constantly include evaluating 3rd party services and dependencies, identifying sensitive data such as PII and others, and ensuring data are encrypted, and permissions are validated continuously. Mitigating the risks mentioned above and being up to date with new threats is crucial to keeping your customers' data safe and secure.
#4 Improves Trust, Confidence, and Public Opinion
Data leaks and security breaches aren’t just a matter of security, they are also about maintaining your reputation and building trust with your customers. Studies have shown that a data breach can significantly impact your business. Some studies suggest that you could lose up to a third of your customers if you’re the subject of a data breach. News about data leaks and organization breaches will spread like wildfire.
85% of people who are part of a data breach tell others about their experience
34% publicize their negative opinion on social media
In the eyes of your customers, data breaches result from negligence. And, as a result, once happy customers start exploring alternative solutions. Investing into application security in DevOps will help your business avoid the next breach. Whether focused on cloud application security, mobile application security, or any other platform, combining AppSec in your DevOps will significantly impact keeping you safe and sound. Using application security testing (AST) best practice techniques and tools such as SAST, DAST, and SCA is the first phase in securing your DevOps and keeping customers’ trust.
#5 Boosts Your Business by Keeping You Out of the Headlines… and the Courts
Focusing on Application Security in DevOps will help prevent breaches and software supply chain attacks in your organization, which will result in avoiding negative PR and resource-intensive lawsuits. A breach can send your business straight to the front page, but not in a good way. Here are a couple examples of well-known companies affected by security breaches:
In 2013 Target was a victim of a cyber-attack that resulted in leaking data of over 41 million customers.
Another infamous attack is the SolarWinds attack. In 2020, what was believed to be a software supply chain attack conducted by Russia's Cozy Bear APT group. The attack ended with a backdoor installed and used in many government networks and fortune 500 companies.
These types of incidents inevitably lead to costly and lengthy legal proceedings, especially when encountering compliance breaches in regards to privacy regulations such as GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).
Don’t Wait Till It’s Too Late: Prioritize Your Application Security in DevOps Now
While technologies and security risks evolve, traditional Application Security has struggled to keep up. Use these five tips spanning application security services, tools, and methodologies to keep your organization safe so that you can focus on your software product and its growth instead of worrying about the next breach.
An organization that prioritizes AppSec in DevOps will benefit from: reduced risks, safer customers, avoided lawsuits, and faster secure application development.