4 Misconceptions about SAST Tool for Mobile

“Static Application security testing(SAST), or static analysis is a methodology testing that examines source code to identify vulnerabilities that make the applications of your organization vulnerable to attack. SAST, also known as white-box testing, scans an application before code compilation takes place. It helps developers build efficient code without slowing them down. Although there are misconceptions about executing SAST, this article talks about certain myths and reality checks that help cybersecurity experts to address security and quality defects in code as it gets developed”.

What is Static Code Analysis (SAST)?

SAST is one of the matured security testing methods. In the SAST, the source code is examined from the inside out while components are in a static position. It performs scanning in-house code and design to identify flaws that are reflective of weaknesses, and that could invite security vulnerabilities.

The scans performed by SAST tools are dependent upon prior identification of rules that specify coding errors to examine and address. These scans perform very well at identifying common security vulnerabilities such as input validation, SQL injection, and stack buffer overflow.

On the contrary, SAST has limitations also. It performs very well at identifying problems within the code, but not vulnerabilities in the outer side code in areas such as APIs, for which a different test can be applied. 

In between its advantages and disadvantages, some misconceptions have taken birth. In this article, we will dispel the top 4 such misconceptions about SAST: 

Myth 1: Unable To Recognize the Vulnerabilities in Dynamic Environments

Since the SAST gets applied during the early stage of Agile processes in software development, it generates many bugs as developers use the SAST framework in the starting phase of features and delivery.

The developers are required to scrutinize every kind of vulnerability or flagged error. It happens because of higher rates of false report generation by SAST tools.

The scanner may highlight a specific part of code as an error especially, in actuality, it is not. It can slow down the development and includes a bit of busy work that is ultimately unavoidable for the user or tool administrator.

SAST Scanner Tool - Reality Check

SAST scanners are proficient enough to examine 100% of the application code comparatively in less time. In fact, many sophisticated tools can scan up to millions of code lines in relatively few minutes.

It permits developers to integrate SAST scans seamlessly with the remaining development cycle. In this manner, it won’t take too much time for the raw programming or redirecting other tasks down the calendar.

The SAST scanner is used for coding different languages that increase dependency against a more generic tool. This SAST scanner ultimately is useful for most mainstream languages(C, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, and Python) and development platforms. 

The enterprise will need multiple SAST tools if it develops numerous applications in different languages. This costs more time and money.

Myth 2: Reporting False Positives Involving Higher Risk

Often, SAST does not take into account the whole picture because it works with source code. Due to this, SAST tools detect many issues when checking source code for the first time. However, most of them are false positives. Additionally, SAST finds problems that are problematic in a specific part of code but solves them later.

Unsanitized user input is one such example of a false positive. It is a huge security risk, but unsanitized input on the front gets often cleaned up on the backend. Most of the time, frontend and backend code is in different repositories, so the SAST tool cannot detect the sanitation, requiring the developer to do so.

Reality Check 

SAST tooling needs to maximize the number of true positives and true negatives while minimizing the number of false positives and false negatives. However, this is complex to achieve from an engineering perspective.

There is a higher number of false positives while using SAST tools which can be a nuisance. If that occurs, developers tend to overlook the warnings. Therefore, it is essential to have practical SAST tools which prevent a higher number of false positives. Appknox’s highest-rated SAST platform can flag threats with precision and minimum false results. 

Further our platform supports integration with your CI/CD pipeline that enables you to:

  • Automate the Uploading of the Application binary.
  • Identify security issues based on Static Analysis (SAST).
  • Prevent the pipeline from completing if security issues are found.
  • Get a summarized version of security issues that were found during the scan.

Myth 3: Because of the Static Report, It Becomes Outdated Too Quickly

SAST tools produce static reports that become outdated quickly, especially when applied to applications with fast development cycles.

You have to perform a SAST scan multiple times during the development cycle of an application to detect inadvertently created or missed code errors and security vulnerabilities.

Reality Check

Additionally, running a single SAST scan at the end of development defeats the purpose of this tool type since you might then have to go back into the code of an application and make sweeping changes to the architecture.

Myth 4: Source Code Availability is a Must for SAST Testing

Source code is used in the early stages of conducting SAST as it prevents loss of time, work, and the likelihood of fatal security issues down the line. However, a common misconception is the availability of source code needed to conduct SAST for mobile.

Reality Check

While most testing tools still demand it, modern automated SAST tools like Appknox do static testing on a binary level of the code. Hence source code availability is not needed to conduct SAST. The binary level of the code used is wise as it includes SDKs, Frameworks, & Libraries. Conducting  SAST using binary code detects fewer false positives and negatives since the compiler deletes the dead/unused code on the binary/bytecode. The compiler itself uses the binary which helps in discovering more accurately the security issues.

Advantages of Automated SAST Security

The core strength of SAST tools is their capability to examine 100% of the codebase. However, there are faster codes than the manual secured code reviews executed by humans. These tools can perform the scan of millions of lines within a few minutes. Also, there are other benefits which can be described below:

  • Provision of algorithms and high-quality technologies for executing deep code analysis and recognition of vulnerabilities.
  • Regularly updating the rule base with flexible extensibility and customization.
  • Comprehensive evidence-based reports are available on the identified vulnerabilities and in-depth recommendations to remove them.
  • Analyzing the results and comparing them while rescanning the edited code(showcasing unpatched, patched, re-developing vulnerabilities)
  • Provision of support for a variety of extended programming languages.
  • SAST is compatible with development environments, bug tracking systems, and version controls.
  • Effective communication takes place between security experts and developers.
  • Get the minimum outcome of false positives.
  • Performing presentation of the analysis of the results in an easy-to-read form.
  • Provision of automated static application security reporting tools
  • Remote code analysis execution

The SAST that completely adheres to the necessities set forth will recognize problems existing in the code more accurately. It will also permit you to make expenditures on fewer resources on localization and vulnerability removal.

SAST executes best for identifying errors in the strings of code but is not very efficient for spotting the flaws in the data stream.

Conclusion

So far you have got a proper understanding of what SAST is; its myths and reality checks; and the advantages of implementing SAST in your organization. You are required to execute it to strengthen your security. Bugs and vulnerabilities in software under development comprise bigger security problems. The SAST application allows risk mitigation without inviting third-party experts.

The integration of SAST into your consistent testing pipeline in a suitable way can help you defend against possible security risks and give you an ever-lasting security environment.

When SAST is used together in co-existence with DAST scan technology, SAST tools have the efficiency to fortify your application. It is due to the protection against attacks and enhanced better application operation throughout the deployment.

Eager to secure your mobile app? Here’s a complete security checklist to get you started.

 

Published on Jul 14, 2022
Abhinav Vasisth
Written by Abhinav Vasisth
Security researcher at Appknox.

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