How Can Security Testing Fit Within Agile Development?

As software developers and associated business analysts are shifting more and more towards satisfying customer needs by providing them with a better quality product, they are consequently moving towards an agile mindset. 

Firms are changing the way they function to allow customer needs to be integrated not only into the final product and stages of sales but also all throughout the process of development of a product. So that each step of the process adds to the customer satisfaction and doesn’t pressurize sales and marketing team to force their product down the customer’s throat.


Agile as we talked about, is a collection of beliefs that teams can use for making decisions about how to do the work of developing software. The meaning of being Agile is subject to distortion as it is passed along.

However, if you try to understand the true meaning of being Agile, it’s surprisingly flexible. Agile doesn’t make decisions for you. Instead, it gives a foundation for teams to make decisions that result in better software development. About 78% of the firms claim to be inclined towards an Agile principled approach.

What is Security Testing?

Application Security Testing (AST) is a comprehensive process of identifying the security loopholes and shortcomings of an application that it may encounter in regular functioning or may be exploited by a hacker.

AST was carried out manually on its inception. However, with the increasing complexities of applications and the variety of functions being integrated, manual testing is extremely time-consuming. With AST now fully automated, most organizations use a combination of several application security tools.

Why Legacy AST solutions don’t work with Modern App Development?

The legacy solutions for AST don’t fit into the paradigm of agile software development. Mostly, this is because traditional solutions assume that a heavyweight explicit testing phase was in place. This phase could take hours or days, even weeks depending on the application and the tool being used before any meaningful and valuable feedback was provided back and taken action on. The reasons for that are multifold:

1) They are prone to a lot of noise in terms of false positives that are false alarms.
2) They were designed for security professionals and not developers and hence require the involvement of security experts to effectively run, maintain and ultimately see real value.
3) When you consider high-velocity workflows that rely on short feedback loops and extreme automation, this creates friction and delay turnaround. This makes it very hard to scale and fit into an agile and DevOps environment. 
4) All this is ultimately overworking the teams, creating bottlenecks and slowing them down

Research has shown only a small subset of the CI-CD pipeline has effectively embedded security testing in line with continuous practice.

What is Agile Testing?

As the complexity of the software development process is increasing continuously, the software testing approaches need to evolve to keep up with the development approaches. Agile testing is a new age approach that focuses on smarter solutions rather than putting a lot of effort yet it delivers high-quality products.

Principles of Agile Testing:

  • Testing is continuous – To ensure continuous progress of the product
  • Test is performed by the whole team – Not only the Test team but developers and business analysts also test the product
  • Simplified code – All defects raised by the agile team are fixed within the same iteration to keep to code clean and simplified
  • Continuous feedback – To meet business needs and satisfy customer requirements
  • Decreased time of feedback response – Business team involved in each iteration in agile testing and continuous feedback shortens the time of response
  • Less Documentation – Using a reusable checklist, the agile team focuses on tests instead of incidental details
  • Test-driven – Testing is performed at the time of implementation

Advantages of Agile Security Testing

There are many benefits of having a structured integrated approach to a process like security testing. When we come to list them we realise the true strength of Agile.

1) It saves time and money – as we learn about problems at earlier stages.

2) It reduces documentation.

3) It is highly flexible and adaptable to changes. 

4) High customer satisfaction – due to regular feedback.

5) Better determination of issues through daily meetings.

Agile Testing Methods

There exist a plethora of methods by which a company can adopt agile principles into its functioning. Most of them might come under the umbrella of the ones listed below. This does not imply that newer ways cannot be created or prove efficient. All organizations are different and hence a different approach would be suitable for them. Having that said, the most important Agile Security Testing methodologies are:

1) Behaviour Driven Development (BDD)

BDD improves communication among project stakeholders so that all members correctly understand each feature before the development process starts. There is continuous example-based communication between the developers, testers and business analysts. These examples are called scenarios which are written in a special format.

Scenarios hold information on how a given feature should behave in different situations with different input parameters. These are called executable specifications as it comprises both specifications and inputs to the automated tests.

2) Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD)

ATDD focuses on involving team members with different perspectives such as the customer, developer and tester. The three meet to formulate acceptance tests incorporating perspectives of customer development and testing. The customer is focused on the problem that is to be solved. The development team is focused on how the problem is to be solved. 

Whereas, the testing team is focused on what could go wrong. Acceptance tests are a representation of the user's point of view and it describes how the system will function. It also helps to verify that the system functions as it is supposed to. In some instances, acceptance tests are automated.

3) Exploratory testing

In this type of testing, the test design and test execution phase go hand in hand. The exploratory testing emphasizes working software over comprehensive documentation. The individuals and interactions are more important than the process and tools. Customer collaboration holds greater value than contract negotiations.

Exploratory testing is more adaptable to changes as well. Testers identify the functionality of an application by exploring the application and then learning the application to design and execute the test plans.


Security Testing is going through a major shift in gears as it transitions into the agile environment. This change might seem a small one because the end purpose being served is similar. However, in the long run of a project, the integration of all 3 teams involved in a security testing project will help in better client satisfaction and a better reputation. The sooner a firm recognises, understands and implements Agile principles, the better results they would fetch.


Published on Feb 22, 2022
Mayank Grover
Written by Mayank Grover
Mayank Grover is a pre-final year graduation student at Bits Pilani who has found his keen interest in the qualitative values of cyber security. He is a comprehensive reader, perceptive writer, marketer, and aspiring financial analyst.


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