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Pentest

What is IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing)? Explanation

What is IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing)? Explanation

Other than imparting great capabilities and features in a code or software, the most concerning aspect is to make sure that the developed product has sound protection against cybersecurity attacks. This power is attained by continuous testing, which is often tedious and monotonous. 

IAST is one of the leading app testing methodologies that modern-day developers use at a large scale. Let’s know more about it by understanding some tools that greatly help, their roles in SDLC, and multiple other related topics and concepts.

Learning Objectives

What Is IAST?

Known widely as Interactive Application Security Testing, it is an ultra-modern approach to digital solution/application testing that emphasizes continuous monitoring and testing of the solution’s code while not at all hindering the app’s performance or operations. 

The app remains functional throughout this process. Because codes are tested even when an application runs, it’s often known as Runtime Testing too.

The method is perhaps the most convenient way to spot code errors while the created app or system is still in use. The developer community prefers it over multiple outdated testing methodologies because it can seize real-time errors.

To make it happen, multiple app testing techniques are used. Static AST (SAST) and Dynamic AST (DAST) are a few names to take.  

IAST procedures take the help of multiple sensors and agents that integrate well with the solutions in question, in order to watch out for their performance. Upon detecting an abnormality, these sensors detect the trouble-causing code.  

For simplified testing, only the corrupted code section is highlighted. This way, developers are capable of doing accurate, swift, and timely error detection that has a huge positive impact on the entire lifecycle of the SaaS/digital solution.

The Role Of IAST In A DevOps Environment

DevOps is a methodology that suggests ways using which multiple teams (development & operations) can work simultaneously on diverse software creation and delivery aspects. Codes are continuously developed and consumed.

In that case, codes should be tested as they are developed. Static code testing isn’t going to work in this case. 

As mentioned above, IAST is dynamic, as codes are tested continuously. This way, it ensures that loopholes are spotted quicjly, and developers can fix them immediately. It also leads to vulnerability-free code usage in DevOps workflow. 

There’s a lot more to it. Have a look at IAST’s significance for DevOps summarized below.

  • IAST offers a well-integrated web API to use in DevOps workflow and enjoy effective code testing.
  • As IAST has an amazing Jira integration, you can experience great team collaboration in DevOps that further leads to quick bug tracking and error notification.
  • IAST can work seamlessly with multiple testing processes that improve the code’s quality. It indirectly affects the quality of the solution, and therefore, is of utter importance in the DevOps workflow.
  • With IAST, your DevOps testing will experience less incidence of false positives as codes are analyzed in real-time.
  • You have a chance to use Docker for DevOps as IAST supports Docker technology.

With all these capabilities, IAST helps developers to improve the application on various fronts, such as security, code quality, testing, and viability.  

Types of IAST

  1. Passive IAST

This variety of IAST deploys sensors that attach to a running/functional application for error detection. When an error or threat is found, the sensor immediately informs the IAST dashboard, from where developers get aware of the corrupted codes. The used sensors only deal in codes that are part of QA testing. Other codes are not a part of testing.

  1. Active IAST

Active IAST type involves using DAST-based IAST sensors and works like a passive IAST solution. Here, sensors are not involved in data collection.

  1. True IAST

Lastly, we have True IAST which includes tools that are a bit more advanced than the active IAST. Such tools feature real-time interactions between IAST sensors and a DAST scanner. Because of this continual communication, test results are more accurate and data-driven.

The best outcome of this IAST type is fewer false positive incidences. Also, the vulnerabilities that you will get to learn are fully confirmed.

What Separates IAST From Other Testing Techniques

IAST Vs SAST

As SAST is the oldest testing method, let’s compare this with IAST first. They both differ from each other on multiple fronts:

  • Processing environment

IAST tests are done later in the SDLC and always require a runtime ecosystem to perform testing, whereas SAST aims at the early SDLC stages and operates in a non-runtime ecosystem.

Also, IAST is server-based testing, while SAST is an IDE-based option.

  • Dependency on source code

IAST has nothing to do with the app’s source code. But, SAST will require source code information to proceed.

  • Concerning Traffic

IAST deals with all kinds of traffic that your concerned application is accessing. This isn’t a truth for SAST, as only suspicious-looking traffic is examined.

  • False positive reporting

SAST is carried out in a static environment. Hence, false positive incidences are high in number. You experience low false positive reporting with IAST, as testing is conducted in real-time.

The above pointers make it very clear that even if they both aim to test the codes/ applications, they follow different paths. However, they both are easy-to-use tools and hardly demand any heavy installation hassles.

IAST Vs DAST

DAST or Dynamic App Security Testing is the successor of SAST and the predecessor of IAST. This also shares a few similarities and dissimilarities with IAST that are explained below.

Just like SAST, DAST also doesn’t access the source code and is only concerned about external activities or dangers. IAST goes deeper, accesses the source code, and keeps an eye on the internal threats as well.  

DAST is extensively used by penetration testers and demands continual manual monitoring, whereas IAST is mostly an automated approach that hardly asks for any human intervention.

IAST features zero downtime and is carried out in a real-time ecosystem. DAST is a time-consuming approach that can continue for many days.  

IAST needs the application language compatible with its language. Ideally, both should be the same. DAST, just like SAST, is a language-independent option and can work with any application. It’s not concerned about the platform’s language.

The Benefits Of IAST                  

IAST has shown up as the most recent alternative to SAST and DAST. It fills the primary testing caveats with full perfections. This is why it has become very popular in the application testing community. If you’re new to this concept and planning to deploy it, know its key benefits to feel more motivated.

  • An easy-to-use tool

You have to give your blood and soul to setting-up IAST security testing. It comes as a fully-configured tool with endless capabilities. There is hardly any configuration-related hard work for the end-users.  

  • More accuracy

IAST is best known for its accuracy. As codes are tested in real-time and in a dynamic state, there is very less possibility that you will get false positive results or miss out on an error. Each IAST is wide because it works at the internal level and even accesses the modules or code files of the app to improve threat/vulnerability detection.

  • Fast detection

Early detection is the key to solution’s security, and IAST testing is all about this. The entire process is automated and demands very little human intervention. Hence, delays are not likely to happen. To make things extra swift, the tool highlights the problematic part of a code.

Rather than spending time to figure out where exactly the vulnerability exists, developers can work on the troubles right away, which makes things extra smooth.

  • Compatibility with all the SDLC stages

Even though IAST is deployed at the later stage of SDLC, it’s compatible with all the stages and helps developers to improve the app security from the very beginning. The technique is an integral part of QA testing and can be used widely at the DevOps stage. 

The AppSec team fairly depends on this testing approach for risk detection. Concisely, no matter which development stage you’re in, IAST has got your back and will help you in testing.

The Drawbacks

  • Its implementation is limited because of its language dependency. It only works when the platform’s language is compatible with it. DAST and SAST are not language-dependent. Hence, they can be used in every kind of situation.
  • One major concern here is that it’s a non-blocking tool. It can detect a risk but can’t stop it from penetrating the workflow. Developers and AppSec professionals have to make efforts to make sure that vulnerabilities are blocked as soon as they are spotted.
  • Even though its set-up is easy, its processing demands great technical knowledge. For beginner developers and testers, this is a bit of a complex tool to handle.  

IAST Use Cases

Seeing the wide range of benefits and unmatchable capabilities, it’s not wrong to expect comprehensive use cases for IAST testing. If you’re new and are confused about using this cutting-edge testing approach, look at its crucial use-case rundown.

  • In the Development related Processes

Empower your code creation and feature development operations by using IAST tools in the development stage. It can keep everything error-free. Use it at the early stage of SDLC, and you will experience perfect code development.

When errors are controlled from the beginning, you will have to experience less rollback and quick time-to-market.

  • At the time of QA Testing

Try IAST tools in QA testing and you will have a chance to report vulnerabilities before they create a headache. It can easily become a part of CI/CD and QS testing and help identify corrupted codes quickly.

  • During Production/Staging

The IAST testing approach provides every support that quality code production demands. Based on the security issues spotted, developers can create the patches for the future as well.

IAST Tools

There are multiple IAST tools that one can use for error detection. While you plan to do so, make sure that the tool’s language (in which it is being programmed) and the app creation frameworks are compatible with each other. 

Also, you should use vulnerability tools that can monitor the codes as IAST testing continues. Hdiv Detection, Seeker IAST, and Invicti are a few famous IAST tools that match all these descriptions. You can give them a try. 

IAST In Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

As IAST deals in perfected code creation, it becomes a part of the SDLC by default. Now, let’s explain it in a bit detailed manner. Conventional DevOps is slowly being replaced with DevSecOps. In this upcoming development trend, Sec means security. Hence, it’s clear that security has become an integral part of DevOps workflow.  

IAST is an ideal AppSec approach to adopt during DevOps. Both the key types, passing and active IAST, are compatible with DevOps’s agile methodologies and play a crucial role in application development.

When implemented in CI/CD, which is the core of DevOps, the IAST tool enables businesses to have a proactive error detection ability that later results in less testing and more ROI.  

We agree that the introduction of IAST in different stages of SDLC is complex. But, it’s worth the effort as it leads to improved security in CI/CD pipeline, which is not possible with a DAST or SAST testing approach.

Also, these two conventional approaches will fail big time to keep CI/CD pipeline error-free in real-time as there is no real-time monitoring. On the other hand, IAST is capable of making things better on multiple fronts.

For instance, passive IAST tools enable developers to engage QA/testers at a large scale while active IAST is good for being more extensive. But, one must be aware of the special demands that come with the use of IAST in SDLC.

Passive IAST has been recorded to provide certain false-positive incidences on this front. If you go with active IAST then be ready to input more than usual computing capabilities to attain perfection. Not to forget, IAST implementation in SDLC always asks for a highly modern and mature testing environment.

Fix these three things and we’re sorted. IAST can certainly deliver optimal performance in SDLC, provided you’re attentive and have the required resources.

Implementation of IAST

IAST is a great deal of good. But, that goodness is attained when its implementation is seamless. Here are a few points to bear in mind as one thinks of IAST implementation.

  • Integrate it directly into your CI/CD pipeline to unleash its full power and enjoy its maximum benefits. This way, your DevOps will become much more fruitful.  
  • While you’re planning to use it for code reviews then make sure that the framework you’re using is compatible with the IAST.
  • You can easily integrate it with Jira and improve your bug-tracking abilities.
  • To improve its power, it’s wise to use a vulnerability assessment tool that will automate risk discovery. These two, when combined effectively, are capable to reduce security risks and enhance vulnerability assessment 
  • Always keep an eye on the dashboard as it will provide all the accurate scanning results.
  • Set your priorities and it will help you spot the errors of high importance first so that you can take immediate action.
  • Implement it at the early SDLC stage and you will be able to enjoy better scanning of reports.

Keep these things in mind and you’re likely to experience more promising outcomes from the deployed IAST tool.

In conclusion

With time, cyber threats are becoming more vulnerable and it’s not wise to continue with outdated and incompetent testing methods. IAST has shown up as one of the most modern approaches that present-day businesses can adopt for real-time error finding.  It’s easy to use and has warranties for a better outcome. Try it today and experience its promising benefits.

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