Applications are a critical part of our lives today. In a software-driven world, businesses use applications to interact with their prospects, partners, and customers. However, traditional information security practices and technology have not been able to keep up with the fast evolution of applications.
Enterprises are continuously building, buying, and using applications at a breakneck pace and in record numbers. Using open-source components and third-party applications to speed up the software development process has become the norm now – but they also introduce a lot of risks.
That being said, there’s almost an endless list of reasons why businesses need application security. Now, before we dive into why you should consider implementing application security in your business, let’s first understand what application security is.
What is Application Security (AppSec)?
Application security or AppSec is the process of making apps more secure by identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities in apps. In other words, it is the process of developing, implementing, and testing applications to prevent security vulnerabilities such as unauthorized access, data modification, etc.
It mainly includes security measures that happen during the application design and development process, but it also encompasses security activities to protect apps after they are deployed.
Types of Application Security
Different types of application security (AppSec) testing methods exist and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the most popular types of application security testing:
Static Application Security Testing (SAST)
SAST is the process of analyzing the source code of an application to detect security vulnerabilities that put your application at risk of cybersecurity threats and attacks.
Also known as white box testing, SAST does not require a working application to identify security vulnerabilities. Instead, it can take place without the code being executed, which enables developers to identify the vulnerabilities in the initial stages of the development process and quickly address issues without delays or passing on the vulnerability to the final release in the application.
SAST tools are highly efficient and even point out the exact location of security vulnerabilities, highlighting the insecure code. This helps to reduce the time and effort required to identify vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed quickly.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
DAST, also known as black-box security testing, is the process of analyzing an application from the outside in. This means the testing team has no knowledge of the frameworks or techniques used to build the application and thus, take a hacker approach towards testing the application.
Opposed to SAST, DAST requires a running application, which means it analyzes by executing the application. In this way, it can discover run-time and environment-related vulnerabilities in the application once it has been developed.
Since the vulnerabilities are found in the later stages of the application, remediation often gets pushed into the next cycle. Moreover, critical security vulnerabilities require immediate attention which is often a costly process.
Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)
IAST helps businesses identify and manage security vulnerabilities found in running web applications using dynamic testing techniques. It basically uses software instrumentation or tools to monitor an application in its running state and gather information about how it performs and what it does.
It continuously analyzes all application interactions through manual tests, automated tests, or a combination of both the security tests to detect security vulnerabilities in real-time. While this may sound similar to DAST, IAST takes place during the testing stage of the SDLC. This helps ensure that vulnerabilities are found early in the development cycle, reducing remediation costs and delays.
Penetration testing aka “pen testing” is a simulated cyberattack against an application to detect exploitable vulnerabilities. In terms of web application security, penetration testing is typically used to augment a web application firewall (WAF).
Testers attempt to breach the application systems including frontend/backend servers, application protocol interfaces (APIs), databases, etc. to reveal vulnerabilities, such as unauthorized access, unsanitized inputs that are susceptible to injection attacks, etc.
Why Should You Implement Application Security?
Now that you have a clear understanding of what application security is and the different types of AppSec that exist, let’s discuss the reasons why you should consider implementing AppSec:
Sound Market Reputation
In today’s cybersecurity threat landscape, more and more companies are becoming victims of cyberattackers, often struggling to survive in the industry after data breaches and theft.
However, businesses that proactively follow security measures like implementing application security are less likely to suffer from cyberattacks.
This, in turn, helps maintain a sound market reputation, which is a key driver for the growth of your business. About 25% of a company’s market value comes directly from its reputation.
If you do not provide secure applications where your customers’ data is securely stored, your customers will be less willing to trust your organization with sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, personally identifiable information (PII), social security numbers, etc.
Safety and Security of Sensitive Data
The safety and security of confidential information is a primary concern for many businesses, especially those that deal with customers’ personal information that can be used against them or the organization.
By implementing better application security policies, organizations can safeguard sensitive information from attackers.
In fact, many companies go to huge lengths to assure customers that their data is safe and secure. A few of the prime examples of this include the e-commerce industry, the hospital industry, and the credit card industry.
Higher Long-Term Profits
The application security market is estimated to grow to $7 billion by 2023. Saving money on cybersecurity breaches by enforcing better application security protocols can reap long-term profits.
Remember, a single code injection attack is enough to expose the data records of thousands of customers and clients. You don’t know when and how attackers will or will not hack into your application or modify your backend systems to gain unauthorized access to data.
Application security testing helps identify vulnerabilities early in the SDLC process, thereby exposing security risks that might pose severe threats in the future. By quickly detecting vulnerabilities, you can mitigate them early in the development stages, and save a lot of time and resources.
Meet Security Compliance and Regulations
Application security is extremely important, especially for apps that deal with the sensitive information of users. It helps you comply with security standards and regulations such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, etc., that might be mandated by cybersecurity law.
At the speed with which enterprises are becoming victims of cyberattacks, application security is necessary if not mandatory. If you suffer a data breach or cyberattack, often a forensic investigation might be required immediately to detect how the cyberattack took place. This might cost a lot of money and hamper your organization’s other business activities.
Further, if your organization does not comply with the security guidelines, you might be subject to hefty fines and fees. To avoid paying heavy charges due to non-compliance and maintain better security, consider implementing application security.
Application security can help your organization build a strong security posture with secure applications. This includes evaluating your existing security methods, detecting vulnerabilities, and taking proactive measures to safeguard your application from potential threats. Investing in application security yields long-term benefits in the form of reduced cost and time to identify, mitigate, and prevent security issues.