What is Application Security? Definition, Importance, Testing types, and Activities

What is Application Security?

Application security is a set of various processes, security activities, and tools to secure the development lifecycle, application, infrastructure in which the application is deployed, and the data processed by that application from various security threats like data breaches, unauthorized access, modification, and so on by identifying and fixing the security vulnerabilities in the application the infrastructure in which the application is deployed.

Why is Application security important?

In today's world, applications are used in various industries like finance, government, oil and gas, power, healthcare, etc. These applications are responsible for performing sensitive tasks and storing and processing confidential data like Credit card details, citizenship identities, biometrics, financial details, and personal media like photos and videos, etc.

So, securing the network is not sufficient to prevent security threats because attackers can also find security loopholes in an application to perform any cyber-attack; that's why application security is essential to protect applications from hackers by identifying and fixing the vulnerabilities in the application the infrastructure in which the application is deployed as early as possible in the development lifecycle.

Application Security activities

No single security activity or tool can identify all the security issues. Instead, application security is a combination of various security activities.

The main objective of Application security is to make the entire software development lifecycle secure at various phases of SDLC, So the best way to implement an application security (AppSec) program is to use a combination of Security Testing types and activities.

Here is the list of Security Testing types and activities

1. Threat Modeling

Threat Modeling is conducted at the designing phase of the development lifecycle, and the goal of threat modeling is to identify the potential dangers or security threats to an application and organize this information into a structured model for remediation.

2. Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is also known as static analysis. It is conducted during the coding phase of the development lifecycle SAST analyses the source code, binaries, and byte code by using techniques such as Regex, Taint Analysis, Control Flow Analysis, and Data Flow Analysis to identify vulnerabilities.

3. Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Nowadays, developers are using open-source libraries to build their applications, and open-source libraries make software development faster because developers are using the code that is already developed by some other developer and publish it on the internet for freely used with some terms and conditions (open-source license)

But there is a security risk in using open-source libraries without reviewing that library for any know vulnerabilities present in that library, and here Software Composition Analysis (SCA) comes into the picture. SCA review all the libraries used in the application for any known vulnerabilities by checking the various vulnerabilities databases like Nation Vulnerability Database (NVD) or their own vulnerability database and report all the vulnerabilities present in any libraries used in the application.

4. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is conducted during the testing phase of the development lifecycle. It is black-box testing because DAST doesn't require any pre-existing knowledge of the application's source code and implementation. It checks the application for security flaws like SQL injections, insecure server configurations, SQL injections, and cross-site scripting.

5. Container Security

Containers are a technology that packages application source code, binaries, dependencies, and configuration in a container image and allows us to run applications in any environment as a container. Container security is conducted in the testing phase of the development lifecycle, including production, for continuous monitoring of security issues. It identifies image vulnerabilities, insecure registry, runtime security issues, container host operating system vulnerabilities, and insecure misconfigurations

6. Infrastructure security

Secure deployment of the application is also essential to protect the application from various security threats, and infrastructure can be On-premises, Cloud, or hybrid. Infrastructure security is the process of defending vital infrastructure that, includes servers, databases, and datacentre against both physical and digital threats by implementing IT security policies, vulnerability assessment, and hardening the application servers.

7. Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing is generally conducted in a production or pre-production environment. It is conducted by any third-party pen-testers or in-house pen-testers team using the same methodology used by the hackers to exploit the applications and systems to find the vulnerabilities and security loopholes present in an application that the hacker will use to cause damage. Penetration testing is conducted within the defined scope defined by the owner of the application.

In the end, we can say that application security is not only limited to automated security testing by using tools, but it is much more than that. An AppSec program contains policies, best practices, a Vulnerability management process, coordination, and communication between various teams, an Application security maturity model, continuous research for the latest vulnerabilities, and automation to integrate security testing in the development pipeline.

Sahil Gupta

Application Security | DevSecOps | Secure SDLC | Penetration Tester (Web and API) | CEHv10 | IBM Certified Cybersecurity Analyst Professional

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