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Top Ten Tips to Choose a Great SAST Tool

Top Ten Tips To Choose A Great SAST Tool
Top Ten Tips To Choose A Great SAST Tool

Static application security testing (SAST) is a crucial component of any software and application security strategy, and as such, a SAST tool should form a valuable part of your security stack. But when you’re choosing which SAST tool to buy and implement, what are the key factors you should consider?

Initially, the choice might seem bewildering, but it helps to know that a great SAST tool possesses ten essential features that optimize its effectiveness in finding and mitigating security vulnerabilities in your software and applications. Identifying these characteristics will help you select a SAST tool that best aligns with your organization’s specific needs and they’ll enable you to best strengthen your security posture against attackers. So, what are the top ten qualities you should look out for when you’re choosing a new SAST tool? Let’s find out.

1. Repository integration for comprehensive coverage

Your SAST tool should be integrated with your repository to help you resolve security issues immediately and avoid long backlogs by hardening your application security posture throughout the development lifecycle. This enables your SAST tool to do the following:

  • Gain direct access to the codebase, allowing it to analyze the code comprehensively and identify potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Facilitate automated and continuous code scanning, which is essential in modern software development practices, such as DevOps and agile methodologies.
  • Keep pace with code changes and updates, to detect any security weaknesses introduced during the development process.
  • Identify vulnerabilities early in the development lifecycle, reducing the risk of security breaches in production environments.
  • Understand contextual information, such as the structure, dependencies, and relationships within the codebase. This understanding enhances the accuracy of security analysis and reduces false positives.
  • Promotes collaboration and communication between developers and security teams by providing developers with timely feedback on security issues directly within their development environment, thereby creating a proactive security mindset, enabling developers to address vulnerabilities early and incorporating secure coding practices.

2. One security solution, for all code

If you want to be sure that you have comprehensive security cover, then you need the capability to scan and fix both open source and custom code. Most individual tools do either, but not both, which means you have the challenge of choosing, integrating and operating separate tools into your workflow. That can get messy and it presents the possibility that certain vulnerabilities could slip through the cracks. Ideally you need a solution that solves this issue.

Look for a security platform that can detect and remediate issues in both your custom and open source code. A provider that offers both obviates the need to integrate separate, different tools, and overcomes the risk of inconsistencies that might arise from such an integration. At Mend, our SAST tool for custom code is complemented by our SCA tool for open source, so you can be confident that all of your code is secured by one security platform.

3. Integration with the development workflow

Your SAST tool should integrate seamlessly into your development workflow. It should offer integration options with popular development environments, build systems, version control systems, and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. CI/CD integration enables you to scan code at various stages, thereby encouraging both shift left and shift smart practices. And integration ensures that security scans are automated and conducted regularly as part of the development process.

In the event of security issues, a SAST tool integrated into the CI/CD pipeline can prevent build failures. Such integration empowers the tool to promptly alert developers when they commit code containing security vulnerabilities, providing detailed information on the vulnerability and instructions for remediation. This integration also helps mitigate the risk of insiders introducing backdoors into the source code.

4. Automated remediation

Traditional SAST tools only focused on the detection of vulnerabilities in custom code, not remediation. Although this was effective in identifying issues, it left developers and security teams with the challenge of what to do to fix the issues they found. At best, these SAST tools could only provide training materials and examples to support developers in researching fixes for each security issue they encountered. Often this meant implementing manual, time-consuming remediation methods, which couldn’t keep up with the pace of development. This inefficient process forced developers to choose between security and meeting deadlines.

When faced with escalating volumes of code, and increasing pressure on delivering software quickly, you need a SAST solution that can expedite the remediation of vulnerabilities. This is achieved with an automated process. Seek a next-generation SAST tool that provides automated remediation, presented directly in your developers’ repository, for easy integration into their workflow. As a result, the application security burden on your developers is reduced, while the security itself is improved and accelerated.  Then development teams don’t have to sacrifice security for speed and they can be more confident about delivering quality, secure code, faster, and with a better ROI.

5. End-to-end security: enabling shift left, with the flexibility to shift smart

Discovering coding flaws at an early stage significantly streamlines the process of fixing them. So, it is highly recommended to shift security testing from the later phases to the earlier stages of the software development lifecycle — the SDLC. A good SAST tool does this, by seamlessly integrating with your repo and existing developer workflows. Shifting left allows developers to identify and fix vulnerabilities early in the development process.

We advocate going further than this by deploying end-to-end security. Ideally, your security scanning program should be able to detect and remediate vulnerabilities at every step of the SDLC. This means that your tool does even more than shift security testing left. It also shifts smart, by finding and fixing issues wherever and whenever they occur in the development lifecycle, and it achieves this by iterating scanning and remediation repeatedly and continuously, thereby maximizing the strength of your application security.

Check that your chosen tool can shift security smart, additionally with the ability to enforce security policies across your entire organization throughout the SDLC, and monitor security violations.

6. Speed and accuracy

In fast-paced DevOps environments, scanning speed is paramount. When a SAST tool becomes a critical component of the pipeline, slow scans hinder developer productivity and may lead developers to commit code less frequently or attempt to bypass security tests. To address this, SAST tools can accelerate scanning by caching results, running multiple tests in parallel using multiple threads and delivering prompt results.

Accuracy is also vital. False positives pose a challenge for security-focused teams. Dealing with false positives consumes valuable time and can contribute to alert fatigue. Furthermore, they can divert the attention of security personnel from genuine security issues. A good SAST tool minimizes false positives, using sophisticated algorithms and heuristics to prioritize the issues that could impact your organization most severely, whilst maintaining high accuracy. This approach helps minimize false positives, accurately identifies real security vulnerabilities, and reduces the time and effort required to review and remediate the issues that could really affect you.

7. Language and platform support

Your SAST tool should support all of the programming languages and frameworks commonly used in your software and application development. It should be capable of analyzing the specific technologies, libraries, and frameworks your code relies on to identify vulnerabilities effectively. This ensures that it can effectively assess and detect vulnerabilities in applications written in multiple languages, such as Java, C#, Python, JavaScript, and more.

8. Reporting and analytics

Thorough reporting and analytics capabilities are crucial for understanding the security posture of an application. Your SAST tool should generate comprehensive, concise, and actionable reports that highlight vulnerabilities, and their severity, and recommend remediation steps. It should offer guidance on fixing vulnerabilities, including code snippets or links to additional resources that developers can use to address the identified security issues effectively. It may also offer trend analysis and metrics to track progress in addressing security issues over time.

9. Flexibility, customization, and configuration

Your SAST tool should have customization and configuration options. Different projects may have unique requirements and coding standards, so the tool should provide flexibility to adjust scanning rules, severity thresholds, and other settings to match configuration requirements. A flexible SAST tool allows customization to align with specific security policies and coding guidelines so that you can add custom rules and checks to address project-specific security concerns and meet your organization’s specific needs.

This can prove to be particularly important in certain industries where compliance with security regulations and standards is mandatory. A robust SAST tool should support compliance requirements and assist in auditing processes. It should include checks for common regulatory frameworks such as OWASP Top 10, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and more, and should have the capability to accommodate others as your codebase grows and diversifies.

10. Scalability, extensibility, and ease of deployment

The volume of components and dependencies within codebases continues to rise rapidly. As it does, the network of relationships between these components and dependencies becomes more complex, the attack surface grows, and the potential for vulnerabilities to proliferate escalates. Therefore, the scalability of a SAST tool is vital for large and increasingly sophisticated codebases, or projects with frequent code changes. Whatever SAST solution you choose must be capable of scaling up as your codebase expands with more components, updates, and the like. It must be able to handle complex applications efficiently and deliver results within a reasonable time frame. Scalability ensures that the tool can adapt to growing codebases and provide consistent performance.

These characteristics will keep your SAST strong

The cybersecurity landscape evolves rapidly, with new vulnerabilities and attack techniques emerging regularly. A SAST tool that demonstrates these ten qualities will serve you well now and, in the future, with the capability to keep up to date with the latest security standards and best practices. As such, it will be a valuable tool for assisting developers in their day-to-day activities, minimizing security risks, making the software and applications that you use and distribute safer and better for all users, and helping to ensure that your organization, your reputation, and your customers are protected from proliferating cybersecurity threats.

Is your custom code fully protected?

Meet The Author

Adam Murray

Adam Murray is a content writer at Mend. He began his career in corporate communications and PR, in London and New York, before moving to Tel Aviv. He’s spent the last ten years working with tech companies like Amdocs, Gilat Satellite Systems, Allot Communications, and Sisense. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. When he’s not spending time with his wife and son, he’s preoccupied with his beloved football team, Tottenham Hotspur.

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