What is continuous web application security?

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The term continuous security in the context of web application security is best understood when combined with well-known terms Continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI / CD). Continuous security means that security is part of an ongoing process – DevSecOps or, better yet, SecDevOps.

DevOps experience

Confusion around the word continued

What makes the term continuous security slightly confusing is the fact that the word continued can have several meanings in the context of cybersecurity. Dictionary definition of continued is to form an uninterrupted whole; without interruption. Therefore, in the web application security space, the term continuous security is most often associated with real-time security solutions and continuous monitoring systems such as web application firewalls (WAFs) and web application firewalls. Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP), which are designed to mitigate existing information security risks.

However, to protect your web applications from malicious hackers, you can’t just rely on real-time activity. To avoid cyber attacks and data breaches, you need to know your attack surface and eliminate the issues that create information security risks in the first place, not just mitigate them. This involves using a security scanner to discover known vulnerabilities such as SQL injections and cross-site scripting (XSS), as well as configuration errors. Testing should then be followed by effective vulnerability management, remediation and validation.

It obviously makes no sense to perform 24-hour web application analysis. Therefore, the word continuous in the sense of web application security testing, just as in the case of continuous integration and deployment. continuous, means that security is embedded in the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC), not just a single vulnerability scan for security issues just before release.

The evolution of security continues

To understand continuous security, it is best to compare today’s development practices with existing project methodologies and observe the evolution of quality assurance and software testing in general.

In legacy methodologies such as the waterfall, there is a dedicated step for software testing. At this stage, the tests are designed and then carried out manually. Any errors discovered are then corrected by the developers. Security testing in legacy methodologies is most often part of the manual testing phase and only involves manual penetration testing.

With the shift to agile methodologies, software testing is now part of the software development lifecycle. Any new or updated functionality is developed and immediately tested thereafter. However, for this to be possible, testing can no longer be manual. Businesses need to automate software quality assurance processes using tools like Selenium.

Unfortunately, security checks are often overlooked and treated as in old methodologies. Security testing is often done manually by pen testers before the release phase instead of being part of the automation, although today’s modern security analysis applications are well suited for integration. In such not-so-agile configurations, security teams are kept in silos away from development teams.

How to achieve continuous security?

It is only with the introduction of solutions that support continuous security that software development can become truly agile. However, due to a large number of false positives, which require manual management and retesting for security vulnerabilities, most solutions meant to be designed for continuous security (like SAST tools) make it difficult to perform true automation.

To enjoy continuous security, you need a modern web application security solution, not just a simple vulnerability scanner. You need a solution that you can fully integrate with your existing systems, that won’t overwhelm you with false positives, and that will allow you to effectively integrate security into your agile environment. And these are exactly the ideas behind the development of Acunetix.

THE AUTHOR

Tomasz Andrzej Nidecki
Technical content writer

Tomasz Andrzej Nidecki (also known as tonid) is a technical content writer working for Acunetix. Journalist, translator and technical writer with 25 years of IT experience, Tomasz was editor-in-chief of hakin9 IT Security magazine in its early days and used to run a large technical blog dedicated to email security.


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