Automate Security Testing Within Your Pipeline

To be most effective, automated testing processes should be integrated within your product pipeline in an iterative process.

As software is developed, automate security testing for potential risks and flaws is critical.

Flaws must be addressed before the solution can move ahead. This iterative process will ensure that vulnerabilities do not go unaddressed as they are discovered.

As DevSecOps is still a new and emerging discipline, it may require some time to transition to a product pipeline that includes automation. However, as your organization becomes more aware of the benefits of automation, automation will become second nature.

A significant amount of security tests happens late in the production cycle. This can cause issues for the company, the product, and the product owner.

When testing occurs late in the production cycle, significant changes have to be made to the solution before the solution can be rolled out. A delay in production will ultimately lead to a delay in the finished deliverable.

Not only does consistent testing lead to a more thoroughly secured project, but it also avoids last-minute delays by spreading the work predictably and consistently throughout the project. Through this, organizations can better achieve their deadlines and ensure that their customers are satisfied.

Break Large Projects Into Smaller Steps

As any project manager knows, large, intensive projects are best approached by breaking them into smaller steps. DevSecOps works the same way.

Begin by creating smaller processes within the more extensive production cycle. Do not attempt to automate an entire solution from the ground up.

Implement testing automation piece by piece, starting with the smallest tasks first. As you develop your automation services, link them into a larger, overall build that can be used to automate the smaller jobs in your product entirely.

This avoids massive “hiccups” within the development cycle. It will also give developers time to adjust to these new automation standards.

Tools can be introduced one at a time to ensure that developers properly acclimate to them, and to ensure that training is thorough, deep, and non-disruptive.

Security is an increasing risk in software development. Developers are currently waging war against cyber attackers, which have cutting-edge tools they can use to disrupt even the most secure solutions.

Whether developing software internally or for production, automated testing can be used to reveal potential weaknesses and flaws without slowing the development time.

40% of software testing is now automated.

Automated testing is used throughout the software development process to ensure that applications are producing the expecting results. Testing will ensure that applications are not operating in a manner that can be perceived to be malicious. Through automation, programming errors can be revealed and better processes can be achieved.

DevSecOps remains an emerging discipline that has a lot of room for growth.

Modern businesses may want to thoroughly audit their current security tools. Consider the emerging threats that they will need to address moving forward, especially as software companies branch into new sectors such as IoT and wearables.

software testing cycle development

The primary areas software security testing are being adopted:

  • Application security testing. As software applications are run, solutions can scan the application to ensure that malicious actions are not being taken. Scanners such as Burb Intruder and OWASP Zap automation will test and examine applications, to ensure that they aren’t taking steps that could be perceived as malicious by end users.
  • Scanning for the appropriate configurations. Software tools can be designed to ensure that the application is configured correctly and secured for use in specific environments, such as the Microsoft Azure Advisor tool for cloud-based infrastructure. Many automated testing tools are designed to operate in a particular environment, such as a mobile environment or web-based environment. During the developing of software, it can be ensured that the software is being built to these appropriate standards.
  • Code analysis tools. Code analysis tools can strengthen DevOps security efforts by automatically scanning the code and identifying potential and known vulnerabilities within the code itself. This can be invaluable information as the software teams work, as they will be able to identify problems before they are caught in quality assurance. This can also help them in developing better coding habits.

Some issues that are candidates for automation. These are risks in which a human would be needed to determine the logic that a computer would need to see the flaw. As an example, a system that gives every user permissions to freely modify and edit all files.

An automated system would have no way of knowing that this is not intended behavior nor would it have any idea of understanding the risk that this implies.

This is where humans are introduced to the process.

software development lifecycle diagram

Make Sure Your Team is On Board

Historically, many software teams have been reluctant to fully automate their testing. The problem is two-fold.

There is a perception that automated software testing will not be as thorough or accurate as traditional testing, and there is a perception that developing these automated testing solutions would be prohibitively costly and time-consuming.

Regarding thoroughness and accuracy, automated security testing is not intended to replace manual testing.

Instead, it’s intended to automate the most tedious, mundane, and repetitive tasks that are associated with testing. Through this, the programming team can have more time to test the areas of the solution that requires manual testing, such as the program’s internal logic.

A software team may also overestimate the amount of time developing an automatic process would require. With the number of frameworks and APIs available, plugging in a software testing system does not have to be overly expensive or time-consuming. Furthermore, it will ultimately save the organization time, money, and resources.

man conducting a testing framework

Best Automated Security Testing Tools

When automating security, you have the choice between open source and commercial automation testing tools.

Open source solutions tend to be robust and well-maintained but may not have the advanced technology or customer service that a commercial solution does.

Some tools include:

  • BDD Security: A security testing automation framework. This uses a natural language syntax to describe security functions as features.
  • Microsoft Azure Advisor: A configuration scanner that will identify whether cloud infrastructure tools are using the right software best practices.
  • Mittn: An open source test automation framework, which is ideal for those accustomed to Python.
  • GauntIT: A test automation framework, which is ideal for those accustomed to Ruby development.
  • Burp Intruder. A commercial application and infrastructure scanner, which can be used to ensure applications are interacting correctly with the environment.
  • OWASP Scanner: An open source application and infrastructure scanner, similar to Burp Intruder.
  • Veracode: Veracode is a Code Analysis tool that can be used to find vulnerabilities within your application structure.
  • Contrast Security: A runtime application security tool, Contrast Security will run inside of your application to identify any potential faults.

Many automated security tools are available. They are designed to facilitate the creation of test automation that is customized to your network. Your organization will need to develop within this framework based on the leading objectives of your project and the relevant security products.

Your organization may also choose to create custom scripting.

Custom scripting has the benefit of being tailored to your network security threats. It may also have the downside of potentially being difficult to maintain and costly, as it will require an internal development team.

a developer sitting at a desk with a laptop

Always Check for Code Dependencies

Very few organizations today develop their code all in-house. It is more likely that each application will be built on a large amount of third-party, open source code.

Third-party code can represent some significant vulnerabilities. Organizations will need to identify their code dependencies and automate the process of ensuring that their third-party code has no known vulnerabilities and is being updated as it should be throughout the process of creation.

There are utilities available that can continuously check a database of known vulnerabilities to quickly identify any issues with existing code dependencies. This software can be used to swiftly mitigate third-party threats before they are incorporated into the application.

Put Your Application Through Security Checks

Your application should be subject to regular testing.  It should also undergo more rigorous testing such as preventing denial of service attacks.

There may be vulnerabilities in a solution that are only evident when that solution is broken. These are still genuine problems that the product owner may face.

Organizations are seeing an increasing number of malicious attacks. These attacks may focus on any aspect of a client’s organization that is accessible from outside of the network.

By testing your application under particularly strenuous circumstances, you can secure it through various scenarios.

Automated Security Testing Starts With Programmer Training

As vulnerabilities and flaws are identified within your software solutions, programmers should be trained to avoid these issues in further production cycles.

Though the process of identifying issues is automated, the problems that are found should still be logged so they can be avoided in upcoming projects and future versions of the product.

By training programmers proactively, an organization can, over time, make their applications more inherently secure.

Not only does this improve the consistency of the end product, but it also avoids costly modifications when flaws are discovered and must be mitigated. Through training and company-wide messaging, developers can be trained on coding more securely.

If developers aren’t apprised of issues, the same mistakes will continue to be made. The automated testing services will not be as effective as they could be.

Traditionally, many organizations have either manually tested their software security or left their application testing to professionals. Developers will now find that automated testing will streamline their product deployment process. It can also reduce the overhead involved in detecting and mitigating potential threats.

By automatically testing applications and identifying lax policies, the software life cycle for both on-premise and cloud-based, web applications can be reduced. Automating security ultimately leads to a more highly secured end product and a lower likelihood of significant flaws.

It isn’t just cheaper and faster than manual testing; it’s also more consistent.

Every security test will run identically on each application and in each environment.

Thus providing the organization a solid foundation on which to build. Nevertheless, it may take some work for the organization to promote DevSecOps throughout their projects and to ensure that software teams are incorporating it into their processes.