A quick search on Google will reveal plenty of posts that deal specifically with the importance of scanning your web application and eliminating all vulnerabilities. An approach that strikes the appropriate balance between automated security scanning and manual testing using a skilled penetration tester is usually considered to be the best option.
Experience usually demonstrates that a combination of these two methods results in the most efficient way to find and eliminate both technical and logical vulnerabilities.
On the topic of efficiency, there is one thing that’s probably not discussed frequently enough. And that’s how using an automated web application security scanner can streamline the development process — improving communication, collaboration, reporting and as a result, profitability.
It’s important to note that not every security scanner will offer the same level of flexibility or features. If you spend a little time researching your options, you be able to find the solution that is most suited to your needs.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the cloud-based web application security scanner features you should look for. Many of which are useful for both a team management and collaboration perspective.
Integrating Vulnerability Scanning into Your SDLC
All too often web application security is an afterthought in the development process. With consumers being trained to expect a continuous stream of updates, new features and bug fixes, software companies are often forced to expedite the development process, frequently to the detriment of security.
The typical approach to the application development process often looks like this:
- You develop your application.
- Before going live, you hire a consulting firm to perform an audit.
- The consulting firm finds multiple issues, many of which are repetitive.
- You’re faced with repairing multiple vulnerabilities, possibly the structure of your application and even delaying the release.
One of the best solutions for dealing with this challenge, even in a continuous development environment is to implement the use of a web application security scanner into each stage of the development process. For example, your application could be automatically scanned at a daily interval allowing you to make immediate changes. The result is long-term improvement and refinement of the development process and a more secure application being pushed to a live environment
Improved Team Management and Collaboration
One of the most significant benefits of using a cloud-based security scanner is the ability to manage and collaborate with your team regardless of their location. Here are a few features that you should consider looking for:
- The ability to add multiple users and to define a custom range of user privileges. This can depend on whether a particular user is a developer, pen tester, managers or QA tester.
- The ability to track the activity of each team member including dates, times, IP address and tasks completed.
- The ability to identify and assign vulnerabilities to specific team members for resolution and retesting.
Some applications will even retest a vulnerability once it has been marked as resolved. If the vulnerability is still present after retesting, the ticket will be automatically reopened and reassigned.
Effective Reporting & Tracking
With potentially hundreds or thousands of vulnerabilities to deal with, software which is capable of automating the process quickly goes from being a luxury to a necessity.
Not only does automated reporting eliminating a portion of the burden placed on management, it also improves efficiency and frees up time that can be spent on higher ROI activities.
Many cloud-based security scanners also provide detailed reporting that is virtually guaranteed to make your systems and processes more efficient. For example, from a management perspective, imagine having automated reports that were capable of providing the following information:
- The total number of web application vulnerability scans run during a specific timeframe.
- Big picture details that include the total number of identified vulnerabilities, the severity of each vulnerability as well as long-term trending reports — are developers repeatedly making the same errors and are identified vulnerabilities being patched in a timely fashion.
- A website or application specific overview that shows the number of vulnerabilities, method, type of vulnerability, when the vulnerability was first identified and whether or not it has been patched.
In addition, consistent and relevant reports can facilitate the ongoing improvement of workflow and the development of best practices. The ability to identify vulnerabilities and their source (ie. the individual or team responsible) means you can implement permanent changes to the development processes. You’ll be able to implement checks and balances which not only improve efficiency but also make your application more secure.
Scalability should always be a vital consideration when choosing a web application vulnerability scanner. Over time, web applications become increasingly complex. Updates, new features, and an increasing number of end-users mean that the potential number of vulnerabilities is often increasing in a linear fashion.
It’s important that the process of scanning for and managing vulnerabilities does not increase at the same rate as the number of vulnerabilities themselves. Meaning, that other than remediation, scanning, tracking and managing 100 or 1000 vulnerabilities should require roughly the same degree of effort.
To accomplish this, your cloud-based web application vulnerability scanner should be capable of scaling with little effort. For example:
- Can you easily add as many websites as you want to your scanner?
- Upon discovering or being notified of a new vulnerability, can you quickly initiate hundreds of scans at the click of a button?
- Does your scanner have the ability to create specific groups of websites or web applications, each with their own scan policy?
It’s easy to see how these types of features can make scaling relatively hassle-free. Whether you scanning just a few or even thousands of websites, the time commitment remains relatively static.
Reduce Development Costs by Making Smart Decisions
All too often, web application security is an afterthought. It’s only after a vulnerability is discovered or exploited by a hacker that developers sit up and take notice. Sometimes it’s the risk of lost customers and sometimes it’s punitive damages which are the motivating factor. Either way, there is an unforeseen development cost associated with unintentional and exploited vulnerabilities.
While no web application is ever 100% secure, it should still be easy to see how a proactive approach that relies on maximizing automation, can reduce long-term development costs.
If you’ve already incorporated a web application vulnerability scanner into your development process, it might be worth examining whether you can further reduce the costs associated with risk management and development by implementing a solution capable of automating as many repetitive tasks as possible.
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