What Is DAST and How Is It Helping Shift Security Left?

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What Is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)?

Dynamic application security testing (DAST) is a type of security testing methodology used to identify vulnerabilities and security flaws in running web applications or services. DAST works in a dynamic environment, which means the application is actively running and being interacted with during the testing process. This “black-box” testing approach allows the tester to simulate real-world attack scenarios and observe how the application responds to potential security threats.

It typically involves the following processes:

  • Crawling: The DAST tool scans the application to identify all its components, such as web pages, input fields, and links, creating a map of the application’s structure.
  • Attacking: The DAST tool then simulates various attacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and cross-site request forgery (CSRF), to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  • Analysis: The tool analyzes the application’s response to these attacks, looking for vulnerability indicators, such as error messages, unexpected behaviors, or data leaks.
  • Reporting: After the testing is completed, the DAST tool generates a report detailing the identified vulnerabilities, their potential impact, and recommendations for remediation.

Some advantages of DAST include the following:

  • Testing applications in their running state, providing a more realistic assessment of their security posture.
  • Identifying vulnerabilities that may not be visible during static analysis or code review, such as configuration errors or flaws in third-party components.
  • Providing quick feedback on the application’s security makes it suitable for agile development environments.

However, DAST also has some limitations:

  • It may generate false positives or negatives, requiring manual verification to confirm the identified vulnerabilities.
  • It can be resource-intensive, potentially affecting the application’s performance during testing.
  • It does not provide insights into the root cause of vulnerabilities, as it does not analyze the source code.

To achieve comprehensive security testing, organizations often combine DAST with other testing methodologies, such as static application security testing (SAST) and interactive application security testing (IAST), which provide complementary insights into the application’s security posture.

Next-Gen DAST vs. Traditional DAST

Next-Generation DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) and Traditional DAST are two different application security approaches that can be used to test running software. Here are some key differences between them:

  • Approach: Traditional DAST is an external testing approach that simulates attacks on an application from the outside, while Next-Generation DAST also analyzes the application’s behavior from within.
  • Automation: Next-Generation DAST incorporates automation and machine learning to enable faster and more accurate testing than Traditional DAST.
  • Accuracy: Next-Generation DAST is generally considered more accurate than Traditional DAST because it can identify vulnerabilities at the source code level and detect more complex vulnerabilities.
  • Integration: Next-Generation DAST requires integration with the application development environment to provide continuous testing, while Traditional DAST can be used as a standalone tool.
  • Remediation: Next-Generation DAST provides remediation guidance and suggests code changes to fix vulnerabilities, while Traditional DAST requires manual intervention to remediate identified vulnerabilities.
  • Scalability: Next-Generation DAST is designed to be scalable for large and complex applications, while Traditional DAST may struggle with such applications due to its reliance on manual intervention.

Next-Generation DAST represents an evolution of Traditional DAST, incorporating automation and machine learning to enable faster and more accurate testing. With Next-Generation DAST, vulnerabilities can be identified and remediated earlier in the development process, leading to faster and more secure application releases.

In contrast, Traditional DAST requires manual intervention to remediate vulnerabilities and may struggle with complex applications that are not easily tested. Additionally, it may generate false positives or miss certain vulnerabilities due to its reliance on external testing.

What Is Shift Left Security?

Shift left security is a proactive approach to software development that emphasizes integrating security practices early and throughout the development lifecycle. The term “shift left” refers to moving security considerations from the right side of the software development process (where traditional security testing and deployment occur) to the left side, where design, planning, and coding take place.

Key principles of shift left security include:

  • Incorporating security from the beginning: Security requirements should be part of the initial project planning and design phases, ensuring that the entire team understands the security goals and risks associated with the project.
  • Continuous security testing: Regularly conduct security testing throughout the development process, using various tools. This allows developers to catch and fix vulnerabilities early, reducing the likelihood of security issues making it into production.
  • Security training and education: Equip developers with the knowledge and skills to write secure code and make informed decisions about security risks. Regular training and workshops can help keep developers up-to-date on the latest security best practices and threat landscape.
  • Collaboration between security and development teams: Foster an environment where security experts and developers can work together to identify, understand, and mitigate potential security risks.
  • Automation: Leverage automated tools and processes to streamline security testing and vulnerability management, ensuring that security checks are integrated into the development pipeline without creating bottlenecks.
  • Monitoring and feedback: Continuously monitor applications in production to identify and address new security threats and use feedback from incidents to improve security practices and tooling.

The main goal of shift left security is to identify and address potential security issues as early as possible, reducing the overall risk and cost of fixing vulnerabilities. This approach also helps create a culture of security awareness among development teams, encouraging collaboration between security experts and developers.

Shifting Left With DAST

Shifting left with DAST involves incorporating dynamic testing processes earlier in the software development lifecycle. The goal is to detect vulnerabilities and security flaws in web applications or services as soon as possible, reducing the risk and cost of fixing them.

Here are some ways to shift left with DAST:

  • Integrate DAST tools into the development pipeline: Configure your DAST tools to automatically scan applications during the development and testing phases. By automating this process, you can ensure that security testing is performed consistently and without causing delays in the development process.
  • Encourage collaboration between security and development teams: Ensure that developers and security experts work together to understand the results of DAST scans, validate findings, and address vulnerabilities. This will help create a security-focused culture and ensure that both teams are aligned in their goals.
  • Perform DAST in pre-production environments: Run DAST scans in staging or pre-production environments that closely resemble the production environment. This helps identify vulnerabilities that may not be apparent in development environments due to differences in configurations or infrastructure.
  • Continuous testing and monitoring: As new features are added, or existing code is modified, continuously run DAST scans to catch vulnerabilities early. Additionally, monitor applications in production to identify and address new security threats, incorporating this feedback into the development process to improve security practices.
  • Train developers on DAST tools and findings: Train developers on using DAST tools, interpreting results, and remedying vulnerabilities. This will empower them to take ownership of application security and make informed decisions about potential risks.
  • Combine DAST with other security testing approaches: Use it in conjunction with SAST, IAST, and other security testing methodologies to gain comprehensive insights into your application’s security posture. Each testing method has its strengths and weaknesses, and using them together can provide a more thorough assessment.


In conclusion, DAST is a powerful tool that helps organizations identify vulnerabilities and security flaws in running web applications and services. By incorporating it earlier in the software development lifecycle, organizations can shift security left, promoting a proactive approach to application security. This shift enables development and security teams to collaborate more effectively, catch vulnerabilities earlier, and reduce the risk and cost of fixing security issues.

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