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DevSecOps Pipeline: When to Integrate a SAST Tool

Copado DevSecOps - Blog Series

Originally published by New Context.

When evaluating the DevSecOps pipeline and the use of static application security testing, it’s common to ask, “How soon should I add a SAST tool to the process?” The short answer is: the earlier, the better. SAST stands for “Static Application Security Testing,” and is ideal for rooting out exploitable bugs in coding, whether intentional or unintentional. It should be part of every aspect of the DevSecOps pipeline, from building to check-in and release.

Typically, SAST is introduced early in the creation cycle because it’s possible to use such a tool before the system is running. Good developers understand that bugs are a fact of life, because development is a creative, chaotic endeavor, and human beings are not perfect. The best developers in the world make plenty of mistakes on the road toward world-class software. The trick is acknowledging reality, and being ruthlessly efficient with finding and eliminating bugs. Large companies found an average of 779,935 bugs in software during standard vulnerability scans in only six months. SAST is an unbiased way of rooting out these issues in the DevSecOps pipeline before they become insurmountable.DevSecOps Pipeline SAST Tool - Copado

What is SAST and When is it Useful?

In simple terms, Static application security testing (SAST) is a program that analyzes source code for common security mistakes and buggy behavior. It is considered a “static” test because the code is analyzed without actually running the program itself—the analyzer literally reads each line of code, following the execution paths from start to finish.

Because it doesn’t require executing code to work,SAST is very effective at rooting out security vulnerabilities in just about every stage of the DevSecOps pipeline, and especially during early development. Copado believes that every developer should act in a “security first” fashion, however some developers fail to do so. Between focusing on product functionality and human fallibility, there’s a very high likelihood that developers unknowingly create bugs that can later become security exploits.

The problem is across the board. Microsoft—a company that’s at the top of the software game—sees an estimated 30,000 bugs per month introduced into its developers’ code. If a company that big can struggle, any firm can.

A major problem with bugs in code is the expense and wasted time in rolling out patches. Not only are they costly for companies, but they’re also time-consuming. On average, it takes about 67 days to locate a vulnerability and roll out a resolution. That’s more than two months of exploitable code. Consistent, repeated checks within the development process help to cut down on these inevitable errors and ultimately save your company money.

SAST is a white box testing method that allows for testing before code execution. The tool evaluates the code and gives remediation advice on the discovery of issues. It also verifies that coders have conformed to standards in development. As such, it can root out intentional acts, like supply chain attacks. Overall, SAST helps to reduce issues early in the process to allow for a proactive security approach.

DevOps security tools like SAST are ideal for security integration. Of course, this isn’t a tool that works alone. Further down the pipeline, it’s wise to leverage Dynamic Application Security Testing, which can locate the runtime errors SAST can’t find. These are both processes that can be incorporated into yourDevSecOps pipeline, running automatically every time a new build is produced.

SAST and the DevSecOps Pipeline

SAST isn’t a one-time part of the DevSecOps pipeline. It applies to software at every stage of the software development lifecycle, catching unintentional and intentional errors alike. As a result, it should be leveraged during all stages of the development process, including:

  • During early builds: Running the SAST will check that developers stuck to best practices in building code, did not unintentionally bake in vulnerabilities that could be exploitable, and help avoid code quality issues. It provides a warning before release that allows developers to address problems proactively, well in advance of becoming visible to other project stakeholders.
  • During staging and acceptance testing: Internal and external staff reviewing code will typically have a lot of work to manage, as they’re dealing with a massive repository of code files. SAST can help them pinpoint issues and resolve them. As this code will eventually be checked out and duplicated for other purposes, it’s vital to eliminate any potential security problems. SAST provides the additional layer of checks that the administrator can leverage to enhance results.
  • Fully mature, production release: Release does not mean that all efforts to perfect the code should stop. To the contrary, because this code is now live in production, missed security flaws become even more costly. While changes and updates become smaller as compared to the entire code base, any and all changes come with the same risks for unintended bugs and security defects. Every time there’s a change, a SAST scan verifies all changes. It’s a continuous improvement method that ensures the best possible version of the product is pushed to clients.

It’s best to use SAST too much rather than not enough (although it’s very hard to overscan your applications). Every time code is added, edited, or removed, running SASTscans reduces the risk of security vulnerabilities. This DevSecOps essential minimizes issues throughout the product’s entire life cycle.

SAST offers more robust security integration throughout the DevSecOps life cycle. Developers can avoid accidental bugs and eliminate risks involved with intentional acts that could damage their software’s integrity. SAST is an unbiased third party that can help ensure safer, stronger code.