Almost always, any production code will have at least one flaw. It doesn't matter how carefully developers adhere to their advanced coding guidelines or how well they cover loopholes in their program.

There’s no easy-to-follow guideline that can detect and fix all human errors, including those made by developers. Things can go wrong if they have to face the lengthy list of potentially problematic software vulnerabilities while clients push them for a quicker release.

But not all hope is lost. There are still ways to mitigate the damage and ensure a much more solid result. Here we will explore Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Software Composition Analysis (SCA). Then, we’ll discuss their benefits and differences.

So if you wish to produce truly secure applications, read on and learn how.

Table of Contents

What is SAST?

SAST is a testing methodology that investigates a range of static inputs (like documentation and application source code) to detect known security vulnerabilities.

Some of these vulnerabilities include the following.

  • Format string
  • SQL injection
  • Heap corruption
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Glibc glob
  • Buffer overflow.

In other words, you can use SAST to find potential vulnerabilities by scanning any piece of code.

SAST is sometimes called white box testing because the source code is accessible and transparent.

Contrary to what is often imagined, SAST is always necessary. It is easier and cheaper to fix problems early on in the software development life cycle.

SAST tools have a handful of advantages, but one benefit makes them most appealing to developers. It can detect security vulnerabilities and precisely locate them within the code source.

SAST tool will also assess the seriousness of the threat and provide a brief overview of each vulnerability that has been detected. This is a real game-changer because finding problems takes up the lion's share of the developer's time. And unfortunately, there is no way to skip it.

What is SCA?

Software Composition Analysis is another method to ensure application security, specifically designed to identify all open source elements and sketch out a list of current known vulnerabilities.

Data collection on the declared open source is limited to the basic solutions (e.g., libraries). These solutions also match them up against the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) alone. However, more advanced solutions use more sophisticated sources and binary file scanning to ensure that they mitigate open source risks.

Advanced solutions combine NVD data with other vulnerability information for more comprehensive and timely reporting. Using SCA solutions, you can get the needed clarity to keep track of all the open source components.

It also offers continuous info monitoring, which is crucial for a quick code repair when vulnerabilities are reported on an application.

Developers increasingly depend on open source tools and practices to create applications. Studies have shown that open-source code constitutes more than 90% of the code composition of applications.

Moreover, this global accessibility to trusted open-source code has enabled developers to get their job done faster and more efficiently than ever. However, that also makes our task more difficult since each part of the code base is assembled from a different source.

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How and Where to Use SAST & SCA?

Integrating SAST and SCA tools into the development process is like adding a couple of extra pairs of hands to develop more reliable applications. But we must remember that SAST and SCA tools each have a range of integration.

They also have different capabilities to help with continuous integration (CI) servers and integrated development environments (IDEs).

Each of the two options can help you solve different problems. The best security detection approach for your organization depends on understanding the differences between technologies.

Application Vulnerability Detection

SAST tools review the source code of the organization's in-house-written application to identify sources of vulnerabilities. On the other hand, SCA tools analyze homegrown applications to detect open-source vulnerabilities.

There is also a difference in code access. SAST tools are designed to probe source files and scan a product's source code. This is while SCA tools are more focused on discovering application components.

The SAST tools can detect various potential code flaws, also known as CWEs (or Common Weakness Enumerations), all categorized as security risks. In addition to security risks, SCA tools also identify license compliance risks associated with open-source software.

Repair Capacity

SAST tools are not often designed to help the developer fix flaws in proprietary code, primarily because proprietary code doesn't typically fit into known patterns. This factor makes it extremely difficult for a SAST tool to suggest repairs.

On the other hand, SCA tools often provide remediation recommendations since the fixes are usually quite predictable and straightforward. Moreover, almost all open-source vulnerabilities have a fix.

Software Development Life Cycle Integration

As mentioned before, SAST tools only analyze the source code. So if, for some reason, you can't access the source code, you can't fix the issue. But SCA tools scan files and binaries, providing more application coverage.

Beware of False Positives

SAST tools are notorious for presenting false positives, i.e., incorrect warnings. False positives occur when the scanning tool incorrectly flags a security vulnerability during software testing, which means putting in extra hours fixing a bug that doesn't even exist!

By contrast, SCA tools don't look for new vulnerabilities and only scan for known vulnerabilities associated with open-source components. So they can function at full capacity and generate no false positives at all.

Conclusion

When it comes to increasing application security, there is no silver bullet. At The One Technologies, we always recommend clients to use comprehensive Software Testing Services and take a multi-layer approach, ensuring that the software they create is bug-free and has the highest security level possible.

We, as a software testing company, integrate the latest trends and techniques to offer you better output, including tools that combine multiple aspects of security testing. So, contact our team of experts to ensure that all your security bases are covered.

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