/dec 7, 2010

Whitepaper: A Dose of Reality on Automated Static-Dynamic Hybrid Analysis

By Chris Eng

As application inventories have become larger, more diverse, and increasingly complex, organizations have struggled to build application security testing programs that are effective and scalable. New technologies and methodologies promise to help streamline the Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC), making processes more efficient and easing the burden of information overload. In the realm of automated web application testing, today’s technologies fall into one of two categories, Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST). SAST analyzes application binaries or source code, detecting vulnerabilities by identifying insecure code paths without actually executing the program. In contrast, DAST detects vulnerabilities by conducting attacks against a running instance of the application, simulating the behavior of a live attacker. Most enterprises have incorporated at least one SAST or DAST technology; those with mature SDLCs may even use more than one of each. In the past year or so, industry analysts and product vendors have become enamored with so-called “hybrid analysis” technologies. Hybrid techniques aim to correlate the results of SAST and DAST to dramatically expand dynamic coverage, prioritize the combined set of results, and reduce both false positives and false negatives. This whitepaper will examine each of these claims to give consumers technical insight into whether hybrid technologies can realistically live up to the hype. Several observations will be described in the following sections:

  • Hybrid analysis may expand dynamic coverage, but the lack of application context limits its effectiveness.
  • The challenge of reliably generating URL-to-source mappings, coupled with the existence of URL rewriting, undermines the accuracy and usefulness of vulnerability correlation.
  • Hybrid analysis does not reduce false positive rates; rather, it lulls users into a false sense of security by suggesting that non-correlated vulnerabilities are false positives.
  • Correlation should not be equated with exploitability. Vulnerabilities should be prioritized based on severity and business impact, not based on how many scanners are capable of detecting it.

Download thefull whitepaper.

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By Chris Eng

Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer, is responsible for integrating security expertise into Veracode’s technology. In addition to helping define and prioritize the security feature set of the Veracode service, he consults frequently with customers to discuss and advance their application security initiatives. With over 15 years of experience in application security, Chris brings a wealth of practical expertise to Veracode.