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Continuous Security

What is Continuous Security Testing and Why is it Important?

Parveen Bhandari | 19 August 2022

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Introduction to Security Testing

Continuous security testing is a process that continuously searches the web applications and the IT infrastructure for possible vulnerability and security risks. Continuous security testing drastically reduces the time it takes to discover serious vulnerabilities. It boosts the development process without compromising the application's security and releasing high-quality software.

Challenges faced by organizations during continuous security testing:

  • Lack of Expertise - The team may be unable to embrace new approaches due to a lack of availability and the skills required to acquire and use new tools and processes.
  • Unstable Execution - The organization's existing state of test automation may be unstable and unreliable. The length of time it takes to execute code increases as it grows.
  • Environment unavailability - System dependencies frequently make the test environment unavailable, unmanageable, and limited.

What is Security Testing?

Security testing is a type of software testing that helps reveal the vulnerabilities, threats, and risks in a system. Security testing aims to identify all possible loopholes in the software application, leading to the loss of valuable information.
Security testing checks the impact of malicious input operations on the software application. It provides evidence that the software application and the information are safe and reliable.

Types of Security Testing

These are seven main types of security testing as per the Open Source Security Testing methodology manual. They are explained as follows:

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability Scanning is performed by using automated tools. It is performed to detect vulnerabilities in any software and evaluate vulnerabilities.

Security Scanning

Security scanning means scanning the security of the websites, file-management systems, or networks for vulnerabilities.

Penetration Testing

Cybersecurity experts do penetration testing to find any possible vulnerabilities in a computer system. It is the process of simulating a real-life cyber attack.

Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment detects various assets affected by the cyberattack and different risks associated with those assets.

Security Auditing

A security audit is an assessment of the organization's information system. Security audit tests whether your company's internal and external security are as per the security rules.

Posture Assessment

Posture Assessment refers to checking the system's security status or the organization's network.

Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking is performed by security experts. It is the process of identifying potential data breaches and network threats. Companies perform such activities to check the system defenses. This process is pre-planned and approved by the company and is legal.

Test automation is the utilization of specialized software to control the execution of tests and the comparison of actual outcomes with predicted results. Click to explore, Best Security Testing Tools for DevOps

Why is Continuous Security Testing Important?

Continuous Security testing is the process of measuring, challenging, and optimizing the effectiveness of an organization's security control, policy enforcement, infrastructure configurations, etc. Continuous Security testing is now believed to be the best possible practice.

Evolving Cyber Threats

As technology grows, attackers use sophisticated ways to hide their actions from various malware detection tools. Continuous security testing is the most effective way to counter these security threats. Continuous security enables you to run regular stimulations, optimize security control, and validate the threat intelligence system.

Improved Bug Fixing Process

Bugs can be a big problem if not dealt with in time. The effective solution is to identify the bugs throughout the development process rather than fixing the bugs at the end of the whole process. This can be made possible by continuous Security testing.

Improved Security Awareness

With the feedback of continuous Security testing, developers will be able to identify and rectify the mistakes done by them in an effective way, which results in an efficient development process with better overall security. As security practices continuously improve, organizations will benefit both in the short term and long term.

Secure Agile Development

While using the agile development process requires qualified personnel. With so many changes being made to the application during the development process, security vulnerabilities can easily be overlooked, and ultimately these vulnerabilities can get integrated into the product.
However, with continuous security testing, an organization can monitor and analyze each stage of the development process. This allows identifying and addressing vulnerabilities during the development process.

How to Perform Security Testing?

The security testing needs to be done in the initial stages of the Software development life cycle (SDLC) because it costs a lot more if the security testing is performed after the software execution and deployment stage.
Following is the process to perform the security testing at each stage of the software development process.

Step 1. Requirement stage

The requirement process stage is the first stage of software development. Here, a security analysis of the business needs is done.

Step 2. Design Stage

In the second step, the design stage, Security testing for risk exploration of the design will be done.

Step 3. Development stage

In the third stage, the development stage, White box testing along with dynamic and static testing will be performed.

Step 4. Testing stage ( functional testing, integration testing, system testing)

One round of vulnerability scanning will be done, along with the black-box testing.

Step 5. Implementation stage

In the implementation stage, vulnerability scanning will be done along with one round of penetration testing.

Step 6. Maintenance Stage

In the last stage, the maintenance stage, impact analysis will be done of the impact area.
The Test Plan should include the following:

  • The testing data should be linked to the security testing.
  • Test tools are required for security testing.
  • Several test outputs can be analyzed by using various security tools.
  • Test cases should be written that rely on security purposes.

How to Automate Continuous Security Testing?

Automation comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Scans and policies can be manually programmed or come pre-programmed; scans can be triggered automatically at code commit or manually initiated. These scans can produce automated remediation and reports or require human intervention.

Here are four approaches to incorporate automated security testing into your software development practices:

  • Automate security scans for every code change by running SAST (Static Application Security Testing). For ease of assessment, results should be sorted by the priority level of the vulnerability.
  • Depending on the policies in place, scan results should automatically generate a work ticket or problem or stop a build. These results should be presented to the developer for immediate remediation – in the workspace or use IDE to avoid context switching.
  • When code is committed, policies are automatically applied, with the ability to capture and approve exceptions as needed.
  • DAST scans can be used to look for known vulnerabilities in running web applications.DAST scans may be automated in GitLab by adding the CI task to your existing.gitlab-ci.yml file or using Auto DAST.

Advantages Of Continuous Security Testing

Frequent changes in the Security Stack

The IT environment is evolving day by day, and the changes are made regularly, whether it be network changes or employees leaving or joining the company, or the use of new software. Estimating the impact of these changes on the company's security posture is crucial and helps remove any Security gaps.

Cost-Effective IT Operations

Since Vulnerabilities are detected earlier, mitigation plans for the vulnerability can be planned beforehand.

Unexpected Breaches Prevention

Continuous security testing helps discover new vulnerabilities from time to time. This keeps us updated. We don't have to wait for the pen-testing report for vulnerability detection.

Boost in Knowledge

New threats emerge daily, so it is essential to stay updated. Continuous security testing provides you with just the opportunity to boost your knowledge about security vulnerabilities.

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Why should Enterprise move to Continuous Security Testing?

With the pace of innovation in technology is changing the world and the threat vectors are also increasing in the same proportion

New Threats Every Day

New strains of malware and potential threats are identified daily. Hence, ensure that the security controls can identify these variants as frequently as possible. The types of threats may include keyloggers, ransomware, trojans etc.

Frequent IT Environment Change

Daily operations may affect the organization's security postures. Policy changes, tool updates, new software or applications and new endpoint addition can create new cracks in the defenses. It is essential to test SIEM for proper alert generation for any security violation.

Evolving Stealth Techniques

It is challenging to detect every new tactic, technique, and procedure. Therefore, it is advised to use behavior-based detection tools or other tools that use machine learning to spot any suspicious behavior when it occurs.

Adhere to Mandatory Compliance

While assisting firms in maintaining excellent cyber hygiene, compliance with data security protection legislation is equally critical. CSM can aid in detecting compliance concerns, which is why it is becoming a more critical aspect of cyber security. According to the New York Department of Financial Services, CSM is a critical component of cyber security.

Conclusion

While continuous security testing provides consistency, companies' aversion to accepting and adopting any 'automated procedure' makes sense on some levels.
However, let us not forget that security is essential for any business. With continuous security testing in place, the result is indisputably greater overall security with significantly less manual effort.
As a result, firms that embrace continuous security testing will not only be safer but will also have an advantage over the market's ever-increasing competitors, particularly those who insist on handling something as significant as security in an old-fashioned manner.

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