Pen Testing Vs. Source Code Analysis

By   ISBuzz Team
Writer , Information Security Buzz | Dec 18, 2013 07:58 am PST

Security testing and scanning has become a crucial part of the software development life-cycle (SDLC). With commercial and criminal hackers exploiting any vulnerability they can find in source codes, it’s absolutely crucial to detect and repair the loopholes that programmers fail to cover up during the development process.

Two common approaches used in the Security field are Source Code Analysis (SCA) and Penetration (Pen) Testing. Both are good and effective testing methods, but SCA is by far the more comprehensive and effective way to bolster application security. This article will help you understand why SCA is the best way to go.

What is Pen Testing? What are its limitations?

Penetration testing is a direct yet complex method that combines manual and automatic approaches. As its name suggests, this technique basically involves software security experts trying to exploit the Source Code with special hacking tools and eventually asking the developers to fix the vulnerabilities found in the software.

This risk-based testing method usually provides accurate results and reports, but is far from comprehensive. The professionals hired for the job have finite levels of expertize and limited time to study the project. Also, the projects have their time-limitations and deadlines, making it hard to mimic the hacker’s actions and ideas.

Pen Testing’s real effectiveness depends on the tester’s ability to think “outside the box”, as the tests themselves are based on a pre-determined list of known exploits. These databases are often outdated since creating customized plans requires too many resources. These limitations seriously limit the effectiveness of the testing.

What is Source Code Analysis? What are the advantages?

Source Code Analysis belongs to the SAST (Static Application Security testing) philosophy. This testing method directly analyzes source code and exposes vulnerabilities that can be fixed in the early stages of product development. This is by far the most efficient and comprehensive way to secure your applications and websites.

“Organizations should implement source code security scanning tools as part of the software development life cycle to find and fix the highest number of security issues early in the project,” Gartner reported. “This will result in a higher-quality product and lower overall application life cycle costs.”

Other advantages of SCA over the competition are:

– SCA is integrated into the development process, saving time and cutting costs.

– Extremely easy to implement and customize. A user-friendly solution.

– Reduces the dependence on the programmer’s ability to write safe codes.

– Very efficient in finding XSS and SQL Injection vulnerabilities.

– Can be used also for QA and improving the overall quality of the product.

All in all, both SCA and Pen Testing are good for application security. They provide an extensive security solution when SCA is complemented with periodic Pen Testing. But due to the Pen Testing limitations mentioned above, SCA is the best way to secure your software product on a constant and fluid basis.



Sharon Solomon | Checkmarx | @Checkmarx

Area of Expertise: Source Code Analysis, Source Code Scanning, App Security

Bio: I am Sharon, Marketing and Content Expert at Checkmarx, Israel. We are a company specializing in providing Source Code Analysis (SCA) solutions for websites and application developers. We take our job very seriously and are always striving to improve the Security standards in the IT industry. Proper Source Code Analysis is a must if you want to minimize the damage done by hackers and malicious software on the net.

Checkmarx is a leading provider of SCA tools, including CxSuite and CxCloud on Demand.

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