SAST vs SCA — the world of cybersecurity has become littered with acronyms and jargon worthy of a military encampment. It’s hard to keep up.
What’s even more troubling is that once dissected and analyzed some of those terms, some of those tools look suspiciously the same. So, why do we need them all? Can’t we get away with employing just one — cutting out redundancies and slicing some of the fat off our budget?
In this article we’re going to talk about just that, and why each of those endless acronyms, from SaaS to SCA, to NIST, all the way to SAST are incredibly valuable. And why do they need to work side-by-side in order to create and foment an effective security software development approach?
What Is SAST?
The term SAST stands for static application security testing. It is the process of analyzing an application’s code for vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. It was one of the first protocols created in order to really test out the software.
Although the idea of analyzing source code has existed as long as computers were around, the technique was unregulated. A bit lose and everyone sort of did their own thing. In the late 90s, industry leaders – thanks to a long discussion on SQL injection – started to develop techniques that slowly became industry standards.
SAST tools scan the source code of an application and all its many components — it’s performed early in the development process and also when all the pieces of the code are put together and sent out to a testing environment.
The analyzer, at its core, works like a security guard. It is dispatched across the application’s code/surface in order to check out if everything is locked up tight. If all windows are battened down if all doors have been secured if every possible entry point has been safeguarded.
What Is SCA?
Software Composition Analysis – SCA – is a software engineering practice that is used to analyze the complexity of a program and to identify the root causes of problems. It is an avant-garde method for detecting issues in the software that have not been uncovered by other methods, such as testing.
SCA does this by examining the dependencies between different parts of the code and then identifying complex relationships that are difficult to understand or debug.
The process may be automated by employing static or dynamic methods to analyze code changes and identify dependencies.
SCA tools can uncover all related components and their libraries. The scanning process generates a Bill of Materials – BOM – which provides a full inventory of the project’s assets.
But why Is SCA So Important?
SCA tools aren’t something new, they have been around for ages — their growing adoption in the industry is nonetheless something current, a trend that needs to be explained. Software over the year has become a composite of codes.
The software’s codebase is really a Frankenstein-like chimera, a composite of different codes. Some of it is built in-house, under a team’s careful watch and testing, some of it is bought off-the-shelf, and a vast majority of it is free — it’s open-source.
Open-source software is controversial but necessary. Over 81% of Open source software has at least one vulnerability. Most open-source software has backdoors installed into them by its creators.
What’s even more worrisome is that critical vulnerabilities in open-source software have been responsible for some of the biggest cyber-attacks in recent history, including the Log4Shell zero-day vulnerability.
Software Composition Analysis tools are, currently, the best bet for finding weaknesses in open-source packages and learning how to fix them.
SAST Vs. SCA – What Are The Differences Between SAST And SCA?
Software Composition Analysis – SCA – is a set of software analysis tools that are used to find vulnerabilities and bugs in the code.
Static Application Security Testing – SAST – is a set of security-related tools that help in identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in the source code. Let’s dive into SAST vs SCA differences in detail.
SCA — Open source
SCA is an application and security methodology that can quickly track and analyze open-source components and codes brought into a project.
SAST — Scan for vulnerabilities
SAST helps mitigate vulnerabilities by scanning source code. It verifies bugs and weaknesses in tested software. It is mostly used for analyzing proprietary code — code is written in-house.
SAST — Demand source code access
SCA only identifies digital signatures — open sources in your libraries. SAST meanwhile analyses source files, which means it requires code access.
SCA — Easier to fix
97% of all open source vulnerabilities have a solution — in many cases, something as simple as a patch or an update by its creator is all the developers need.
SAST — Shift Left protocols
SAST can be employed early on, detecting issues as soon as software development starts. It normally ceases its functionality once the software is released. Meanwhile, SCA integrated repos and IDEs all the way to post-development and launch.
False – Positives
SAST has a high level of false positives. Meanwhile, SCA tools are extremely accurate with some having zero false positive rates.
SAST is a time-consuming process while running SCA tools can be done in seconds regardless of the project’s size.
SCA And SAST — When To Use?
When it comes to vulnerability detection companies require both tools. At their core, they are very dissimilar and are used to detect different components and weaknesses. SAST protocols and tools are specifically focused on custom code security, of the proprietary code built in-house by developers.
SCA tools cover all aspects related to open-source products and code. They both manage different aspects of an overall project. Comparing SCA to SAST is like competing apples to oranges, they are two utterly different tools. Each addresses different risks and issues.
SAST and SCA need to be used in tandem, working at the same time in order to cover all your security needs.