Businesses commonly turn to managed service providers to help handle IT processes like data backup and recovery, network management, and mobility management.
Here’s another key type of managed service that can be a tremendous boon to businesses today, but that many overlook managed application security testing.
Indeed, although it may seem logical to assume that any business that handles application development in-house can also manage AppSec testing on its own, the fact is that outsourcing AppSec testing can be a smart way to improve security outcomes, reduce the burden on your developers, and save money, to boot.
Here’s why to consider a managed service for AppSec testing.
AppSec testing is the process of identifying security risks within applications.
There are multiple ways to perform AppSec testing. One common strategy is Static Application Security Testing, which scans source code for known security vulnerabilities. Another is interactive (or dynamic) security testing, in which security experts deliberately try to exploit running applications in order to discover risks within them.
The best AppSec strategy combines multiple testing approaches in order to maximize a business’s ability to find application-level risks before they are exploited by threat actors in the wild.
Traditionally, AppSec testing is a responsibility that has fallen to the security team of the business that develops or deploys an application. The business’s application developers may collaborate in the process as well.
But an alternative approach – and one that can be a better fit for many organizations today – is to outsource AppSec testing. Businesses can do this by hiring a managed service provider that specializes in identifying application security risks using multiple AppSec testing approaches.
There are a number of reasons why AppSec testing can make more sense than relying on your in-house security and development teams to find application security risks.
Managed service providers who offer AppSec testing services are more likely to have deep expertise in AppSec testing than are your in-house employees.
Chances are that your developers, and even your security engineers, don’t spend all day performing AppSec tests or reading up on the latest application security vulnerabilities and exploits.
But a dedicated AppSec testing service provider lives and breathes AppSec. As a result, an outsourced provider is more likely to be able to identify risks that your in-house team misses.
If you perform AppSec testing in house, the number of tests you can run, and the complexity of those tests, are limited by the size of your in-house engineering team and the amount of time they can devote to testing.
When you outsource, however, you can run as many AppSec tests as you need, regardless of the size of your internal team. This means you can keep scaling up to meet increasingly complex types of application security threats and to run tests to cover more applications.
Along similar lines, an outsourced AppSec testing provider is more likely to take full advantage of automated security tests that scan for risks automatically – as opposed to manual testing, where engineers tediously attempt to uncover vulnerabilities by hand.
Automated testing not only increases the scalability of AppSec tests due to the ability to test faster. It also helps ensure more consistency between tests, because it removes the human element from testing. And it reduces the risk of human oversights during tests that could leave security risks undiscovered.
Although outsourced AppSec testing is not free, your total cost of testing is likely to be lower using an outsourced provider than relying on in-house testing teams.
The reason why is simple: managed service providers who specialize in AppSec testing are likely to be able to do it faster, better, and more cost-effectively than your own engineers, who are typically not AppSec specialists.
If your development and security teams are like most teams today, they juggle a variety of responsibilities. AppSec testing is only one of many items on their lists, and it can create a distraction from other tasks – like developing new application features or responding to other types of security risks that can’t be managed by outsourced providers as easily.
By using a managed AppSec testing service, then, you free up your in-house team to focus on other work without compromising on application security.
On balance, outsourced AppSec tests are not for every organization. If you’re a large enterprise with a dedicated team of AppSec experts already on your payroll, it doesn’t make sense to outsource AppSec tests.
But for most other companies, outsourcing AppSec testing helps to surface application security risks more quickly, more thoroughly, at larger scale, and at a lower overall cost than relying on in-house engineers to handle AppSec tests.
Chris Tozzi has worked as a Linux systems administrator and freelance writer with more than ten years of experience covering the tech industry, especially open source, DevOps, cloud native and security. He also teaches courses on the history and culture of technology at a major university in upstate New York.
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