May 24, 2019

Security acronyms

I joined ShiftLeft a year ago, and since it’s my first time in the security space I had to familiarize myself with the following terminology. I use this as a reference. Hopefully it’s useful for you too!


Runtime security involves inspection and protection against vulnerabilities while an application is running in production. Runtime security usually involves configuring a set of rules that apply to your application or architecture and enforcing them against incoming traffic.

WAF: Web Application Firewall

A WAF is a type of firewall that inspects HTTP traffic at the edge and blocks attacks.

Example: ModSecurity is an open-source WAF module for web servers like Apache.

RASP: Runtime Application Self-Protection

RASP products and tools modify and instrument a running application to protect it against attacks. For example, a RASP could hook into SQL database library functions to block potential SQL injection attacks.

Static analysis

Static analysis involves inspection of applications by looking at source code or byte code, or running automated scans against a running application to uncover any potential attack surfaces. Static analysis happens earlier on in the software development lifecycle, before you deploy your applications to production.

SCA: Software Composition Analysis

SCA refers to identifying vulnerabilities by looking at an application’s open-source dependencies. This can be done by inspecting manifest files like package.json and referring to a vulnerability database.

Example: GitHub can inspect your project’s open-source dependencies to find known vulnerabilities. See https://help.github.com/en/articles/about-security-alerts-for-vulnerable-dependencies.

SAST: Static Application Security Testing

SAST involves analyzing a program’s source code (or byte code) to find vulnerabilities. For example, a SAST product or tool could check for SQL injection vulnerabilities by looking for unsanitized strings from an external source that end up in a SQL query.

DAST: Dynamic Application Security Testing

DAST is a black-box security testing approach. This involves using a scanner like the Burp Suite which crawls an application and attempts various attacks.

IAST: Interactive Application Security Testing

IAST is like DAST, but also instruments an application to find vulnerabilities for a more focused scanning approach.

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