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Best SAST Tools for Static Application Security Testing

Best SAST Tools for Static Application Security Testing

Table of Contents

Static application security testing (SAST) tools analyze source code to find and fix vulnerabilities in applications before deployment. This allows organizations to Shift Left Security and address flaws early in the software development lifecycle, reducing risk and cost. This article examines popular SAST solutions, evaluates key capabilities, and provides criteria to select the ideal tool for your needs.

Introduction

SAST tools automatically scan application source code to identify security weaknesses like SQL injections, cross-site scripting, insecure data storage, and other vulnerabilities. By testing code at rest, SAST solutions can find issues without needing to execute the application. This white-box approach provides code-level granularity to pinpoint the location of flaws for faster remediation.

Integrating a SAST tool into the software development lifecycle allows organizations to Shift Left Security, finding and fixing vulnerabilities much earlier compared to traditional testing methods. Finding bugs early, before an application is deployed, significantly reduces the cost and effort to remediate compared to addressing vulnerabilities later in production. This proactive approach improves application security posture and reduces risk.

This article examines leading SAST solutions on the market including both open source and commercial tools. We evaluate key capabilities like scanning speed, breadth of language support, accuracy, integration, and developer experience. Using this analysis, we provide criteria and considerations to help select the ideal SAST tool for your organization’s needs and environment.  

SonarQube

SonarQube is an open source SAST tool that provides extensive language support, integration with IDEs and CI/CD pipelines, and code quality metrics beyond just security issues.

Key Features

  • Broad language support including Java, C#, JavaScript, Objective-C, Python and more
  • Developer-centric dashboards and real-time analysis
  • Quality gate support for build failures on violations 
  • IDE integration including Eclipse, IntelliJ and Visual Studio
  • Automatic scanning via CI/CD integration
  • Cloud-based SaaS offering in SonarCloud

Considerations

  • Open source tool requires self-hosting and management
  • Limited vulnerability coverage compared to commercial SAST tools
  • Relatively slow scan times can impact developer productivity

Veracode

Veracode is a leading commercial SAST solution known for its deep scan analysis to reduce false positives. It provides seamless integration, automation, and customization capabilities.

Key Features

  • Supports 25+ programming languages including Java, .NET, JavaScript, Swift, Python, and more
  • Scans for a broad range of vulnerabilities aligned to frameworks like OWASP Top 10 and CWE 
  • Integrates with pipelines, repositories, IDEs, and issue tracking systems
  • APIs and webhooks to integrate with other systems
  • Cloud-based delivery with on-premises scanning options
  • Manual penetration testing and results analysis

Considerations

  • No open source version available
  • Can be expensive for larger development teams
  • Requires additional products to get full AppSec capabilities

Mendio

Mendio SAST uses rapid scanning to seamlessly fit into high velocity development environments. It combines speed, accuracy, and actionable insights for developers.

Key Features

  • Very fast scan speeds – up to 10x faster than competitors
  • Broad language and framework support including Java, JavaScript, C#, Python, PHP, and more
  • Developer-friendly vulnerability reports and remediation guidance
  • Easy integration with existing developer workflows
  • Cloud-native architecture scales on demand

Considerations

  • Only provides SAST capabilities, other products needed for full AppSec 
  • Limited policy customization compared to some alternatives
  • Newer entrant compared to legacy vendors

Evaluating SAST Tools

When researching SAST solutions, there are a few key criteria to evaluate in order to select the right product for your needs.

Speed

For SAST tools integrated into CI/CD pipelines, scanning speed is critical to maintain developer velocity. Slow scans can quickly lead to frustration and low adoption among developers.

Look for solutions that offer:

  • Parallelized scanning to maximize speed
  • Caching of scan results across runs 
  • Streamlined analysis to return results faster
  • Ability to scan only changed code between commits

Mendio is purpose-built for speed, with scan times up to 10x faster than many competitors.

Accuracy 

The accuracy of the scanning engine is crucial to limit false positives and irrelevant results. Advanced analysis techniques help improve accuracy:

  • Static and dynamic code analysis
  • Data flow and control flow analysis
  • Abstract interpretation
  • Custom rules to minimize noise

Veracode’s Deep Scan analysis engine helps minimize false positives so developers can focus on real issues.

Integration

Tight integration with developer tools is key for a seamless experience and high adoption.

  • IDE integrations like Visual Studio, Eclipse, and IntelliJ
  • Git repository integrations like GitHub and Bitbucket
  • CI/CD systems like Jenkins, CircleCI, Travis CI, and more
  • Ticketing systems like Jira and bug tracking tools

SonarQube provides broad integration support with its SaaS and on-premises offerings.

Developer Experience

SAST tools should provide helpful, actionable feedback to developers and foster security awareness.

  • Clear visualizations and reporting 
  • Guidance on remediation and secure coding practices
  • Inline annotation of code during scans
  • Gamification elements to engage developers
  • Custom rules and policies

Mendio delivers the best developer experience with vulnerability details and remediation guidance provided directly within pull requests.

Selecting the Right SAST Tool 

With an understanding of key capabilities, here are some top considerations when selecting a SAST tool for your needs.

Open Source vs Commercial Solutions

Open source SAST tools like SonarQube provide flexibility and customization options, at the cost of requiring more effort for implementation and management. Commercial tools tend to be easier to use but have higher licensing costs. Make sure to consider your budget, technical capabilities, and how much customization you need.

Cloud-Based vs On-Premises 

Cloud-based SaaS SAST solutions simplify setup and management without large upfront costs. This makes it easy to get started and scale up as your development team grows. On-premises tools allow for customization within your infrastructure but require more effort to deploy and manage. 

Programming Language Support

Verify the SAST tool you choose provides coverage for all programming languages and frameworks used across your codebase. Most commercial tools support 10-30+ languages. Open source tools tend to offer less broad support.

CICD Pipeline Integration

For Shift Left Security, integrate SAST scanning into your CI/CD pipelines. Ensure any tool you evaluate properly integrates with the specific technologies used in your pipelines like Jenkins, CircleCI, GitHub Actions, etc.

False Positive Reduction Techniques

Excessive false positives waste developer time and lead to alert fatigue. Evaluate tools to verify they provide advanced analysis and techniques to minimize false positives.

Pricing and Licensing Model

Pricing models differ substantially between open source and commercial tools and even amongst commercial vendors. Make sure to evaluate Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) given your team size, usage needs, and scan frequency requirements.

Conclusion

SAST solutions empower organizations to take a proactive approach to application security by Shift Left testing to uncover vulnerabilities early in the development process. This results in more secure code, reduced risk, and lower remediation costs compared to traditional testing methods.

When evaluating SAST tools, speed, accuracy, integration, breadth of language support, and developer experience should be top considerations. Leading solutions include SonarQube for open source, Veracode for accuracy, and Mendio for speed. The right SAST tool provides the foundations for embedding security into your development practices and releasing higher quality, more secure code.

Of course, SAST is not a silver bullet. For comprehensive AppSec, organizations should combine SAST with complementary technologies like software composition analysis (SCA), dynamic application security testing (DAST), interactive application security testing (IAST) and others. A holistic AppSec program enables you to maximize risk reduction while optimizing developer productivity.

Anand Das

Anand Das

Anand is Co-founder and CTO of Bito. He leads technical strategy and engineering, and is our biggest user! Formerly, Anand was CTO of Eyeota, a data company acquired by Dun & Bradstreet. He is co-founder of PubMatic, where he led the building of an ad exchange system that handles over 1 Trillion bids per day.

Amar Goel

Amar Goel

Amar is the Co-founder and CEO of Bito. With a background in software engineering and economics, Amar is a serial entrepreneur and has founded multiple companies including the publicly traded PubMatic and Komli Media.

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