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DAST vs Penetration Testing: Explained!

What is dynamic application security testing (DAST)?

Let’s learn what is DAST before we jump into the main topic which is DAST vs Penetration Testing. The process of locating security flaws in an application while it is in the production phase is referred to as dynamic application security testing (DAST). This process involves both manual and automation testing using a wide variety of testing tools.

DAST is a black box testing

It is a form of black-box testing (meaning that the tester has no prior knowledge of the infrastructure, network, or code) that examines your application from the point of view of a malicious person, also known as an Attacker or a Hacker. Inputs and outputs are essential components that must coexist in order for applications to operate as intended. This indicates that if there is something fishy about the user-based input, there may also be something fishy about the response. Specifically, if there is something fishy about the user-based input. Testing with DAST can help you find vulnerabilities in your software even before any data has been entered. It is not designed to work on specific pieces of software but rather on the application layer, which is where the actual applications that can be compromised are located. This is because the application layer is where it was designed to work.

What justifies the importance of dynamic application security testing?

The CNBC study concluded that more than 75% of applications are vulnerable in some fashion, thus there is simply no way that security flaws in applications are going to go away any time soon. This is where application security testing comes in. Developers might make seemingly harmless security setup errors, such failing to properly validate user input, revealing the server’s version, or utilising software libraries that are vulnerable to attack, can result in serious security problems. You might question how DAST scanning differs from traditional penetration testing or static application security testing, both of which take a lot of time and are slow, stationary processes. The difference is that DAST can adapt to changing conditions. This means that the tests are executed in real time, simulating how an application would behave in its actual environment. In most cases, dynamic testing is carried out on the live system, which is also referred to as the Production Environment.

What Is Penetration Testing?

Of course we also need to know what is pentest first before we dive into DAST vs Penetration Testing. The penetration test, also known as a pen test, is the second type of application security testing that we perform. I will discuss what it is, how it operates, and the role that it plays in the field of cybersecurity. Testing for vulnerabilities in an application’s defences by simulating an intrusion attempt is known as penetration testing. This type of testing is performed by professionals. It is possible that it will target servers, protocol interfaces, or other application systems in order to determine whether or not they can allow breaches, particularly at the code level. After the scan, the information it provides can be of great assistance to developers in that it can help them modify their app development in order to close any loopholes that were found. The process typically consists of the following five steps: planning, scanning, gaining and maintaining access, and analysis. There are also five methods for performing penetration testing, which include targeted testing, internal testing, external testing, blind testing, and double-blind testing. The first step in performing a penetration test is the planning stage. In this step, the system zeroes in on the specifics of the task at hand by determining the criteria for success and the necessary testing procedures. After that, it gathers the essential details necessary to understand how the targeted system functions and any potential vulnerabilities it may have. The scanning process is the second step.

The system will have a better understanding of how the application will respond to an attack after it has completed a survey. It begins by going through the app’s entire source code in order to verify that it can run normally. Second, when the code is being executed, it validates the design of the code (in its dynamic state). At this point, the system has a more in-depth look into the application’s operations in real time than it did previously. Access is what’s going to come next. Injections and cross-site scripting are two examples of the types of common attacks that are utilised in the testing method in order to identify the intended app’s vulnerabilities. Once it has identified any, the system will make an attempt to gain access to the data, disrupt the traffic, or carry out any other activity that a malicious attacker would engage in. The following step in the process involves the computer analysing the impact of the attack and estimating the amount of damage it is capable of inflicting. In the final step, the system gathers all of its findings and compiles them, detailing the vulnerabilities it found, how it benefited through them, and how long it took for it to remain undetected within the system. After reviewing the report, the appropriate security personnel will take the appropriate actions to bring the situation under control. All of this is possible through the use of third-party testing that examines an organization’s internet presence to determine whether or not essential data can be accessed.

How Is a Standard Pen Test Conducted?

Before we jump into DAST vs Penetration Testing, let’s see how is a typical pen test carried out.

Step 1: Reconnaissance

The first step in penetration testing is called reconnaissance. Ethical hackers now spend their time gathering information that they will use to plan their simulated assault on the system. They use this information to determine where the system is vulnerable, locate a viable attack vector, and successfully gain and maintain access to the target system.

Step 2: Exploitation

The process of penetration testing calls for the utilisation of a comprehensive toolkit. Tools that can launch specific attacks and exploits, such as brute-force attacks or SQL injections, are included in this category. These include software that can scan networks and identify vulnerabilities in those networks. In addition, there is hardware that was developed specifically for the purpose of penetration testing. As an illustration, there are hardware devices that, when connected to a computer that is part of a network, provide hackers with remote access to that network.

The practise of social engineering is yet another weapon in the pentester’s arsenal. Phishing emails, pretexting (which is when the hacker pretends to be an authority or someone the victim knows), and tailgating are all methods that ethical hackers may employ (entering a building immediately after an authorised person).

Step 3: Disengagement

After gaining access to sensitive systems and demonstrating their ability to steal data or cause other types of damage, a penetration tester will disengage and cover their tracks in order to avoid being discovered by the target organisation.

Step 4: Report and resolution of discovered weaknesses

The pentest report represents the final and, arguably, most significant stage of a penetration test. This is a comprehensive report that the ethical hacker provides to the security team of the targeted company. It provides documentation of the pentesting process, vulnerabilities discovered, proof that they are exploitable, and recommendations for taking remedial action in response to those vulnerabilities. When this information is put to use by internal teams, improved security measures and vulnerabilities can be addressed. This may involve applying patches to systems that are vulnerable. Rate limiting, new firewall or WAF rules, DDoS mitigation, and stricter form validation are some of the upgrades included in these upgrades.

Differences Between DAST and Penetration Testing

Many people confuse DAST with penetrating testing because of the role that DAST plays in assisting in the detection of an application’s vulnerabilities. They both work from the outside in when testing for vulnerabilities, but there is more to it than that. When it comes to testing web applications, DAST takes a dynamic and automated approach, whereas penetration testing implements both dynamic and static testing methods, but the entire process is carried out manually. Second, organisations have the ability to implement DAST even while the application is actively being used, and this can take place at any time. Pen testing, on the other hand, is an unusual occurrence that typically takes place only once a year. It is also more expensive and requires a longer amount of time. On the other hand, it is more efficient than DAST due to the fact that it can recognise certain nuances that the automated process does not.

The two different systems might be working toward the same objective, but they are not the same. To begin, conducting a penetration test requires employing professional security personnel who are able to think and behave in a manner similar to that of hackers. These individuals are experts in breaching applications, in which capacity they serve in a capacity analogous to that of the institution’s security police. They function in real time, and the company has the ability to detect breaches and identify specific points of vulnerability that the developers need to shore up.

The fact that this method is quite expensive is, unfortunately, one of its drawbacks; as a result, the majority of establishments only use it a few times per year, if at all. It is also possible for it to generate false negatives; as a result, testing must be done frequently to ensure accuracy. In addition, it is a difficult process that requires a staff that is well-informed in order to comprehend and communicate the results. On the other hand, dynamic AST determines whether or not there are any vulnerabilities based on requests and feedback.

In contrast to pen testing, this procedure is fully automated; consequently, it is both quicker and more accurate, with fewer instances of false positives. The most advantageous quality of DAST is that it can occur at any time, in contrast to penetration testing, which occurs infrequently due to the financial implications of doing so. Pen testing is known to have a lower investment return than DAST because it is used even during the application deployment process. This is because pen testing is used more frequently. The only drawback shared by both approaches is their lack of focus on cleanup and restoration. In contrast to other types of testing, pen testing and DAST don’t take much of an active role in locating the source of the issue. Particularly in the process of penetration testing, the experts do not have access to the source code. Instead, it is their responsibility to search for and report any loopholes they come across. As a consequence of this, it becomes challenging for the staff to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments during the coding stage.

Do You Need Penetration Testing or DAST?

The existing technology has advanced, and programmers are now producing new applications on a daily basis. Continue reading to find out whether or not DAST and pen testing are essential for your software systems, and if they are, how crucial they are to the process of application development, if they are. Penetration Testing and Dynamic Application Security Testing are two essential tools for protecting not only your website but also your applications and your reputation. By safeguarding the confidentiality of your data with AppSec, you can protect your finances and preserve the integrity of your reputation. Your customers will put their faith in you and entrust you with private information, ensuring your continued success in business. These tools will assist you in warding off potential dangers, patching up any holes in the network, adhering to applicable laws and regulations, maintaining the operation of your business, and reducing the expenses associated with its recovery.

In the realm of application security, DAST is a tool that helps keep infiltrators at bay by evaluating the app’s vulnerabilities. It is possible for you to save resources, and it is helpful that it covers a wider testing area, including an interface provided by a third party. In addition to this, it gives you the ability to take on the persona of an attacker so that you can determine whether or not there are any vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals. In contrast to other tools, DAST gives you the ability to recognise runtime intrusions, which allows you to spot threats in real time. However, conducting penetration testing is absolutely necessary whenever you make use of third-party software or outsourced services. It will keep you safe and protect you from any potentially harmful activities that may occur. You will also be able to recognise the threats and gauge the severity of them; after that, you can arrange them in order of priority to assist you in addressing the most pressing vulnerabilities first. In addition, penetration testing can reveal vulnerabilities in the networks, servers, and applications that you were previously unaware existed.

As soon as you are able to identify them, you will be aware of both your strengths and weaknesses, and you can then adjust your behaviour accordingly. After conducting an exhaustive review of security, you can then focus on strengthening both your workforce and your internal control system. As a consequence of this, you will increase the productivity of your company, earn a greater profit while keeping your costs low, and maintain the confidence of both your employees and your customers. Lastly, you will have ensured that you have complied with the standards that have been established by the organisations that are responsible for the relevant security systems, such as the GLBA.

Features of DAST vs Penetration testing

Both penetration testing vs DAST are capable of producing results that are comparable to one another, despite the fact that there are some key differences between the two types of testing. Some examples include:

  • Assessing external-facing systems
  • locating potential weaknesses in applications or systems;
  • testing web and mobile applications;
  • Assessing internal networks

Common Tools For Both Penetration Testing vs Dast?

Although there are numerous tools available for both pentesting and DAST, some of the most well-liked ones are as follows:

  1. OpenVAS.
  2. Astra’s Pentest
  3. Metasploit
  4. Burp Suite
  5. Nikto.
  6. Nessus

These are just a few instances of the top penetration testing tools available in the US, which can be used for both static and dynamic application security testing.

How Do I Choose Between Penetration Testing and DAST?

It is not always simple to choose between DAST testing and pen testing; however, there are some things to think about when determining which type of testing is necessary for you. An in-depth analysis of the security posture of your app can be obtained through the use of a manual penetration test, which is typically very exhaustive and illuminating. However, it is a programme that requires security experts and takes a lot of time to complete. Automated tests, such as DAST, are less difficult to carry out, demand a shorter amount of time, and produce results more quickly. If you want more detailed results from human testers who are experienced in what they are doing, then having them participate is something you should think about.

Advice For Penetration Testing and DAST

Here are some pointers for making the most of pentesting and DAST:

  • Quickly check your application for common vulnerabilities using DAST;
  • Pentesting can be used to manually check applications for more advanced or particular vulnerabilities;
  • Create a strategy before you begin by outlining your goals and the kinds of testing you’ll need to achieve them.
  • Take advantage of both manual and automated testing techniques.

Pentesters can use automated tools to find the easy targets before using manual methods to exploit the flaws they discover. To make sure that new vulnerabilities are found and fixed right away, DAST can be used as a component of an ongoing security programme.

Final Thoughts on Penetration Testing vs. Dast

As can be seen, there is a great deal of similarity between the two different kinds of security checks. They both use different approaches, but ultimately achieve the same goal, which is the identification of potential vulnerabilities within systems or applications. The primary distinction lies in the approach that each takes; while the first makes use of manual methods (pentesters), the second makes use of automated scans (application).


Malik, K. (2021, September 16). What is Dynamic Application Security Testing(DAST)? Astra Security Blog. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.getastra.com/blog/security-audit/what-is-dast/

DAST vs Penetration Testing: Know the difference | Cyber Security Kings. (2021, July 28). Cyber Security Kings. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://cybersecuritykings.com/2021/07/28/dast-vs-penetration-testing-know-the-difference/

DAST vs Pentesting: What’s the Difference? (2022, March 25). Suger Mint. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://sugermint.com/dast-vs-pentesting-whats-the-difference/

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