Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 07, 2023

Using DAST to Secure Healthcare Applications

What Is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)?

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is a type of security testing that analyzes an application in its running state. Unlike static application security testing, which examines an application's source code, DAST uses advanced automation to identify potential security vulnerabilities during the actual execution of the application. It emulates real-world hacking attacks and identifies weak points within an application's security infrastructure. DAST is particularly effective in detecting issues such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and security misconfigurations, among others.

DAST is a black-box testing method, meaning it does not have access to the source code of the application. Instead, it tests the application from the outside, simulating an attacker's perspective. This allows DAST to identify vulnerabilities that may not be visible in the code but can be exploited when the application is running. By providing a real-world perspective on application security, DAST plays an integral role in creating secure, robust applications.

However, it is essential to remember that DAST is not a silver bullet for application security. While it can identify many common security vulnerabilities, it may not be able to detect more complex, deeply rooted issues. Therefore, DAST should be part of a larger, comprehensive application security strategy that includes other techniques such as static application security testing (SAST), interactive application security testing (IAST), and penetration testing.

The Need for Security in Healthcare Applications

Potential Vulnerabilities in Healthcare Applications

Healthcare applications are a goldmine for cybercriminals. They contain a wealth of sensitive patient information, including names, addresses, social security numbers, and medical histories. This makes them attractive targets for cyberattacks. Furthermore, healthcare applications often have multiple points of access, such as patient portals, healthcare provider networks, and third-party integrations, each of which can potentially be exploited by attackers.

Common vulnerabilities in healthcare applications include insecure data transmission, inadequate access controls, insecure storage of sensitive data, and lack of encryption. These vulnerabilities can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to patient data, manipulate medical records, or disrupt healthcare services.

Consequences of Data Breaches in Healthcare

The consequences of a data breach in healthcare can be devastating. For patients, it could mean the exposure of their most personal information, leading to identity theft, financial fraud, and even potential physical harm if their medical records are tampered with.

For healthcare providers, a data breach can result in significant financial losses due to penalties, lawsuits, and reputational damage. According to a study by IBM, the average cost of a data breach in the healthcare industry is $7.13 million, the highest among all industries.

Moreover, a data breach can disrupt healthcare services, resulting in delayed or incorrect treatments, and potentially endangering patient lives. In a worst-case scenario, an attacker could gain control of critical medical devices or systems, causing catastrophic consequences.

Regulatory Compliance in Healthcare

Healthcare providers are subject to various regulatory standards that mandate stringent data security practices. For instance, in the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to implement strong security measures to protect patient data. Non-compliance with these standards can result in heavy penalties.

Furthermore, as healthcare becomes increasingly digital, regulatory standards are expected to become even more stringent. Therefore, healthcare providers must proactively invest in robust security measures, such as DAST, to ensure compliance and protect their patients' data.

How DAST Can Secure Healthcare Applications

DAST can play a pivotal role in securing healthcare applications by identifying potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by attackers. By simulating real-world attacks, DAST can uncover vulnerabilities that may not be visible in the code but can pose significant risks when the application is running.

DAST can detect issues such as insecure data transmission, inadequate access controls, and security misconfigurations, which are common vulnerabilities in healthcare applications. Moreover, since DAST does not require access to the source code, it can be used to test third-party components and integrations, which are often a source of security vulnerabilities.

By identifying these vulnerabilities, DAST allows healthcare providers to address them proactively, strengthening their application's security and protecting their patients' data.

Implementing DAST for Healthcare Applications

Integrate DAST into the SDLC

The first step in implementing DAST for healthcare applications is to integrate it into the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). This means conducting DAST at various stages of the SDLC, from development to deployment. Integrating DAST into the SDLC allows for early detection of vulnerabilities, reducing the cost and complexity of fixing them.

Perform Comprehensive Testing

DAST should be used to perform comprehensive testing of the application. This includes testing all points of access, such as patient portals, provider networks, and third-party integrations. DAST should also be used to test various attack scenarios, from common attacks like SQL injection and XSS to more sophisticated attacks like business logic flaws.

Analyze and Address Vulnerabilities

Once testing is complete, the next step is to analyze the results and address the identified vulnerabilities. This involves prioritizing vulnerabilities based on their severity and potential impact, and then developing and implementing fixes for them.

After the vulnerabilities have been addressed, it is important to verify the effectiveness of the fixes. This can be done by re-running DAST to ensure that the vulnerabilities have been properly fixed and that no new vulnerabilities have been introduced in the process.

Educate Teams

Finally, it is crucial to educate development and security teams about the importance of DAST and how to use it effectively. This not only helps improve the effectiveness of DAST but also fosters a culture of security within the organization.

In conclusion, DAST is an essential tool for securing healthcare applications. By identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities, it can help healthcare providers protect their patients' data, comply with regulatory standards, and ultimately provide safe, secure healthcare services.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.


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