Automated Application Security Testing

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Traditional security testing for JS apps has focused on the front-end, but actual security issues most often lie in the backing REST API. Join StackHawk co-founder Scott Gerlach for a quick overview of why you need to rethink how you test your JS apps and how StackHawk can help you find and fix security bugs fast.

9 min
24 Mar, 2022


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AI Generated Video Summary

StackHawk is a dynamic application security testing tool that helps you find and fix security bugs in your running applications. It runs active security tests on your REST API, GraphQL API, SOAP API, server-side application, and single-page applications. StackHawk ensures that your application handles user input and output safely and follows OWASP top 10 best practices for application security. We make dynamic testing fast by placing the scanner close to the application and using open standards to inform the scanner. The scanner is configured via YAML, and findings are triaged to provide simple descriptions and examples for issue identification and resolution. You can push the identified issues to a JIRA ticket for prioritization and resolution. Once triaged, the scanner will remember the issues and stop notifying you. Start a free trial at to experience its benefits.

1. Introduction to StackHawk

Short description:

StackHawk is a dynamic application security testing tool that helps you find and fix security bugs in your running applications. It runs active security tests on your REST API, GraphQL API, SOAP API, server-side application, and single-page applications. StackHawk ensures that your application handles user input and output safely and follows OWASP top 10 best practices for application security.

What's up DevOpsJS people? Scott Kerlock, CSO and co-founder here at StackHawk. I hope you're having a great time learning a ton here at DevOpsJS.

Let's talk about StackHawk. Quickly, StackHawk is a dynamic application security testing tool. You can use it to test your running HTTP applications and API endpoints for security bugs and keep them from becoming vulnerable. You can use StackHawk to run active security tests on your running REST API, GraphQL API, SOAP API, server-side application, and single-page applications.

StackHawk was built for automation and CICD to be part of your robust testing strategy for your application development lifecycle. It also makes finding, understanding, and fixing security bugs easy. How does StackHawk work you ask? Great question! StackHawk runs active security tests against your running applications to ensure that your application is handling user input and output in a safe manner, as well as implementing OWASP top 10 best practices for application security. We can do this against your running application on your localhost, in CICD workflows, and against applications that have yet to be published on the internet.

2. StackHawk Scanner and Integration

Short description:

We make dynamic testing fast by placing the scanner close to the application and using open standards to inform the scanner. StackHawk focuses on helping developers find and fix security issues with a simple and integrated scanner and platform. The scanner is configured via YAML, and findings are triaged to provide simple descriptions and examples for issue identification and resolution. StackHawk is CICD enabled and integrates with major CI platforms. It also integrates with workflow and information tools, providing notifications and data processing options. Running the StackHawk scanner involves executing a Docker command, performing a crawl and attack, and generating a summary of findings.

We also make dynamic testing fast. By placing the scanner as close to the application as possible and by using open standards to inform the scanner, OpenAPI spec, GraphQL, introspection queries, SOAP, WSDL in addition to the scanner tuning we've made, most StackHawk customer applications scan average around or under 10 minutes.

Finding and fixing security issues is simple with StackHawk. Our focus as a company is to help developers find and most importantly fix security issues. The StackHawk scanner and platform are built around this simplicity model. The scanner is configured via YAML that lives with the code for the application that you're testing.

When StackHawk findings are triaged, the platform is trying to give you the simplest version of the information needed to help you quickly understand what the problem is with simple descriptions and examples of patterns to help you identify the anti-pattern, be able to recreate the issue with tools like simple curl command to replay the attack and get you into debug mode, stepping through code as fast as possible to help you fix issues and get back to your regular job of creating value for your customers.

All of this is CICD enabled. Again, you can integrate this into your CI process and importantly get feedback into the CI process on scan findings. This information can be used to break a build if you choose, based on severity of un-triage findings. Most of the major CI player logos are shown here on this slide and even if your particular one isn't, chances are pretty good StackHawk will work in your platform as long as it can run a docker container. If you can run Docker, you can run StackHawk.

You can also see here StackHawk integrates with your workflow and information tools. We can notify you of your scan results in a Slack channel, publish that information to DataDog or send you a simple webhook message that you can then use to process and do with the data what you choose.

Let's take a look at what running the StackHawk scanner looks like. As you can see here, I've got a standard server-side application. This one is a polls app that I want to test for security issues. So over here on my command line, I've got a simple Docker command that I ran. So docker run stackhawk. I fed it the stackhawk yaml, we'll look at that in a second. As you can see, it did a standard crawl looking for all the interesting things on the webpage that it could and then it did an attack. So it actively attacked this application for potential security issues. When it was all done, we've got a summary of these findings. So I've actually got a SQL ejection issue that I need to take care of. You can see that it's new. I also have a cross-site scripting issue that I've done something with before. I actually made a ticket out of this. So now it's in an assigned status. We've got a bunch of other things that we can look at as well, but let's take a look at those too. Down here at the bottom, we actually have a link to this scan.

3. Analyzing Scan Results and Configuring the Scanner

Short description:

You can take the link and paste it into a browser to view the scan. The scan shows a SQL injection issue, along with information on how to remediate it and prevent SQL injection in different frameworks. The scanner provides a request and response analysis, allowing you to understand the issue and even replay the attack. The StackHawk YAML is used to configure the scanner, specifying the application's location, environment, and ID. Additional configuration options include authentication, handling cookies and CSRF tokens, and excluding specific areas from scanning.

So we can actually take this link and paste it into a browser. By the way, output in a CICD system would look very much like this because this is the standard output. So if you did choose to break a build, you would have the same link in CICD output.

So we can go over here to our web browser and jump right into the scan that we were looking at. We were just looking at this exact same scan. We've got the SQL injection issue that we can look at quickly. You can see that we've got a SQL injection issue. We're quickly describing what SQL injection is, how to remediate it, what it's about, and what risks it might pose to an application. We also have links to different language frameworks that show you the pattern of how to prevent SQL injection in Spring, Laravel, Django, and Rails so that you can help identify the anti-pattern that we're looking for.

Let's take a look at this particular issue here. We can see that on the polls SQL path, we have a post method that has some kind of an issue. Over on our right-hand panel, we've got a request and response of what the scanner actually did and then came back with. We could see that the scanner made a request here against the application, and it responded in some form or fashion. We can actually see that the scanner made a case-when injection here. We could replay this if we wanted to. This is all helping you understand what the scanner is trying to do and what issue it thinks it's found. But interestingly, we've got this really cool validate button up here. As I mentioned before, this validate button gives you a curl command of exactly what the scanner did to identify this particular issue. So you can copy and replay this attack against an application.

Let's take a look at that StackHawk YAML. Here you can see the code that I've used to build my polls application. Inside of this repository I've also stored the StackHawk YAML. The StackHawk YAML is how you configure the StackHawk scanner. So you can see the important information that's in here is where do I find the application I need to test? In this case, it's running on my local machine. So localhost 8020. What environment am I in and what is the application ID? That is the minimal amount of information you need to run a StackHawk scan against your application. There are other pieces of information that help tune the scanner to your application, such as authentication, how to handle cookies and CSRF tokens, as well as things you don't want the scanner to scan. If you wanted to add OpenAPI spec or GraphQL, minimal additional configuration is needed to make that happen to point the scanner at those industry standard definitions of REST API and GraphQL. Now let's say we don't have time to fix this particular issue. We need to get this feature out for our customer, but we do want to fix it.

4. Pushing to JIRA and Conclusion

Short description:

You can push the identified issues to a JIRA ticket for prioritization and resolution. Once triaged, the scanner will remember the issues and stop notifying you. If you have configured builds to break, this mechanism will be undone. I hope you enjoyed the talk and learned about integrating StackHawk into your development workflow. Start a free trial at to experience its benefits. Thanks for watching and have a great time at DevOpsJS.

So we can push this quickly to a JIRA ticket. So I can send this to a JIRA Cloud or JIRA Data Center ticket right now from this particular screen. So I can push this issue straight out to JIRA and now I can prioritize that and bring it back out of the backlog when I'm ready to do it in the next Sprint or in the next EPIC.

As you will see, this has now turned into a triaged status issue. So when we come back here to our summary of findings, you can see that our Cross-Site scripting has been triaged and our SQL injections have been triaged. The next time the scanner finds these things, it will remember that you have triaged them already and it will stop trying to bring your attention to it. If you've configured builds to break this will undo the build break mechanism and your build will continue as normal.

I hope you enjoyed my talk today and perhaps learned something new about how StackHawk can be integrated into your development workflow. If you'd like to check out StackHawk and see how you can integrate it into your development process to keep pushing the limits on software development quality, you can always start a free trial at and StackHawk is always free to use on a single application. That's my time, thanks for watching. I hope you have a great time at DevOpsJS.

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