Application Security Engineer
7
May

7 Things to Know Before You Hire an Application Security Engineer

Unlike today’s modern digital world, application security (or AppSec) was barely known among decade-old professionals. Evidently, in recent years, AppSec has given birth to a number of job vacancies and like any other cybersecurity domain, AppSec engineering is one of them.

Grand View Research, Inc., estimated in one of its 2017 reports that global AppSec market will worth US$10.7 billion by 2025 [1]. The increase of attacks on AppSec is considered as one of the major reasons driving this market growth. To overcome these challenges, you certainly need a quality workforce. A skilled AppSec team can detect potential threats as well as secure applications against them. Well, AppSec engineering, being an intermediate-level position, demands an expert with the required skills and relevant experience. The employed professional should possess multiple yet, particular skills to overcome sophisticated AppSec attacks.

What Skills to Look for While Employing an AppSec Engineer?

Your employees can make or break your business. In such a scenario, employing a skilled professional will help your business to survive for years to come.

Here are important traits that you should be looking for when hiring an AppSec Engineer, defined as follows:

1. Awareness of Various Security Threats and Attacks

AppSec engineer should have detailed knowledge of various AppSec-related threats and cyberattacks. This awareness definitely helps to define countermeasures against potential threats. Their experience should include an in-depth understanding of known and potential unknown threats with techniques to secure the vulnerable application.

The basic understanding of several cyber threats is the primary requirement for every security professional. When AppSec engineers are considered, then an extensive fundamental knowledge becomes mandatory.

Note: Along with that, an AppSec staff should have well-versed knowledge of vulnerability management. This knowledge should definitely include the impact of a zero-day on an application. This awareness is as impactful and important as having an in-depth knowledge of various cyber threats and attacks.

2. Full Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

As you know, AppSec is about ensuring the predefined behavior of a web or mobile application with any possible set of inputs. The expected behavior of an application requires the implementation of several security controls and, this is where secure SDLC comes in. The secure SDLC helps to integrate security controls and application design during the process of creation, rather than fixing it after the application is deployed.

It is an obligatory requirement for an AppSec engineer to clearly outline, define, and enforce checkpoints during the development phase of an application. Without the formal implementation of SDLC, it is a real challenge to address all the security-related vulnerabilities of an application.

3. Strong Cryptography Skills—Application Encryption

Application encryption is a data security solution that encrypts sensitive data to limit its access only to authorized users. It is implemented at the application level, encrypting data across several layers, including disk, file, and database. This solution eventually minimizes the number of possible attack vectors.

There is always a probability that cryptography, especially encryption, is not one of the primary objectives of application developers. These cases make data prone to attacks from the outside world. Encrypting data before storing it on a database, big data, or on a cloud, is a better solution to complicate the challenges of a cybercriminal.

4. Static AppSec Testing (SAST)

SAST can be defined as a set of technologies engineered to analyze the vulnerabilities in the source code, before compiling it. This is also referred to as white-box testing. These methodologies help to eliminate even the highly complex vulnerabilities, which are not visible until you get hold of the source code.

This is another important required skill as it detects and addresses vulnerabilities in its development phase, so that, it is possible to avoid these weaknesses from becoming a damaging security risk for the application.

5. Dynamic AppSec Testing (DAST)

Another similar trait that organizations should look for is the applicant’s ability to perform DAST, which is also well known as black-box security testing. DAST uses methodologies to test vulnerabilities during the running state of the application. The set of technologies under this kind of testing opt for the approaches adopted by the perpetrators.

Hiring an employee with no practical knowledge of DAST can hamper the strengthening of your organization’s AppSec.

6. Modeling Skills

Threat modeling is the process of identifying cyber threats and strategizing to either limit or contain them. This is a proven security measure, which is enacted during the designing phase of a web or mobile application. It is, for sure, an impactful preventive measure to deal with numerous security issues.

This skill of your employed expert will reduce your organization’s efforts, specifically for members belonging to the application development team. Modeling skills can mitigate the time and effort to eliminate various vulnerabilities that might occur during the development phase of the application.

7. Important Soft Skills

There is no mandatory personal skill set required by an AppSec engineer but, having a few of the below-mentioned soft skills can help your security team to perform better:

  • Oral and written communication skills—for writing comprehensive reports
  • Ability to work in a team—proper interaction is the key to mitigate security risks
  • Decision-making capability—for adopting new countermeasures for unknown attacks
  • Analytical skills—to foresee which application vulnerability can become a major threat
  • Willingness to evolve

Positive technologies revealed in its 2019 statistics that the number of critical vulnerabilities per web application has increased three-times in contrast to its previous year report [2]. The data somehow clarifies whether your application will be targeted or not is certainly not the question of the hour; it is more about “when.”

Also, as cybercriminals are shifting to automation and continuing to infiltrate applications with significantly unnoticeable activities, it is now your responsibility to hire someone with the above-listed technical skills and practical experience. To those, who are looking for developing these important skills, take a look at EC-Council’s Certified Application Security Engineer (C|ASE). The program covers all the above topics and ensures that you gain other important skills too. Under this program, you will be exposed to real-time virtual labs where you can practice everything that you learn in your theoretical sessions.

Sources

[1] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/application-security-market-worth-107-billion-by-2025–cagr-177-grand-view-research-inc-622479344.html

[2] https://www.ptsecurity.com/upload/corporate/ww-en/analytics/Web-Vulnerabilities-2019-eng.pdf

Editor's Note:
Reviewed by Dr. Ranjeet Kumar Singh, CEO at Sherlock Institute of Forensic Science India and Miguel Halling, President, Information Security Department, Incident Management, DLP Operations at BNY Mellon.
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