Skip to Content

False positives in web application security – take up the challenge!

April 16, 2021

Conquering the false positives in web application security

Development teams continuously develop pioneering solutions to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive global market. As software applications grow to meet changing business requirements, it is vital to support the critical development path with appropriate testing strategies. The predominant problems that arise in software provide the motivation to use application security testing services. They streamline manual effort and enhance automated tactics to analyze code from within. This helps security experts detect vulnerabilities and flag and rectify them along the way, thereby improving coding best practices and helping to maintain the software quality of the product.

Agile software development is an efficient method of bringing an application to market at speed because the scans are executed as soon as a particular code feature is complete. There are several application security testing tools, including web application firewalls (WAFs), web application security scanners, and so on available to leverage the testing process efficiently.

These tools eliminate time-consuming manual security assessment activities by filtering out false alarms from reports and targeting real vulnerabilities for further analysis. This allows testers to focus instead on critical security threats.

SAST as well as SCA or DAST tools are high-value assets. From the diagram above, we can see that as maturity grows, the use of more powerful tools or overarching solutions happens in tandem with clients’ stringent security goals.

However, due to weak signature patterns used in certain scanners’ vulnerability checks, there arises the challenge of high rates of false positives scaling up at full speed. Incorrect flags raised for vulnerability are efficiency disrupters for developers and security teams.

When a security scanner reports a lot of false positives and the development team is spending too much time chasing false alarms, productivity falls and does not generate business value!

False positive an investment rather than just another expense

Embedding false positive management within the software development path and testing process helps strengthen applications, capitalizing on saving the team from faltering in their quality. This activity comes at a cost but makes the apps more secure, enabling a consistent user experience and strengthening resilience against cyber-attacks. Coordinating FP detection associated with clean-up operations early in the SDLC incurs initial costs. The desired endpoint is to stimulate business readiness when it comes to go live. Investing in app security testing on-demand packaged services is also a winning cost- optimization strategy. Such services encompass the complete end-to-end assessment process, identifying and removing false alerts from scan reports. They eliminate repetitive testing activities, thereby allowing security experts to focus on fixing real vulnerabilities. Scanning tools, intrusion prevention systems (IPSs), and web application firewalls (WAFs) are some of the tools that effectively perform security assessments to prevent or mitigate security risks and achieve sustainable software security and quality.

Managing false positives

Managing false positives brings enormous business benefits. With increased automatic scans, labor costs are reduced at different levels in the SDLC cycle. Developers and testers save time by filtering multiple false positives and confirming triage issues. They look into and fix the real vulnerabilities, which in turn enhances software quality and improves application security.

The possibility of missing the vulnerabilities becomes smaller and threats are detected at the initial stage, thus keeping cost to a minimum and increasing the efficiency of the software development lifecycle and enabling product delivery within the timelines. By maintaining application security, it is possible to resolve critical issues. This, in turn, helps companies to maintain a good reputation and ensure client satisfaction. An efficient development and testing approach help bring the product to market faster, making it easier for customers to buy the product and thereby investing in the success of your organization.

Simple and efficient guidelines to minimize the impact of false positives

Open pragmatic paths. Don’t expect alarms to pop up any time or anywhere without notice. Be prepared and flexible. Have a game plan in place otherwise you will be spending time and energy hunting for false alerts rather than identifying real threats.

Lets not bury our heads in the sand. False positives are a major issue and implementing standard tools or one-size-fits-all security testing services is not the best solution. Be careful about implementing anything that might undermine operational excellence or limit security assessments to the level of “too generic” use cases which are likely to be effective at generating false positives.

Set a clear vision of which threats to detect. Get a jump-start by assessing the security needs for your business and spotting potential risks. Then, fine-tune your scan engines to detect the critical threats you want to eradicate in order to ship to production with confidence. This will help scale down false positives.

Enforce threat screening to bring security risks to the fore. This reduces the time security experts spend on false alarms and keeps them focused on fixing weaknesses embedded in areas that are vital to the business. Since risks are prioritized, more resilient and secure systems with very low FP rates are built.

Click here to learn more about our uniquely effective Application Security Testing service.


Jean-Alain Julie

Head of Application Security Testing