SAST and SCA: What’s the difference? Do I need both?

Security vulnerabilities are prevalent in software applications. Despite developers adhering to security guidelines and coding practices, the result often contains some security concerns. Adding to this challenge, malicious users are ready with their exploitation scripts available across the web. They target software applications, aiming to steal critical information and user data. Consequently, various application security testing tools have emerged, enabling organizations to effectively confront and mitigate security risks.

As organizations embrace digital transformation, the attack surface for potential threats widens, demanding a strong protection strategy. In this landscape, Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Software Composition Analysis (SCA) emerge as crucial tools to strengthen protections. So, whether you’re a developer looking to fortify your code or a security professional seeking to safeguard against open-source vulnerabilities, let’s navigate the realm of SAST and SCA to make informed decisions about enhancing software protection.

Static Application Security Testing

Static Application Security Testing evaluates the source code to identify vulnerabilities that make the application susceptible to attacks. SAST operates during the development phase, analyzing the code before it’s compiled or run. This early detection prevents security flaws from propagating further down the development pipeline.

So, how does static application security testing work?

SAST tools provide developers with real-time feedback as they code, allowing them to address errors before moving on to the next phase of the SDLC. SAST tools also provide graphical depictions of the issues found, from source to sink. With these representations, it becomes simpler to navigate the code.

Additionally, developers can create customized reports and export them offline using the SAST application security tool. With a record of security vulnerabilities, developers can quickly address problems and release applications with the least issues.

Few benefits of static application security testing:

  • It enables you to determine a vulnerability’s precise location.
  • As vulnerabilities are found early in the process, fixing them is less expensive.
  • Analyzes the entire codebase faster than humans could.

Software Composition Analysis

SCA addresses the vulnerabilities that can emerge from third-party components and open-source libraries. This analysis enables developers to assess the open-source components’ security, licensing compliance, and code quality. 

So, what is the importance of SCA?

Manual tracking of open-source code in a codebase is no longer feasible due to the vast amount of open-source code. Furthermore, the increasing frequency of cloud-native and more complicated applications necessitates using SCA tools. With the growth of DevSecOps approaches accelerating development speed, organizations require security solutions that can keep up, which is why the SCA application security tool has become essential.

Some of the benefits of software composition analysis are:

  • SCA aids organizations in adhering to legal and licensing requirements, mitigating the potential for legal problems and penalties.
  • SCA assists in informed decisions about software component selection, considering security, reliability, and compatibility, enabling wiser application choices.
  • Efficiently managing software components allows for streamlined application maintenance and updates, enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Key Differences between SAST and SCA

Understanding the differences is critical for making informed decisions about when to use each method.

Focuses on the application’s source code and custom-written logic. Focuses on third-party components and open-source libraries used in the application.
Fixes involve writing secure code or addressing security flaws. Fixes entail patching vulnerabilities.
Operates during the development phase, analyzing source code as it’s written. Works throughout the development lifecycle, examining components as they’re integrated into the application.
With SAST, running open-source code scans is often time-consuming and may require several hours to complete the analysis SCA tools deliver rapid results within seconds, regardless of the codebase’s size.
Detects potential code flaws, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and insecure authentication mechanisms. SCA tools can address open-source software’s security and license compliance risks.


Assessing Your Needs: Do You Need Both SAST and SCA?

The SAST and SCA tools play pivotal roles in safeguarding the security and integrity of software applications. Despite their shared objectives, these tools possess key differences that align them with specific tasks. SCA tools specialize in recognizing and monitoring dependencies and evaluating the potential security threats linked to them. On the other hand, SAST tools excel at identifying vulnerabilities within the source code of a software application.

Both SCA and SAST tools increase the quality and security of software applications. Implementing both methods may involve additional tools, licenses, and training costs. However, investing in comprehensive security upfront can save substantial costs from data breaches or security incidents.

Remember, every project has unique characteristics, and your decision should be based on the project’s scope, industry requirements, and available resources. Evaluating the synergy between SAST and SCA will empower us to make informed choices that maximize the software’s security posture.


In an era where software security is paramount, adopting a robust application security tool is not just a choice—it’s a necessity. HCL AppScan is an application security testing tool that provides solutions for developers, DevOps, security teams, and CISOs with on-premises, on-cloud, and hybrid deployment options. It offers market-leading application security solutions such as SAST, DAST, IAST, and SCA to identify and quickly remediate application vulnerabilities throughout the software development lifecycle.

HCL AppScan’s advanced capabilities include accurate vulnerability identification, decreased false positives, and extensive coverage throughout the application landscape. With these benefits, organizations can strengthen their application security plan and protect sensitive data.

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