Despite their convenience, there are drawbacks when it comes to relying on web applications for business processes.
One thing all business owners will have to acknowledge and guard themselves against would be the presence of software vulnerabilities and threats to web applications.
While there is no 100% guarantee for safety, there are some steps one can undertake to avoid sustaining damage.
If you are using CMS, then the latest hacked report by SUCURI shows more than 50% of websites are infected with one or more vulnerabilities.
If you are new to web applications, here are some common threats to look out for and avoid:
A functioning web application is usually supported by some complex elements that make up its security infrastructure. This includes databases, OS, firewalls, servers, and other application software or devices.
What people don’t realize is that all these elements require frequent maintenance and configuration to keep the web application running properly.
Before making use of a web application, communicate with the developers to understand the security and priority measures that have been undertaken for its development.
Whenever possible, schedule penetration tests for web applications to test out its capability of handling sensitive data. This can help find out web application vulnerabilities immediately.
This can help find web application vulnerabilities quickly.
The presence of malware is yet another one of the most common threats that companies commonly have to guard against. Upon downloading malware, severe repercussions like activity monitoring, access to confidential information, and backdoor access to large-scale data breaches can be incurred.
Malware can be categorized into different groups since they work to achieve different goals- Spyware, Viruses, Ransomware, Worms, and Trojans.
To combat this problem, make sure to install and keep firewalls up to date. Ensure that all your operating systems have been updated as well. You can also engage developers and antispam/virus experts to come up with preventative measures to remove and spot malware infections.
Do also make sure to backup important files in external safe environments. This essentially means that if you are locked out, you will be able to access all your information without having to pay due to ransomware.
Do perform checks on your security software, the browsers used, and third-party plugins. If there are patches and updates for the plugins, make sure to update as soon as possible.
Injection attacks are yet another common threat to be on the lookout for. These types of attacks come in a variety of different injection types and are primed to attack the data in web applications since web applications require data to function.
The more data is required, the more opportunities for injection attacks to target. Some examples of these attacks include SQL injection, code injection, and cross-site scripting.
SQL injection attacks usually hijack control over the website owner’s database through the act of data injection into the web application. The data injected gives the website owner’s database instructions that have not been authorized by the site owner themselves.
These injection attacks primarily function to give your web application instructions that are not authorized as well.
To combat this, business owners are advised to implement input validation techniques and robust coding. Business owners are also encouraged to make use of ‘least privilege’ principles so that the user rights and authorization for actions are minimized.
Phishing scam attacks are usually involved and interfere directly with email marketing efforts. These types of threats are designed to look like emails that are from legitimate sources, with the goal of acquiring sensitive information like login credentials, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and other data.
If the individual is not aware of the differences and indications that the email messages are suspicious, it can be deadly since they may respond to it. Alternatively, they can also be used to send in malware that, upon clicking, may end up gaining access to the user’s information.
To prevent such incidents from happening, ensure that all employees are aware and capable of spotting suspicious emails.
Preventative measures should also be covered so that further actions can be undertaken.
For example, scanning links and information before downloading, as well as contacting the individual to which the email is sent to verify its legitimacy.
Brute Force Attack
Then there are also brute force attacks, where hackers attempt to guess passwords and forcefully gain access to the web application owner’s details.
There is no effective way to prevent this from occurring. However, business owners can deter this form of attack by limiting the number of logins one can undertake as well as making use of a technique known as encryption.
By taking the time to encrypt data ensures that they are difficult for hackers to make use of it for anything else unless they have encryption keys.
This is an important step for corporations that are required to store data that is sensitive to prevent further problems from occurring.
Remote Code Execution (RCE)
Remote code Execution(RCE), also known as remote code evaluation, is a cyberattack where attackers remotely execute malicious code or commands on a target computer or network without requiring physical access to the device or network. An RCE attack does not require any authorization or authentication from potential victims and can happen regardless of a device’s geographical location.
Attackers usually scan the internet for computers with vulnerabilities that can allow for remote code execution. Once vulnerable devices are identified, attacks are deployed to gain access to the devices. When they get access to a device, they then launch RCE attacks.
Since an RCE attack allows malicious actors to execute malicious code on a device without requiring any authorization, the actions they can are almost limitless.
Attackers can take over control of the device, execute code to install more malware, conduct cyber espionage on the device, use the device to gain access to more devices on the network, steal sensitive data, or even recruit the device to a botnet. This is why an RCE attack is usually a severe attack that requires immediate attention.
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
When you log in to a website, an access token is usually generated to grant you access to the website. A session is also created to keep track of who is logged into the website using your browser. This way, you won’t have to keep logging in every time you make a request to the website from your browser.
For instance, if you have logged into your PayPal account, you can open another tab and view your invoices or even make payments without requiring to log in again. Essentially, you are making requests to Paypal without Paypal requiring you to log in again because there is an active authenticated session in your browser that is associated with your account.
A Cross-site request forgery(CSRF) attack exploits this functionality. An attacker uses social engineering to trick you into logging into your account. Once logged in, you are asked to click on a link to visit a web page.
Upon clicking the hyperlink, a hidden forged request to the site that you have logged in is also executed. Since you are already logged in, the site can’t tell that the request is a forged one and will execute the request made by the attacker. This way, attackers can perform actions such as withdrawing funds from your logged-in accounts.
CSRF attacks are usually spread on social media or through malicious emails to exploit the trust of web applications where users are already logged in and have active, authenticated sessions.
Broken Authentication and Session
To be secure from attacks, applications usually implement authentication and sessions to verify the identity of users. However, at times, authentication and sessions are implemented incorrectly or have weak password policies. This results in vulnerabilities that can exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to user accounts and assume the identity of legitimate users.
Broken authentication and session attacks mainly exploit the vulnerabilities that result from improper authentication and session management. Examples of these vulnerabilities include sessions that don’t expire when a user logs out, allowing attackers to reuse the sessions to access user accounts. Attackers can also intercept and steal session IDS as they are being transferred from the server to the user.
Systems that allow for weak or easily guessable passwords also often fall victim to such attacks. Attackers can brute force these systems or perform credential stuffing on the systems to gain access to user’s accounts and impersonate users.
Insecure Direct Object References
Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR) is an attack that occurs when an application provides direct access to internal files or objects based on user-provided inputs without requiring proper authorization. IDOR attacks are executed by manipulating input data provided through URLs, forms, or other user inputs in a web application
For instance, consider the URL below that belongs to a fictional hospital:
The URL is supposed to fetch patient records. In this case, it fetches the records of the patient with an ID of 234195. However, what happens when you change the ID part of the URL to ID=1356 and execute the request as shown below:
In an application with an insecure direct object references vulnerability, it will fetch you the records of the patient with the ID of 1356 without requiring you to provide any form of authentication.
Since the ID part of the URL is used to directly access records stored in the database, an attacker can modify the URL to access the records of other patients that are associated with different IDs without having to provide any form of authentication or authorization. IDOR attacks often lead to the loss of sensitive data.
How to Deal With Threats?
Rectifying security threats is the number one agenda for any business building web and native applications. In addition, this shouldn’t be incorporated as an afterthought.
Application security is best considered from day one of development. Keeping this build-up to a minimum, let’s look at some strategies to help you build robust security protocols.
Notably, this list of web application security measures isn’t exhaustive and can be applied in tandem for a wholesome result.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is used to identify security vulnerabilities during the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
It works chiefly on the source code and binaries. SAST tools work hand-in-hand with application development and alert about any issue as they are discovered live.
The idea behind SAST analysis is to perform an “inside-out” evaluation and secure the application prior to the public release.
There are many SAST tools you can check out here at OWASP.
While SAST tools are deployed during the development cycle, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is used at the end of it.
This features an “outside-in” approach, similar to a hacker, and one doesn’t need source code or binaries to execute DAST analysis. This is done on a running application as opposed to SAST, which is performed on static code.
Consequently, the remedies are expensive and tedious to apply and often incorporated in the next development cycle if not crucial.
Finally, here’s a list of DAST tools you can start with.
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is about securing open source fronts of your application, if it has any.
While SAST can cover up for this to a certain extent, a standalone SCA tool is best for in-depth analysis of all open-source components for compliance, vulnerabilities, etc.
This process is deployed during the SDLC, along with SAST, for better security coverage.
#4. Pen Test
On a high level, Penetration Testing functions similarly to DAST in attacking an application from outside to find out security loopholes.
But while DAST is mostly automated and inexpensive, penetration testing is conducted manually by experts (ethical hackers) and is a costly affair. Still, there are Pentest tools to perform an automatic inspection, but the results can lack depth compared to manual tests.
Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP), as evidenced by its name, helps prevent security issues in real-time. RASP protocols are embedded in the application to avoid vulnerabilities that can spoof other security measures.
RASP tools check all input and output data for possible exploitation and help maintain code integrity.
Security threats are evolving with every passing minute. And there isn’t a single strategy or a tool that can fix that for you. It’s multipronged and should be dealt with accordingly.
In addition, stay in the loop, keep reading articles like this, and finally, having a dedicated security expert onboard has no equals.
This article is written by Alana Berge. She is working as blogger for Awebstar, expert in offering services for Web Design Singapore. Alana loves to traveling, cooking and singing. She is always… read more
Narendra Mohan Mittal
Narendra Mohan Mittal is a versatile and experienced digital branding strategist and content editor with over 12 years of experience. He is a Gold Medalist in M-Tech and B-Tech in Computer Science & Engineering.
Collins Kariuki is a software developer and technical writer for Geekflare. He has over four years experience in software development, a background in Computer Science and has also written for Argot, Daily Nation and the Business Daily Newspaper.
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