Web applications are computer programs that execute precise functions directly through a web browser, wherein the web browser is the client for the web application. They differ from traditional desktop applications that require software installation to run.
Essentially, web application security addresses the issues surrounding the security of web applications and services such as APIs and websites. They ensure that your information system is secure enough to protect valuable data and maintain operability.
Security is a vital consideration during all stages of the application development lifecycle, particularly when it is developed to address critical business data and resources. You can improve and ensure secure web application development by implementing security techniques and checkpoints from the first stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
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Why Is Web Application Security Important?
The advent of web applications was a huge breakthrough when it came to recognizing the actual capability of the internet. They have evolved over the years and are now vital for businesses of all sizes. As important as these applications are for your business, they are like open doors for threat actors. Here are 3 important reasons why web application security is important on a commercial level:
1. Prevents loss of sensitive data
Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for sensitive data to steal, networks to access, and applications to compromise. If these web applications are not made secure, they can be exploited by cybercriminals to steal sensitive business information.
For instance, in 2015 alone, about 10 million websites were attacked by malicious hackers. With only about 7% of organizations conducting security reviews, organizations are at risk of an attack 24×7.
2. Security is more than just testing
Even though most security tests are automated, penetration testing tools are as effective as the person using them. The penetration tests conducted by penetration testers are linear, but security goes beyond just testing. Therefore, web application security is no longer an optional security measure.
3. Secures business reputation and mitigates losses
Today, there are more than 1 billion websites across the globe and millions of users who depend on search engines to access information for personal and commercial purposes. If your website is hacked, you’ll lose consumer trust, which will affect the reputation of your business. Likewise, a hacked website with compromised data is likely to be blacklisted by search engines, thus making your products and services unavailable to existing and potential customers.
Most Common Web Application Security Risks
There are different attacks against web apps, ranging from direct database manipulation to large-scale network disruption. Organizations should ensure that their web application security approach mitigates these top 10 risks identified by OWASP.
This is one of the web application security risks that happens when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter by means of a command or query. This is achieved when the attacker injects malicious code that seems like normal code. The attacker’s hostile data deceives the interpreter into performing unintended commands or accesses data without adequate authorizations to compromise the application.
Injection attacks to web applications can result in loss of access authorization or a total loss of system control and loss of valuable data. Injection flaws include LDAP, OS, NoSQL, and SQL injection.
2. Security misconfiguration
This is one of the most common risks for web applications. Security misconfiguration is a flaw that occurs based on unpatched flaws, open cloud storage, insecure default configurations, misconfigured HTTP headers, incomplete or ad hoc configurations, and/or long-winded error messages that might include sensitive information.
An application security expert mustn’t only ensure the secure configurations of all applications, frameworks, operating systems, and libraries, they must also ensure that these are upgraded and patched in a timely manner.
3. Authentication failure
Broken authorizations pose a grave risk for organizations when application functions linked with authentication and session management are executed inaccurately. This allows malicious actors to compromise session tokens, keys, passwords, or exploit other execution flaws to take on the identity of other users, either for a short period or indefinitely.
4. Vulnerable deserialization
Deserialization refers to the procedures involved in recreating a data object from the byte stream. Insecure deserialization occurs when an untrusted code is applied to create vulnerability or remote code execution. Let’s assume the deserialization flaws don’t lead to remote code execution, but they can still be leveraged to execute attacks such as privilege escalation attacks, injection attacks, and replay attacks.
5. Exposure of sensitive sata
Another risk to your business is the exposure of sensitive data like financial information (account details, PINs, personal details), healthcare information, and personal identifiable information (PII). Once accessed, the attackers can then steal or modify those poorly protected data to carry out man-in-the-middle attacks, credit card fraud, phishing scams, identity theft, and other related attacks.
6. Broken access control
Many organizations fail to specify and limit the number of users authorized to perform certain tasks. This flaw is what cybercriminals leverage to access unauthorized data, to view sensitive files, access other users’ accounts, change access rights, or even modify other users’ data.
7. Cross-Site Scripting XSS
8. Inadequate logging & monitoring
Studies on breach attacks have suggested that it takes more than 200 days to identify a breach, and this is usually identified by external parties instead of the internal processes or monitoring. So, when there is inadequate logging and monitoring, alongside lacking or unsuccessful integration with incident response, malicious actors can attack systems further, modify or destroy data, sustain persistence, and pivot to more systems.
9. XML External Entities (XXE)
Most weakly configured XML processors assess external entity references within XML files. Attackers can exploit external entities to reveal internal files through internal port scanning, internal file share, denial of service (DoS) attacks, remote code execution, or through the file URI handler.
10. Applying vulnerable components
When components such as frameworks, libraries, and other software modules with known vulnerabilities are exploited, it can enable severe data loss or server hijack. If your applications and APIs have components with known vulnerabilities, it may undermine your web application security and facilitate different impacts and attacks.
About EC-Council Certified Application Security Engineer (CASE)
The Certified Application Security Engineer (CASE) credential offered by EC-Council examines the critical security competences and knowledge necessary for a typical SDLC (software development life cycle). Thus, concentrating on the significance of the application of secure techniques and best practices in the current insecure operating landscape.
The application security training program by EC-Council (CASE) covers the five phases of a secure SDLC—planning, creation, testing, and deployment of an application. CASE is one of the most inclusive accreditations on the market today, which is much desired by software application engineers, testers, and analysts, and esteemed by hiring authorities globally.
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