Security risks are continuing to accelerate as cybercriminals improve tried-and-tested ransomware techniques and seek to exploit weaknesses in platforms and applications. It does not help that social networks also provide a way to accelerate misinformation strategies, which are also vectors for scams and other social engineering attacks.
After a huge jump in ransomware beginning this year, data theft and other attacks have also had a huge impact on consumers’ lives. In 2021, for example, cyberattacks that closed down the oil transporter Colonial Pipeline as well as the meat packer JBS USA led to temporary increases in gas prices and shortages in some parts of the US.
More recently, attackers have targeted healthcare data with the leak of 2 million healthcare records from Shields Group just in July 2022. That month, the University of Pisa in Italy suffered a ransomware attack wherein hackers demanded $4.5 million to unlock their data. In Germany, energy companies Entrega and Mainzer were attacked, resulting in the risk of power outages for millions of people.
These attacks are expected to take place against the background of an apparently never-ending pandemic, which has also resulted in growing web application security vulnerabilities. As more people continue working from home, attackers will try to access corporate networks via remote connections. Scammers may also target ordinary people, as they are more likely to spend more time at their computers. They will attempt to steal banking information, passwords, and any other data that could be used to compromise accounts.
This underscores the importance of addressing potential vulnerabilities from the get-go, thus ensuring a more secure working environment that protects the security and integrity of data. Below are common vulnerabilities that developers, security professionals, IT managers, and even other employees will need to consider in order for businesses to avoid costly security incidents by being more security-aware at all levels.
Common Vulnerabilities And How To Address Them
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) provides a framework for providing better web application security, especially in the light of growing dependence on such connected applications. Here are a few threats and solutions.
SQL Injection Vulnerabilities
SQL injection attacks are among the most dangerous threats to application security. SQL injections not only expose sensitive data but also allow remote access to and control over affected systems. It is possible to persist by outsourcing web application development and hosting.
SQL injection must be recognized by organizations in order to be effectively combated. Protecting against injection is as easy as filtering your input correctly and assessing whether it can be trusted. The bad news is that any input must be properly filtered unless it can be trusted.
Mitigation also requires sophisticated vulnerability and penetration testing (pen-testing) tools. Source code analyzers and commercial vulnerability scanners can also be used to detect and thus mitigate SQL injection vulnerabilities. Because no one scanner can detect all threats, it is important that organizations automate their penetration testing capabilities, in order to ensure continuing protection.
Cross-Site Scripting Attacks
Successful application hackers, system administrators, and pen testers must be able to identify cross-site scripting vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are not new. In fact, they have been around for over two decades. XSS allows bad actors to forge or steal cookies to impersonate legitimate users. An attacker can then use privileged accounts to alter or execute remote code.
There are three types XSS attacks: reflected (document object model-based), stored XSS vulnerabilities. XSS attacks can usually be prevented by validating user input and escaping special characters.
Buffer overflow attacks are often the result of bad programming and are a popular exploit for bad actors. These attacks occur in a fixed-length buffer or block of memory. If a program or process attempts to input more data than the buffer can hold, it will overload, allowing attackers to control, modify, or crash the system.
The most common buffer overflow attack is stack-based. Many commercial applications include patches to address buffer vulnerabilities. However, applications that are developed in-house can be just as vulnerable to buffer overflow and vulnerability.
Cross-site request forgery occurs when an attacker disguised as a legitimate person attacks a website, application, or webpage. An authenticated user is sometimes tricked into performing unauthorized acts by the bad actor. The hacker may trick users into sending HTTP requests. This could allow sensitive data to be returned.
Modified firewall settings, fraudulent financial transactions, and email address changes are all possible causes of damage. A CSRF attack on the entire application can be devastating if the victim of forgery is an administrator. CSRF attacks are sometimes called reverse XSS attack and are more difficult to prevent than XSS. They are also less common. It is also difficult to determine if a user intended to send an HTTP request.
User aggravation can be a result of security measures done to prevent CSRF, such as frequent authentication requests. Persistent authentication can also be provided by cryptographic tokens.
Web servers and applications that are misconfigured are more common than ones that have been properly configured. This is likely because there are so many ways to make mistakes, such as: debug enabled in production, directory listing enabled on the server, which can leak valuable information, unpatched or old software, unnecessary services running, using default passwords and keys, and the like.
Use an automated build and deploy process that can run tests on deploy. Post-commit hooks are the solution to security problems. They prevent code from being released with default passwords or other things better left to development environments and not production.
Access Control Flaws
This security measure controls who can access and use resources in an environment. It helps to reduce the risk for an organization. If there is insufficient or inadequate central access control, broken access control can occur.
Bad actors can pretend to be legitimate users even in secure environments. This can happen when the central access control is inadequate or lacking. Access control must be prioritized by organizations. The principle of least privilege, as well as role-based access control, can be used to increase security. These limits user access rights to those essential for their job functions. To manage digital identities, ensure developers include access control units.
Sensitive Data Exposure
This vulnerability in web security concerns crypto and resource protection. All sensitive data should be encrypted, at all times, both in transit and at rest. There should be no exceptions. Passwords and credit card information should not be sent or stored unencrypted. The crypto/hashing algorithm should not be weak. Web security standards recommend RSA (256 bits or more) and AES (2048 bits or more).
Session IDs and sensitive data shouldn’t be sent in URLs. Sensitive cookies must have the secure flag enabled. This is an important point that cannot be overemphasized.
To prevent such vulnerabilities, while in transit, use secure HTTP with a certificate and Perfect Forward Secrecy. Accept no data over non-HTTPS connections. Use the secure flag to place cookies. At-rest, you must first reduce your exposure. There is no possibility of losing data that you don’t have, for instance. Don’t store credit card information if you cannot accomplish PCI compliance. This means finding alternatives like using payment processors. If you have sensitive data you really do need, make sure you store it encrypted.
Effectively addressing web security threats will require being both proactive and defensive. What’s essential is to have a security mindset in building and developing applications. Securing web applications will require this during all phases of development, including design, development, and deployment.