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5 Common Attacks Against Web Applications

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21 Jan, 2020

5 Common Attacks Against Web Applications

Every business has started focussing on its online presence, and a website or web application is one of the easiest ways to start off. Many businesses use web applications as their primary income source, i.e., e-commerce stores. However, web applications are becoming lucrative targets for attackers. Attacks on web applications may not be as much popular as ransomware attacks, but they are definitely capable of an equivalent level of disruption. 

Over the last 10 years, the threat landscape has changed substantially – actors, motives, tools, exploits used, attack vectors, etc. Targeted attacks have taken center stage, and their complexity is increasing substantially. In such dynamics, the following attacks against web applications continue to be the most common attacks: 

Cross-site scripting (XSS) 

Successful XSS attack forces an infected web application to execute malicious code/script in the victim’s browser. This malicious code is induced to a web application as the web application fails to sanitize inputs given by the attacker. In XSS attacks, the web application is not damaged directory, but its visitors are. As we have seen over the last few years, most of the XSS attacks are not as sophisticated as they originate from so-called script kiddies, i.e., inexperienced attackers using tools and scripts written by other attackers. XSS attacks account for almost half of attacks against web applications. 

SQL Injection (SQLi) 

SQLi is the second most common attack against web applications. Accounting for around one-fourth of total attacks against web applications, successful SQLi injection attacks involve giving malicious inputs to an input field on a web application followed by the serverside submitting it to the database without input sanitization. A successful SQLi attack may allow an attacker to run commands just like a regular user of the database, dump the entire database, or add, edit, or delete the entries in a database. Security professionals often used tools like sqlmap to check for such vulnerabilities. 

You can read more about SQLi here

Path Traversal 

Found in less than one-tenth of vulnerable web applications, path traversal attack aims to access directories or unauthorized files outside the root folder by injecting patterns such as “../” to move up in the hierarchy for server directory. As is the case with XSS and SQLi, successful path traversal attacks generally originate from improper input sanitization, and they are often combined with other types of web application attacks to extend the scope of damage caused to a target web application. Successful path traversal attack allows an attacker to access user credentials, databases, configuration files, etc. 

Local File Inclusion (LFI) 

LFI uses successful path traversal attacks to execute maliciously uploaded code or scripts to obtain a reverse shell on the target machine. 

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) 

DDoS attacks involve flooding a target web application with a large number of requests, originating from compromised computers in a botnet so that the webserver is overloaded and rendered unavailable to legitimate visitors. Though DDoS attacks themselves do not provide access to any resources, we have seen in the last couple of years that the attackers prefer to use DDoS attacks alongside other attacks to distract automated defense systems.