Web Application Security – Top 5 Challenges

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26 Sep, 2019

Web Application Security – Top 5 Challenges

For security teams, the number of controls they can implement to secure a web application in production is limited while for the attackers, there is no limit on the number of attack vectors they can exploit. Slowly, businesses are acknowledging the fact that antivirus software and spam filtering are not sufficient to protect their technical infrastructure from cyber attackers. To maintain a reasonable level of security, a comprehensive set of tools are required to protect their technical infrastructure from data breaches, malware attacks, and service disruptions. These tools must cover the server, network, storage devices, email servers, etc. Using a comprehensive toolkit, a business should be able to conduct vulnerability scanning exercises regularly so that newly discovered vulnerabilities are detected, addressed, and mitigated at the earliest. 

In order to assist the organizations in securing their web applications, our security experts have prepared a list of the five most common web application security challenges faced by them. 

Code Injection

Using code injection techniques, the attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in a web application by inserting their malicious code. Code injection vulnerabilities are often found in the text input field for users. Common types of code injection vulnerabilities include SQL injection, OS command attacks, dynamic evaluation attacks, and shell injection. One of the most common vulnerabilities exploited by the attackers, code injection is listed first in OWASP Top 10 Application Security Risks. Standard measures to avoid code injection vulnerability include avoiding vulnerable code and filtering input. One of the most effective ways to filter application input is implementing a web application firewall (WAF). 

Data Breach 

There are numerous statistics highlighting the average cost of a data breach. Some of the common causes of data breaches include misconfiguration, lost hardware, malware infection, and compromised credentials. In order to avoid data breaches, a wide range of good security practices are required. For example, SSL encryption, access-level privileges, regular scanning activities, and organizing regular training sessions for employees to practice good security practices such as identifying phishing attacks, setting up strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, etc.  

The outcomes of a data breach are multi-fold. Apart from economic and reputational losses, many countries now mandatorily require a victim organization to report the data breach to the relevant regulatory authority. 

Malware Infection 

2017 is often dubbed as the year of ransomware – WannaCry, Petya, NotPetya, and whatnot. Malware includes ransomware, virus, trojan horses, worms, spyware, and adware. Email spam continues to be the primary vector of malware attacks, whether targeted or not. However, malware can be delivered from various sources such as free downloads, fake websites, phishing websites, USB storage devices, etc. Hence, having a robust email filtering system is an essential requirement. Just like data breaches, training sessions for employees is another necessity to prevent an organization’s technical infrastructure from getting infected. 

DDoS Attacks 

DDoS attacks, or Distributed Denial of Service attacks, involve a large number of computers being used by the attackers to send a plethora of requests to the target web application. With the size of DDoS attacks increasing every year, organizations can be affected even without being targeted. A modern-day business avails various services from different vendors. If the attackers target any one of the services offered by a vendor, all the clients of the said vendor are affected. 

Many service providers have started offering DDoS protection services with real-time monitoring to mitigate such attacks as their infrastructure is capable of absorbing an enormous amount of incoming request, while they are being identified and filtered. 

Malicious Insiders 

The threat of malicious insiders is an evergreen threat – let it be a cybersecurity industry or any other. While discussing the most common security challenges, malicious insiders cannot be left out. As a mandatory principle, an organization must follow the principle of least privilege, i.e.an employee shall have minimum access level privileges which are required to complete his KRAs. An access control policy is a good starting point. Along with policy implementation, an organization can monitor transactions and activity logs for broader insights.  

If a malicious insiders attack is detected and identified, access level privileges of the concerned insider must be revoked immediately.