What Are The Main Web App Vulnerabilities?
We know that hackers have a variety of sophisticated tools for breaching our security, but sometimes our web applications readily offer up sensitive data on their own.
These common web application vulnerabilities represent potential sites of attacks for hackers. Identifying, and fixing, these vulnerabilities is the key to ensuring that your web application can stand up to changing security demands.
How Hackers Exploit These Vulnerabilities
There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about who hackers are and what they do. Hackers are simply anyone who attacks a system or exploits a vulnerability. These can be sophisticated computer experts at the top of the field, or it could be simply an opportunist looking to gain from an exploit they just found.
Hackers have a variety of tools at their disposal and these are a few of the most common.
- SQL Injection
- Social Engineering
- Denial of Service
The Risks of a Vulnerable Web Application
Having a vulnerable web application opens up your business to plenty of extremely hazardous risks. Even the smallest vulnerability in your application can create the potential for a serious data breach. Successful companies have lost everything from their revenue to their reputation because of data breaches.
Your end users not only rely on your web application for its services, but they also trust the reputation of your brand when it comes to keeping their information safe. These are just a few of the risks that even a small vulnerability can create.
- Data Theft
- Loss of Revenue
- Legal Action
- Damaged Reputation
- Loss of Business
7 Main Web Application Vulnerabilities
The technology that we use for designing web applications is always changing. This means that the landscape of web application vulnerabilities is always changing, but these are seven of the most common vulnerabilities dev teams are facing right now.
Injection vulnerabilities occur when hackers can enter unfiltered or malicious strings of data directly into your web application. The most common types of injection vulnerabilities are: SQL injection, OS command injection, and LDAP injections.
These attacks target fields that accept open strings of data such as username and password entry prompts or even the URL itself. You can protect against injections by whitelisting variables or adding filters to your inputs.
2. Broken Authentication
Broken authentication vulnerabilities represent a diverse set of potential attack vectors in your web application. Authentication is used to ensure the validity of a user’s identity throughout their session with your application. Broken authentication occurs when this validity breaks down and gets hijacked by a malicious actor.
Broken authentication vulnerabilities are caused by a variety of authentication problems including exposed session IDs, improperly encrypted passwords, and even attacks like credential stuffing using common passwords such as “abc123” or passwords stolen during another data breach.
There are plenty of steps you can take to correct broken authentication vulnerabilities. These include using the highest standards for encryption and security, implementing regular password changes and strong passwords, and making sure that vulnerable data, such as session IDs, don’t show up in URLs or logs.
3. Data Exposure
At the end of the day, no matter which vulnerability a hacker uses, they’re going after your data. Data exposure vulnerabilities essentially give hackers a shortcut directly to the prize that they’re after.
Data exposure either happens while the data is in transit or while the data is being stored on your servers. Data in transit is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks while data stored on your servers is vulnerable to a variety of other measures.
Preventing data exposure is one of the reasons why SSL certificates are the new standard. High encryption standards help reduce the risk of data exposure. When it comes to your server, storing your encryption keys and the data separately helps reduce the risk of exposure.
It’s also good to regularly purge outdated and unused data. If there’s no data there, there’s nothing to be exposed.
4. Cross-Site Scripting
Cross-site scripting is a complicated vulnerability. This vulnerability exists both on a web page and in the human users who are interacting with that web page. A hacker will insert a link containing malicious code into a vulnerable website and then use social engineering to encourage an individual to click on that link. This can accomplish everything from stealing a user’s cookies to potentially giving a hacker access to an entire network.
The best way to prevent cross-site scripting is input sanitization. Eliminating other vulnerabilities that we’ve talked about on this list also prevents hackers from inserting malicious code in the first place. Educating all of your employees, no matter where they interface with your development team, is a great way to limit the risk of social engineering.
5. Cross-Site Forgery
Cross-site forgery is a lot like cross-site scripting. This also combines vulnerabilities in web applications with vulnerabilities in human users. Cross-site forgery attempts to steal an authentication session and use that authentication to make changes to the web application.
User profile forms, emails, and pages that typically require the secession of click-through links, such as downloads, are all vulnerable to cross-site forgery.
Cross-site forgery can be resisted by using secure session tokens as well as assertively timing out sessions especially when sensitive data is involved.
6. Insecure Direct Object References
This one vulnerability occurs when an internal implementation object, such as a file, folder, or database key, is exposed in the URL. A good example of this is having a URL end with “userID =X.” A hacker can simply use numerical iteration to test other user IDs until they find a valid entry.
This can give hackers access to development objects and expose sensitive user data. You can prevent these hacks by verifying URLs and implementing access control measures for internal objects.
How to Protect Your Web Application
Knowing the most common vulnerabilities is the first step in protecting your web application. Cleaning up your web application after a vulnerability has been exploited is more costly, and more challenging, than preventing one from happening in the first place. These are three practical steps that your team can start implementing today to keep you one step ahead of these vulnerabilities.
- Build security into your development
- Improve logging practices
- Upgrade software when available