10 Types of Security Vulnerabilities for Web Applications

SaaS Businesses. Online Banking. Subscription-based websites. E-commerce. Social Media. What’s common in all of them?

They are all cloud-based businesses that work at the heart of information systems, delivering products and services online. These businesses need to use web applications to handle or transact money and exchange sensitive information.

However, applications may get compromised as a result of weak or poorly selected security mechanisms that pose opportunities for hackers.

Application-layer attacks come in many forms and are arguably more complex than most network-layer attacks owing to a large number of protocol and communication formats increasing at a rapid rate.

Here we unveil the top 10 security threats that may arise as a result of poor security and data practices:

1. Injection

Script injection issues result from bad programming practices and can direct unfiltered data being passed on to browsers, servers, or any other location. Attackers can easily insert commands into these vulnerable entities resulting in massive data loss.

As a precaution, any data received from unknown resources should be filtered using a whitelist, which is a crucial step to consider for all applications. If you rely only on filtering functions of your framework, they need to be intensively scrutinized to protect web assets. Application security testing can help in detecting injection flaws by using parameterized queries during coding, developers can prevent such vulnerabilities.

2. Broken Authentication

A broken authentication can lead to several security-related issues. This usually occurs when outdated authentication is rooted in codes that was used several years back.

There may be other vulnerabilities such as passwords not encrypted during storage or transit, URLs containing session ID that may get leaked in the referrer header, session fixation, hijacking of the session, and predictable session IDs.

You can mitigate this vulnerability by using a safe and secure framework. In most use cases, it can be implemented easily. Even if you aim to roll your own code, you should be well-prepared and equipped with the knowledge to avoid any failure in the future.

3. Sensitive Data Exposure

Sometimes, web applications are affected by crypto and resource vulnerabilities. This makes sensitive data available to hackers. The only way to prevent this is to encrypt data at all times. All sensitive information such as credit cards and passwords should be encrypted and hashed for an added layer of security.

For data in transit, you should use HTTPS with a proper certification while storage should be handled in a proper way.
Do not store any sensitive data that you rarely need. If you do store credit card information, it needs to be PCI-compliant. A good way is to sign up with a payment processor.

4. XML External Entities (XXE)

An attack from XML External Entities can happen if it is processed by an XML processor that is weakly configured. This can lead to leakage of confidential data, server-side request forgery, service denial, and severe system impacts.

Such attacks can also disclose sensitive files. Most attackers can pivot any trusted application to internal systems, making information vulnerable.

You can remove this vulnerability through a secure configuration of XML Unmarshaller. External entities are blocked to enter your system as a component of any incoming document.

5. Broken Access Control

Broken Access Control may happen in applications and APIs that fail to verify user request privileges. When applications have trouble applying robust security mechanisms for authentication, they can witness control vulnerabilities.

If there are missing restrictions on authorized users, they can access unauthorized data or functionality and also modify data and access rights.

Penetration testing is important to detect non-functional access controls. The control can happen at different levels, including physical, logical and administrative. A central application component for verification of access control ensures that every request is verified to access or deny the information.

6. Security Misconfiguration

Misconfiguration of web servers and applications isn’t a new phenomenon. It prevails due to the various ways in which attacks can occur. Classic examples of security misconfiguration include — a directory listing enabled on the server, an application running with debug enabled, unnecessary services running on the system, using default keys, using outdated software, and sharing sensitive error handling information to imposters.

Build and deploy robust processes to run tests and prevent vulnerabilities in code. Using Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), leaky APIs and other misconfigurations can be easily detected.

7. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

When client-side script is targeted by injection of code into an application’s output, there can be cross-site scripting errors. For example, JavaScript tags may be given on the input which is returned to the user unverified.

These inputs may get executed by the browser and scripts on the loading page can post the cookies to an attacker. As a result, user sessions can be hijacked and directed to malicious websites.

You can mitigate this vulnerability if you decide not to return HTML tags to your users. This defends your system against HTML injections as well. Get the characters converted into their escaped counterparts to prevent this error.

8. Insecure Deserialization

When web applications and APIs deserialize tampered objects shared by an attacker, the system becomes vulnerable to this flaw. It can lead to attacks on objects and data structure where application logics are altered by the attacker.

Also, it includes typical data tampering in which the existing data is used but its content gets altered. This insecure deserialization can be used in wire protocols, caching applications, inter-process communications, cache servers, file systems, API authentication tokens, and HTTP cookies.

You can prevent serialization by using integrity checks on serialized objects, using mediums that permit primitive data only, isolating the code in low-privileged environments, restricting the network connectivity, and using strict type constraints.

9. Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities

When incorporating new code, it is important to ensure security audits. Codes coming from unknown and unreliable resources may come with a web security vulnerability that you can’t avoid. For example, WordPress plugins that can find the hidden installations and the third-party software remain unpatched for a long time.

When using the third-party or open source components, you should stay cautious and inspect every code minutely to look for the extreme vulnerabilities.

10. Insufficient Logging and Monitoring

When security-critical applications aren’t logged safely, they become prone to this flaw. The lack of functionalities like monitoring current events can further elevate the issue. It becomes difficult to identify the attacker and implement an effective incident handling mechanism.

To prevent this vulnerability, you should ensure that access control failures, logs, and server-side input validation failures are properly logged for identifying malicious accounts. Whatever format you use for log generation should be easily integrated into the centralized log management system. Further, high-value transactions should be backed by an audit trail to prevent tampering while you also place a recovery and incident response plan in action.

By being aware of the security vulnerabilities of your applications, you can take the necessary steps and practice mechanisms that protect your data from potential attacks. Regular security audits and proper testing can go a long way in keeping your critical data safe.

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