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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 This usually occurs when outdated authentication is rooted in codes that was used several years back.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.

scrum

The Scrum Way: A Definitive Approach to Building Things

Scrum as an agile framework is the collaborative effort of a number of self-organizing and cross-functional teams who work along their end users and customers.

The method makes use of adaptive planning, development, delivery and continuous improvement along with flexible and rapid response to change.

When using the agile framework for developing software, a team of 3 to 9 developers gather as main users and divide their work into smaller schedules. These schedules are time-boxed iterations, known as ‘sprints’, which can be tracked and re-planned depending on evolving user requirements.

One way of continuous tracking is with the help of a 15 minute meeting known as Daily Scrums. In order to coordinate the work of multiple scrum teams in a larger organization it requires them to use Large-scale Scrum (LeSS), scrum of scrums and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

 

 The Key Idea Behind Scrum

 Scrum provides a context in which companies are given an opportunity to address complex adaptive problems, while delivering products of highest value whilst making use of their resources productively and creatively.

It is a highly effective team collaboration tool for managing complex products.

Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the creators of Scrum in their resource ‘The Scrum Guide’  explain the working model and usefulness of Scrum clearly. Some of its characteristic features include:

 

  • Light weight
  • Simple to understand
  • Difficult to master

It might sound complicated, but Scrum is rather simple. It is not a methodology. Rather, it implements the scientific method of empiricism. With the help of a programmed algorithmic approach, it makes easy for people and self-organizations to deal with unpredictability and complex problems.

 

The Scrum Values

 Scrum values were added to the Scrum Guide in July 2016. Some of the Scrum values include: focus, courage, commitment, openness and respect.

 

Roles of the Scrum Team

 

 

A distinct Scrum Team is composed of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master and the Development Team.

The self-organizing teams decide how to do their work as a self-sufficient group rather than taking instructions from people. On the other hand, cross functional teams have a wide variety of elements in it so that it can complete the work on its own.

 

 5 Formal Scrum Events For Inspection and Adaptation

 Scrum is modeled to work by optimizing flexibility, productivity and creativity.

 For companies who regularly use Scrum in order to reduce the need of conducting meetings. All of the events are time-boxed for saving productivity time. Once a Sprint begins, it is impossible to slow it down or stop it. There is no way that a Sprint can be stopped or its time length can be altered.

These five events are:

  • Sprint Planning
  • Daily Scrum
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective
  • The Sprint

 

1. Sprint Planning:

During Sprint Planning, the work allocated during Sprint is done and everyone in the team contributes to it. The time allotted to sprint planning is a maximum of 8 hours for deciding the goal of one Sprint lasting 1 month.

If the Sprint is shorter, lesser time is allocated to Sprint Planning. It is the duty of Scrum Master to ensure that every one of the Scrum Team is present in the planning process and understands the necessity of this drill. In addition it is ensured that the Scrum Team sticks to the allocated time frame.

Some of the answers that are sought during a planning session are:

  • What can be delivered by the upcoming Sprint?
  • How will the work be done in order to achieve the goal?

2. Daily Scrum

Daily Scrum is a daily 15-minute time boxed event in which all the members of the team meet and make plans for the next 24 hours in order to meet the ultimate Goal.

 

3. Sprint Review

After the end of every Sprint, a Sprint Review is set up for investigating whether the Goal was met in the stipulated time period, any bugs detected and to decide how to clear the Product backlog, if there is any.

Based on a Review, the team decides what steps need to be taken in order to optimize the value and decrease the incidents of Products backlog.

 

4. Sprint Retrospective

This event gives an opportunity to the Sprint team to inspect itself and create a plan that can be implemented next time for the next Sprint. This event occurs after Sprint Review and the time allotted to it is a maximum of 3 hours. If the Sprints are shorter, this event gets further shortened. Following points are considered during the event:

  • What went well during the Sprint
  • What factors can be improved

 

5. The Sprint:

Sprint has a defined time-box during which the job needs to be done. The time period fixed for a sprint is usually one month or less. As soon as one Sprint is over, another begins automatically. They have consistent duration throughout the project. Some of the features of Sprint are as follows:

  • No changes can be made that have the ability to endanger the Sprint Goal
  • Quality goals cannot be reduced
  • Scope can be clarified and re-negotiated between the Development Team and the Product Owner as the project progresses

 

The duration of Sprint is fixed to one month because if longer time is allocated to it, complexities might arise and therefore risks might increase. They help in increasing predictability and reducing risk.

Finally, Scrum is driven by feedback mechanism and stands on the three strong pillars of inspection, transparency and adaptation. It is all about humanizing the entire process of software development that can be optimized to create better products.

 

Defect Management in an Agile Environment

 

The purpose of defect management is to identify bugs or defects of the software and provide information to improve the development process.

In Agile, the process of detecting defects works in parallel to the software development process, and once mastered, can prevent a lot of potential problems.

Scrum per se as a framework does not explicitly show you how to handle defects. With scrum you can bring more accountability to the entire project, however  one lacks clarity on how the teams should operate in the process of delivering the software. Some questions that arise are..

…When a bug is found does it become part of the sprint backlog

…What if adding it to the sprint skews the burn-down and makes it harder to meet the sprint goals?

…What by adding defects to the product backlog delays an important fix?

 

 Defect in Traditional Environment

Conventional Waterfall development consists of a system that can be included in the definition of ‘Done’ when it is analyzed, designed, and coded. Development needs to pass the quality testing phase. Bugs and issues detected during this stage are called defects. They are researched and re-tested by the developers before sending for finalization.

However, this method lacks the ability to preven

t the bugs. Developers are required to break down software code and check results. Once completed, they move on to another project and defects in the previous one causes unnecessary delays in the workflows. This adds stress and instability resulting in an impeded development process.

 

Problem Management in Agile Environment

Whenever an error occurs in the user story of a current or past sprint, it should be immediately identified and resolved to maintain  quality. The methodology may vary from one scenario to another. And so here we elucidate few scenarios:

 

Scenario 1: When a Defect is Detected During Acceptance Testing of a User Story:

In most of cases, it is better to detect and fix a problem as soon as it is discovered in the QA testing. When this isn’t possible, the user story should go back to the developer for resolving the defect. It is re-tested several times until the complete resolution of a defect. In this scenario, recording of a defect can also help. The teams stay abreast of the waste that takes place between the phase of development and testing. And metrics can be used for a better problem management.

 

Scenario 2: When the Team Conducts Regression Testing on the Functionality of Software:

Sometimes, developers may conduct a regression testing on the user stories that are already accepted by the product owner. In this story, there can be a defect that needs to be properly tracked and unraveled.

It is always a possibility to create a defect for such issues. However, you should resolve it immediately instead of creating a defect to be tracked.

 

Scenario 3: A Story is Noted as Done Despite Some Known Defects that are Deferred:

In a deferred defect, there lies a sub-feature of a user story that needs full implementation. Here, it is important to create a new story to fix the defect. These may include defects having requirement specifications. In Agile environments, such defects are sized and prioritized according to other factors.

 

Scenario 4: A Defect Found in the Demonstration of a User Story:

In every 2-3 weeks, developers demonstrate user stories to the stakeholders. If something is found to be broken during this demonstration, a defect is created, prioritized, tracked, and resolved for it. However, the issues in the unaccepted stories can’t be marked as Defects. In this scenario, the story isn’t complete and defect can’t be created.

As a matter of fact, follow a well-defined problem management practice to resolve the defects in the software.

In the end, the best way to manage problems is to prevent them from happening.

 

A CMS Comparison Guide – WordPress vs. Joomla

WordPress vs. Joomla, are you too confused about which one you should be using for your website?

Here it is, a definitive comparison guide to WordPress vs. Joomla.

 

A Brief Introduction:

When you consider website development or a content marketing system, a CMS or Content Management System is considered thy holy grail. Many organizations hit the plateau merely because they fail to recognize the power-packed benefits of CMS-driven web solutions.

On an average, 55% visitors have been found to spend less than 15 seconds on most websites. To catch their attention within these few seconds, an engaging site created by using platforms like WordPress and Joomla can work wonders.

 

The Origin:

WordPress initially began as a blog-host, and then graduated to encompass more than 75 million websites that it has today.

Joomla was created to be a highly potent website development and CMS tool. It stands with 2.8 million websites that run on Joomla until 2017.

You can install both WordPress and Joomla with just one click, but WordPress is a beginner’s haven while Joomla requires a higher level of technical expertise. The former platform powers nearly 28% of the web, which explains the benefits this platform can offer to users.

 

Type of Usage:

With a vast market share of 58.4%, WordPress is the way to go if you are looking to build a blog, small to medium-sized business website, or an enterprise-level portal. On the other hand, Joomla is used for social networking websites and E-commerce portals.

This difference in usage is due to the user base. While most beginners prefer WordPress, people with advanced technical skills prefer Joomla.

 

Both tools are free and have an active community which continuously fixes bug and releases updates, free of cost.

 

A CMS Comparison Chart:

SpecificationsWordPressJoomla
ThemesMore than 4000 themes to suit a variety of purposesOffers a rather meagre number of over 1,000 themes
PluginsOffers approximately 45,000 pluginsOffers over 7,000 plugins
SEO IntegrationThird-party SEO plugins optimize the published content and focus on the best keywords.Has great plugins from viewpoint of functionality and you can develop your own.
UsabilityEven a complete novice can manage the content on their website efficiently with ease.For those who have an intermediate level knowledge of websites and programming, Joomla is a viable option.
Installation TimeLess than 5 minutesMore than 10 minutes
Number of Downloads140 million15 million

 

What Should You Choose?

The question remains: What is right for you? Which platform should you use for your content and website?

If you are a tech novice and need an easy to use interactive interface for your our own or company’s website, go to WordPress. If you own a small to medium business, blog, or an e-store choose WordPress.

This platform is preferred for its user-friendly and intuitive interface to ensure smooth transitions for its users. Joomla is the second most preferred CMS, and it serves as a middle ground between extremely simple WordPress and an overtly complex Drupal.

Second, do you have an enterprise-level website to take care of? Enterprise-sized websites characterized by their large structure, enormous visitor traffic, and multilingual availability target global markets. On all these counts, WordPress and Joomla, both can prove good choices, provided you have in-house technical expertise.

WordPress & Joomla allows the designers to access more than 70 languages for creating multiple sites for multi-national outreach.

The robust publishing tools with valuable features are straightforward to use in WordPress, while Joomla needs a technical bent of mind.

Most importantly, both can be set up to power multiple websites with capabilities for integrating domains, sub-domains, and subdirectories into the network.

In the end, both WordPress and Joomla are highly capable and potent tools. However, WordPress is a well-rounded CMS for everyone to understand easily. The final selection depends on your specific requirements.

Potential Uses For Blockchain Technology in Oil and Gas Sector

Blockchain technology, the software behind the massively popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin has now officially entered the oil and gas sector. 

This distributed ledger technology for digital currency payments is gaining confidence with real-world applications towards improvements in operations and finance. 

Executives in the oil and gas industry are yet to access its potential benefits adequately. But, before we delve further, let’s understand more with a small frame of reference.

What is Blockchain Technology?

The blockchain database is shared across millions of computers simultaneously, with the public, and data stored remains incorruptible. How? Data in records are broken down into fragments which is then stored in multiple server locations. 

While the database is decentralized, and all economic transactions are accounted for and authenticated at every touch point, known as ‘nodes.’

Data can only be altered when there is an agreement among a majority of these nodes. This agreement ensures that records cannot be hacked or violated – and any change in the record is automatically made public across the entire network.

How are Transactions Made?

Blockchain eliminates the need for third-party businesses like legal firms or banks. The transaction is conducted directly between the owner and the buyer. A combination of public and private keys is used during a transaction.

For example, a consumer requests access by using his private key and the producer’s public key. The producer then accepts the invitation by using his private key. The nodes connected in the network can see that a transaction has taken place, but since they cannot decrypt data without the private keys of the consumer and the producer, they are unable to view the details of the transaction. This makes the cryptographic algorithm used in Blockchain secure.

Potential Uses in the Energy Market

Oil and gas market, with their ever-growing concern to struggle with price fluctuations, has found an innovative technology in Blockchain which can now meet the acceptable margin of costs.

 The energy sector can potentially benefit from the supply chain, purchase orders, payment invoices and validation of documents before the final delivery of goods. All these can be managed through the ledger which gets updated in real time and is synchronized across all platforms in no time. Supply chain, proof of origin, managing the assets can be done without the need of a central intermediary.

 The significant leverage that is brought about in utilizing Blockchain technology for this market is:

  1. Reduced cost
  2. Transparency and authenticity
  3. Security and elimination of fraud, and
  4. Smart contracts

Reduced Cost

Stamped documentation and validation can be updated instantly for all the participants’ knowledge, thereby reducing administrative procedures regarding auditing or taxation. The absence of a third party participant means a reduction in legal fees or broker’s commission. Since there is no scope for fraud or human error, there would be no lapse of time. 

Transparency and Authenticity

Blockchain provides a platform where every stage of the transaction performed can be tracked and stored permanently for your record. Digital tokens represent the goods involved in the transfer and can be tracked at any point of supply chain journey. Moreover, this record is accessible to every computer connected to the network. The sophisticated algorithm is secured from unapproved parties by preventing them to access/alter invoices.

Security and Elimination of Fraud

Emerging IT solutions that claim to provide all-around security can fall flat because of one main reason. The database is encrypted and hosted on a single server. Unlike these, Blockchain uses the fragments of data encrypted and stored in disparate locations. Even if you can consolidate them somehow, you would be unable to decrypt, owing to the absence of private keys. A combination of private and public keys is used by two or more participants to get the transaction approved. Hence, there is no chance of data being hacked.

Smart Contracts

The tremendous volume of the transactions made in oil and gas projects consume a significant time for documentation, verification, and execution. Using automation techniques can ease these procedures. Blockchain can provide smart contracts which are automated much before the actual time of execution, sometimes years earlier. This facilitates for smooth execution.

The Verdict

Business models, especially the energy sector, are open to rethinking their tried and tested transaction processes. Oil and gas sector deals with overseas payments and tax laws governed by various nations. Joint ventures take up a whole share of the market, which makes transparency a necessity. As with any new revolutionary innovation, Blockchain’s entry into the energy market is gaining momentum, and we at Terra ATS are at its forefront. With such advantages, this technology is here to stay.