Cybercriminals are always on the lookout to exploit web application vulnerabilities.
Over the years, hacking techniques and methods employed by threat actors have evolved, making it even more crucial for organizations, developers, and users to be well-versed with web application security to stay one step ahead of hackers and prevent themselves from a potential cyber attack.
In this article, we explore Web Application Security, common attacks, and various prevention techniques.
Understanding Web Application Security
What Are the Most Common Web Application Security?
Cyberattacks targeting web applications range from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to infiltrating via a vulnerability. Broken authentication, cross-site scripting, and directory traversal are some of the cyberattacks commonly geared toward web applications.
Hackers use various techniques to breach security and gain access to user data from web applications. During login, while surfing, through an active download, etc, they can infect systems to carry out web application cyberattacks.
Some of the web application attacks are as follows –
- Broken Authentication
Broken authentication refers to logging into a system or application by using the user login data.
Accessing someone’s account and causing broken authentication can stem from session management and credential management errors.
Users often save their login data on applications to avoid the hassle of punching the details the next time they access the application.
There are timelines within web sessions that hackers target to exploit to steal user data. Hackers misuse several session management attacks including –
- Session Hijacking, which involves stealing session IDs especially when someone does not log out of a web application.
- Session ID URL Rewriting, wherein hackers fetch the unique URL of the active web application session.
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks include hackers injecting malicious codes into web pages. Hackers use web applications to inject the code often under the guise of the browser-side script.
Web application security is threatened in XSS attacks by confusing the web browser so it cannot distinguish if the application user is legitimate.
Such attacks allow hackers to access system cookies, session tokens, and other browser data.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack
Similar to flooding the network with several requests in an attempt to slow or disrupt the device, Distributed Denial of Service attacks on web applications impact the working of the app. Users trying to access the web application may not be able to use it due to the DDoS attack.
Computers and Inter of Things (IoT) devices are affected alike by DDoS attacks targeting web applications.
- Directory Traversal
Also known as Path Traversal, hackers employ the Directory traversal attack, which consists of an HTTP exploit meant to access data stored in a restricted directory and files. It uses web server software security flaws to gain unauthorized access.
Directory traversal attacks can be launched via exploiting a vulnerability in the application code, or vulnerabilities in the web server.
In this attack, hackers send infected URLs to the web server that asks the server to send specified files in return.
- Drive-by Download
Hackers target users via the drive-by download, which refers to an unintentional download of a corrupted file or software.
Without being clicked or opened, a drive-by download attack may work itself out through a web application, or operating system with an unpatched vulnerability. It can be done using malicious pop-up advertisements, or infected phishing emails.
Such attacks can hijack the system, spy on the system data, or access data according to the hacker’s plan.
Prevention Techniques to Maintain Web Application Security
There are several precautionary steps users and organizations may employ to prevent web application security breaches. It is important and fairly easier for users to diligently update software or applications as and when they are offered.
Monitoring the traffic on the system is one of the key factors in the early detection and prevention of web application cyberattacks.
There are several measures that offer protection against web application security threats including client-side security that check third-party code changes.
The following steps must be followed to prevent web application security incidents
- Using web application firewalls (WAFs) is a great way to ensure application security. It offers data protection against financial theft by deploying the PCI DSS certificate.
- Opting for the best-suited bot filtering tools can help in client classification that distinguishes legitimate traffic from nefarious bots trying to hijack the system.
- API gateways help identify traffic that may target API vulnerabilities.
- Storing user data in encrypted form is a great measure organization may follow to safeguard their web application users.
- Authentication and authorization filters can hinder several attempts to gain unauthorized access. Keeping controls in place to defend against unauthorized access is a must.
Other authentication tools including the Domain Name System (DNSSEC) can come in handy to educate devices about known and unknown points of contact handling system data.
Leaving unpatched vulnerabilities open is one of the biggest reasons that allow hackers to gain initial access. Maintaining a strong password, logging out of accounts after using them, and not clicking on random ads or pop-ups are also part of routine cyber hygiene.
Clearly published instructions to secure web applications while accessing online services should not be ignored which may cost not just data theft, but also monetary and identity theft to name a few.
Web application security, just like the security of any application and software is essential to keep data safe. One accidental click on a pop-up can start the chain of malicious activities including information stealing. Besides keeping regular cyber hygiene of the device, avoiding human errors and watching over suspicious activities around the web application is also a must.