Web Application Security
Web application security involves protecting web services, applications, and websites from malicious threats that exploit vulnerabilities in web application code. A successful web application attack can lead to data leaks, information theft, revoked licenses, damaged reputations and legal action.
Cybercriminals often exploit web application vulnerabilities for the following reasons:
- Source code complexity— increases the likelihood of exploitable vulnerabilities through the manipulation of malicious code.
- Valuable Rewards—web applications handle sensitive private data that cybercriminals can exploit to launch additional attacks or offer for sale.
- Ease of execution— cybercriminals can easily launch covert automated attacks against many targets, tens or even hundreds of thousands.
Web application vulnerabilities allow cybercriminals to launch additional attacks, such as:
- SQL Injection— attackers deploy malicious SQL code to manipulate the backend of databases. A successful SQL injection attack can result in unauthorized data listing, unauthorized administrative privileges and access, and deletion of tables.
- Cross-site scripting (XSS)— attackers use XSS to gain access to user accounts, inject Trojans, and modify the content of web pages to deface a website or mislead users. This type of attack targets application users.
- Remote File Inclusion (RFI)— attackers remotely inject files into a web application server. A successful RFI attack can deploy code execution and malicious script in applications, compromise a web server, and steal data.
- Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)— attackers use CSRF to transfer funds, change passwords or steal data. This is to exploit open user sessions and cause the browser to perform unauthorized actions on this site.
Move security to the left for web applications
Web applications have multiple attack surfaces, and to protect them holistically, you need to secure all of these surfaces. It is essential to shift safety leftto ensure that web applications are secure at all stages of their development and deployment, and that security is not applied as an afterthought.
Moving security to the left in a web application has three aspects:
- Securing Web Application Vulnerabilities— a web application may have security flaws in its code, misconfigurations or vulnerable components, all of which can be exploited by attackers.
- Security patch validation— Even after scanning your application for vulnerabilities and patching them, you should validate that the application is secure in a realistic test that simulates an attack.
- Securing the web server— a web server is by nature a vulnerable component because it is connected to the Internet. Attackers have many ways to compromise server endpoints or the user accounts that control them. Even if the web application itself is secure, the web server can be compromised.
DAST, PTaaS and endpoint protection
Three security tools can help you secure all of the attack surfaces we’ve listed above:
- Dynamic Application Security Testing Tools (DAST) can scan running applications for vulnerabilities and guide remediation.
- Penetration Testing Tools as a Service (PTaaS) may enable automated and manual testing of web applications to ensure there are no hidden or missed vulnerabilities.
- Endpoint protection tools can secure the web server to ensure that attackers cannot compromise it with malware, and any suspicious activity on the server is detected and blocked.
Let’s discuss each of these tools in more detail.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
DAST tools can help you perform live testing on applications during runtime. You can use DAST to find exploitable vulnerabilities in your applications during development and in production. You can integrate most modern DAST tools into your CI/CD pipeline and run it automatically with every build.
DAST tools check your applications against known vulnerabilities and dictionaries of malicious entries. Here are potentially malicious entries that a DAST can help identify in applications:
- SQL queries— helps detect SQL injection vulnerabilities.
- Long input strings— Hackers can use these chains to exploit buffer overflow vulnerabilities.
- Negative numbers and large positives— helps identify integer overflow and underflow vulnerabilities.
DAST tools identify vulnerabilities and can also attempt to exploit detected vulnerabilities to determine their impact and severity. For example, a DAST tool can search for security vulnerabilities by using fuzzing and exploration techniques to run unexpected paths in the application workflow.
Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS)
PTaaS is a cloud service that offers resources to perform one-time and ongoing penetration testing. This service aims to help organizations implement a successful vulnerability management program that identifies, prioritizes and remediates security threats quickly and efficiently.
Pentesting is the search for white hat testers to proactively identify exploitable attack vectors. During pentest, testers attempt to breach an application, server, or network to help organizations spot and fix security issues they might otherwise miss. Traditionally, pentesting results were delivered at the end of the test, offering recommendations for correction.
Pen test as a service
PTaaS vendors leverage the flexibility of the cloud to provide reports and recommendations during all phases of testing. Vendors typically provide automated penetration testing tools through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model to allow organizations to visualize data in real time. It usually includes dashboards that display relevant information before, during, and after the pentest. PTaaS vendors also provide a knowledge base and resources to scan for vulnerabilities.
Endpoint protection involves securing sensitive endpoints, such as servers, laptops and workstations, from malicious exploitation. Endpoint tools aim to protect against zero-day threats and sophisticated and evasive threats, including advanced persistent threats (APT). This technology fills the gaps left by traditional antivirus software that can only detect known threats.
Here are several challenges that endpoint protection platforms help solve:
- A growing number of terminals—Enterprise networks must manage connectivity with an increasing number of different endpoints, including personal devices and healthcare IoT.
- Remote work and BYOD policies— New device types and working paradigms, such as remote working and BYOD policies, make perimeter security insufficient to secure networks.
- A complex threat landscape— Cybercriminals are constantly creating new ways to gain access to systems, steal data, and trick employees into divulging sensitive information.
Endpoint protection solutions help monitor enterprise networks for endpoint threats, providing the visibility needed to protect today’s complex, distributed networks.
In this article, I introduced web application security and showed how three solutions can help address the main attack surfaces of a web application:
- DAST—discover and fix vulnerabilities
- PTaaS—checking the security posture
- Endpoint Protection— secure the web server
Hope this helps you as you assess and improve the security of your critical web applications.
Read more : Top 10 SAST and DAST Tools to Consider in 2022