Updated July 28, 2023
Introduction to Web Application Security
The following article provides an outline for Web Application Security. We are now living in a world of the Web. Every day, there are zillion transactions going on the web in every field like banking, schools, business, top institutions of the world, and research centers. Therefore, it is extremely important that the data that is being transacted is very safe and the communication is reliable. Hence, there comes the importance of securing the web.
What is Web Application Security?
Web Application security is a branch of information security that deals with the security of web applications, web services, and websites. It is a kind of application security that is applied on to web or internet level specifically.
Web security is important as web applications get attacked due to bad coding or improper sanitizing of application inputs and outputs. Common web security attacks are Cross-site scripting(XSS) and SQL Injections.
Apart from XSS, SQL Injections, the other types of web security attacks are Arbitrary code execution, Path Disclosure, Memory corruption, Remote file inclusion, Buffer overflow, local file inclusion, etc. Web security is completely based on people and processes. Hence it is extremely important that the developers use proper coding standards and sanity checks for any such web security threats before making websites go live.
Security checks, in fact, have to be applied at a very early stage of development and keep applying at every stage in the software development life cycle. Developers need to be well trained in cybersecurity and secure coding practices. One-time testing of the application is definitely not effective. Continuous regression for web security attacks needs to be implemented at every stage.
Standardizing Web Security
- OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) is the standards body for web application security.
- It provides complete documentation, tools, techniques, and methodologies in the field of web app security.
- OWASP is one of the unbiased sources of information about the best practices in web app security.
OWASP Top Web Security Risks
Below are the top web security risks reported on OWASP:
1. SQL Injection
This type of injection attack makes it possible to execute malicious and improper SQL queries that could control the webserver databases. Attackers can use SQL statements to bypass application security measures. For example, they can authenticate or authorize web pages or websites and get the content of SQL databases bypassing SQL statements. This attack can happen over sites that use SQL, MYSQL, Oracle, etc., like databases. This is the most prevalent and dangerous security attack, according to OWASP 2017 documentation.
2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
This enables attackers to inject client-side scripting into web applications and web pages viewed by other users. Additionally, a cross-site scripting vulnerability can be used to bypass policies such as the same-origin policy. As of 2007, XSS accounted for 84% of all the security attacks on the web. Depending on the sensitiveness of data, XSS could be a minor attack or a major threat to the websites.
Exploiters fold malicious data into the content that is being delivered to the client browser. When data is delivered to the client, it looks like the combined data has come from the trusted server itself and has all the permission sets at the client end. As a result, the attacker can now gain elevated access and privileges to the sensitive page content, session cookies, and a variety of other information.
3. Broken Authentication and Session Management
This attack allows to either capture or bypasses the authentication on the web page or application. This is more of a weak standard followed by website developers that causes the issues like for instance:
- Predictable login credentials.
- Not protecting user login credentials properly when stored.
- Session IDs are exposed in the URL.
- Passwords and session IDs are not being sent over encrypted URLs.
- Session values do not time out after a specific amount of time.
To prevent these attacks, the developer should be careful in maintaining the proper standards like protecting passwords and proper hashing of them while being passed, Not exposing Session IDs, timing out the session after a specific amount of time, and recreating Session IDs after a successful login attempt.
4. To Fix Broken Authentication
- Password Length should be maintained to at least 8 characters.
- Password should be complex to make the user unable to predict it. This should make use of proper password set rules like alphanumeric, special character, and number upper/lower case combinations.
- Authentication failures should never indicate which part of authentication data is incorrect. Instead, error responses should be generic to some extent. E.g., Invalid credentials instead of showing username or password, which exactly is incorrect.
- This is one of the bad practices that makes the websites vulnerable to attacks, for, e.g. App server configurations return full stack trace to the users making the attackers know where the flaw is and accordingly attack the sites.
- It is important that a strong application architecture is implemented and run that security scans periodically to prevent such cases.
It is very important that every website follow proper standards, maintain proper coding techniques, have robust app architecture, run the scans periodically without fail, and avoid web security attacks to a larger extent.
This is a guide to Web Application Security. Here we discuss the introduction, OWASP top web security risks and security misconfigurations. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –