Web security is one of the most talked about things in today’s time. As more and more people use the internet and the number of web applications also increases with it, the need for building
secure apps is higher than ever before. Hackers often exploit security vulnerabilities in applications to cause havoc and monetary losses to large applications. But they also target small-scale applications as the companies that build and maintain such applications do not have enough resources to make their applications secure.
Hacking and virus injections are common for web application servers, but those are not the only ways hackers exploit applications. There are many other security vulnerabilities on web apps that can be exploited for malicious intents. Before you think of protecting your website from them, you need to understand the different security vulnerabilities. In this article, we will uncover seven such vulnerabilities that are often found in production applications such as E-commerce or payment gateways, but before that, let us understand what a security vulnerability
What is a Security Vulnerability?
Security vulnerabilities in applications are any flaws that can be exploited to cause damage to an application, compromise its data privacy or render it unfit for business usage for some time.
Every year, companies lose millions in data theft situations that arise due to security vulnerabilities, and that is why it is imperative to tackle all security vulnerabilities appropriately
so that you can secure data which is important to business operations. After having a brief understanding of security vulnerabilities, now is the time to learn about different vulnerabilities in detail.
7 Security Vulnerabilities Found in Web Applications
1. Broken Access Control
Every application that is deployed on the web has some sort of access control. Not everyone can explore every part of the application, and users must have authorization from the application to access it. Broken access control is a typical web application vulnerability that is exploited heavily. To understand broken access control, visualize a thief entering your house while your dog is sleeping at the main gate. In such scenarios, the thief is free to enter and cause havoc inside the house without getting noticed by the guard dog. This is how broken access control is exploited.
Timely revocation of access control does help in stopping unauthorized access, but what if the access control mechanism itself is compromised? In such situations, it is an open invitation to attackers. To prevent such mishaps in your applications, you can add multi-factor authentication for your apps and implement robust access control mechanisms that work the same across
the app. Moreover, you should limit access to APIs and server resources so that they cannot be exploited through remote connections.
2. SQL Injection Attacks
Relational databases are used heavily across every industry and its software. They are suitable for processing transactions at speed, and they also offer good features to store and retrieve data efficiently. Almost every relational database uses SQL or different flavors of SQL for adding, updating, or deleting data in the database. With so many possible applications, SQL injections are famous web application vulnerabilities. SQL injection attacks are types of attacks on databases of applications wherein attackers send malicious code to a server under a legitimate request. Once the code reaches the server, it starts execution and performs dangerous operations on the application & database. SQL injection can be used to erase or steal data from databases, and this can occur without any warnings. Such attacks are easy to perform, and they are easy to stop too. Most SQL injection attacks take place when user input is not validated or sanitized before processing. So the best way to stop such attacks is to use prepared statements instead of raw SQL queries and also sanitize any user input that you are trying to append in the query.
3. Cross-site Request Forgery
Cross-site request forgery is a type of security vulnerability in web apps where a victim is used in the middle to execute malicious code and actions on a server. When a user has logged into a web app, and his session is deemed trustworthy, attackers take over the session and forward malicious requests to the webserver to compromise on various aspects and perform data theft.
CSRF attacks can be prevented by having continuous authentication measures for every request.
4. Directory Traversal
Directory traversal is a vulnerability in web applications when hackers try to traverse a directory without upfront access. To serve the apps seamlessly, web apps have many other things apart from code. They serve static assets from some directories, and by analyzing the requests for these static files, hackers try to explore other directories in the server using trial and error methods. In such attacks, the primary aim is to alter or steal source code or data files stored on a server. The only way to save your apps from such attacks is to serve static assets from an entirely different server or CDN, which cannot be traversed back through URL requests.
5. Local File Inclusion
Most applications today perform CRUD applications, and many times they accept files as inputs for some sort of bulk processing. While this feature is extremely helpful for users, hackers can exploit this feature to upload and run malicious code files to a server. Hackers can pass the file through the file upload feature under disguise and automate it to run once it reaches the host system. In such cases, you might not know that there’s any unwanted file that has caused security concerns before it becomes late. If you want to safeguard your apps from such security vulnerabilities, you should avoid using outdated protocols like SMTP or FTP to transfer and upload files. Moreover, once the file is accepted as input, it should be validated before processing anything and uploading it to the server.
6. Cross-site Scripting
7. Sending Complete Error Messages
Many developers make the mistake of not hiding error messages. They think that keeping error messages visible on production apps will help them debug applications easily when the need arises, but it does more damage than it can ever help. When you choose to send complete stack trace and error messages on request failures, hackers can understand them and create a profile for your apps and the hardware. Then they can look for common issues that can be exploited in your specific hardware and repeatedly target them until they are compromised. The only way to keep your apps secure from such vulnerabilities is to keep the error messages short and simple. Never share the stack trace and root cause of the error directly with a user when the request fails.
By now, you know the common security vulnerabilities in web applications and how hackers exploit them for malicious uses. If your applications have any of these vulnerabilities, you should
solve them in the ways that we have discussed in the blog. Get in touch with cyber security experts and secure your apps so you never have to face data privacy concerns.