The web has revolutionized how we conduct our personal and professional lives. And web apps, through cloud computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), have become the backbone of web development. Small businesses, non-profits, start-ups, and even Fortune 500 companies rely on web apps to offer a range of services that allow them to thrive.
Gartner estimates that developers created 3.3 million web apps in 2016; they estimate approximately 57 new web apps launched every minute . Imagine the number of web apps that need to be maintained, updated, and overseen. The reality is that a lot more cyber attacks target web applications than any other type of application–even mobile ones.
Cybercriminals can hijack web apps through common vulnerabilities that lead to data breaches. Think about it: web developers are happy with their web app as is and don’t find vulnerabilities or patches; meanwhile, cyber attackers are scanning for these vulnerabilities while they look for ways to exploit them. Cybercriminals are constantly finding new bugs and exploits within web applications; as soon as one is fixed, they’re busy looking for the following web app flaw.
The web app security landscape is constantly changing, and web development teams need to keep up with these changes to protect web apps from cyber attacks. This article will provide web developers guidance on web app vulnerabilities, how web apps are compromised by hackers and standard web app vulnerabilities that lead to data breaches. We will also give you tips on securing web applications against cyber-attacks while developing or updating your web application codebase.
Vulnerabilities of Web Apps
Common web app vulnerabilities comprise of the following:
This web application vulnerability allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into web pages that web users access. In web apps, cross-site scripting leads to user information disclosure or session hijacking. It poses a severe risk for financial and eCommerce web applications. An attacker can also use this web app attack vector to execute other attacks such as content spoofing and clickjacking–all of which work together to steal an organization’s proprietary data or access unauthorized features without the knowledge of web app users. With the rise in mobile usage, cross-site scripting is now being exploited on mobile applications through mobile web browsers with auto-complete functionality. Cyber attackers use web app vulnerabilities to target web apps through mobile web browsers such as Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF/XSRF)
This web application attack takes advantage of web app users’ web browser sessions to execute malicious actions. A CSRF attack is also known as an XSRF attack on a mobile web application; these web app attacks allow attackers to manipulate web applications through cross-domain requests made without the knowledge or authorization of legitimate website visitors. The impact of this web app vulnerability can cause session hijacking, information theft, and denial of service attacks. Web developers should be aware of how this web application flaw works: for example; an attacker may create malicious code within their web application to trick web users into performing unintended web app actions. In eCommerce web apps, this web attack can enable attackers to make online purchases by executing the payment transaction themselves without the knowledge of web app users.
This type of web app vulnerability leads to data theft and information disclosure within a database used by an application. Using SQL injection web app attacks allows cybercriminals to access unauthorized information or data from unprotected databases such as Oracle DBMS (open source) or Microsoft SQL Server (closed source). The impact is severe considering that an attacker can even manipulate financial records for their malicious use or sell them on the dark web market. For example, cybercriminals stole $2 billion in credit card numbers through various web app attacks such as web injects and web application vulnerabilities.
Directory Traversal / File Inclusion
This web application flaw allows attackers to access local files or directories through web apps by using an invalid parameter, directory traversing techniques, or a specially crafted URL. Due to this web vulnerability, web users can be exposed to malware distribution, denial of service attacks, and loss of intellectual property data from the organization’s web servers. An attacker’s main objective is to gain unauthorized access into the back-end database server where valuable information is stored; this is done by taking advantage of vulnerable web applications with directory traversal flaws.
Cybercriminals are moving away from exploiting common web application vulnerabilities, like SQL injection. These web app attacks are no longer effective. Web developers can now secure web apps from these web vulnerabilities by implementing SSL encryption while ensuring web app code is always up to date. Insecure deserialization web application flaws allow attackers to manipulate serialized objects to gain unauthorized access into web applications such as Oracle Java, Rails, etc. Deserializing an object involves reconstructing the state of an object or class after it has been converted into a byte stream; this process creates an object graph out of the data received–essentially allowing attackers to execute arbitrary remote code execution (RCE).
Many web applications use web-accessible resources stored on web servers without sufficient permission; this practice can lead to unintentional file disclosure of web application vulnerabilities. Web application flaws can lead to unauthorized data access, loss of important information and intellectual property breaches. Similar web-accessible resources flaws can arise due to unprotected files in the public folders on external web servers; this flaw exposes web developers to hacking attempts by cybercriminals seeking access into their web apps.
Methods to Enhance Web Apps Cybersecurity
Web app owners must adopt the best practices to prevent web apps from vulnerabilities. It would be ideal for web developers to maintain a vulnerability database that stores all known web vulnerabilities and their corresponding solutions; web app owners can use it for regular updates of web applications. It would also help developers identify web app vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them to carry out malicious attacks like Denial-of-Service (DoS). DoS will force attackers to move away from common web application flaws such as SQL injection or directory traversal and focus on other potential vulnerabilities within the codes of different web apps. This will result in slowing down the rate at which new web vulnerabilities are being published online.
Web app owners can implement web security best practices such as web application firewalls (WAFs) to identify vulnerabilities in web apps. WAFs are web applications that monitor web traffic and scan for application vulnerabilities on web servers; developers can use these security solutions to identify web vulnerabilities like SQL injection within requests and responses before attackers exploit them. They can also block unauthorized access into web apps preventing loss of sensitive data stored on the network or database server.
Cyber attacks are rising, and web app vulnerabilities have resulted in cyber criminals stealing sensitive data from web owners across many industries. To secure web apps, it is crucial web developers maintain a vulnerability database that developers can use to identify vulnerabilities within web apps as soon as they are published online. This will ensure businesses can patch their web applications before hackers exploit common web application flaws like SQL injection or directory traversal.
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