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The Importance of Web Application Vulnerability Management

The rise of web applications in the late 1990's was a great milestone when it came to realizing the true potential of the internet. Web applications have progressed even more and they are now a staple for businesses of all sizes. They allow for seamless day to day business operations and communication.

While they are extremely beneficial, these web applications are like open doors to your business. If they are not made secure, cybercriminals can manipulate the application to provide them any data that they are looking for, including sensitive business information.

Contrary to popular belief, all web applications are vulnerable to attacks and the average number of vulnerabilities found in a web application in 2018 was 33.

Scanning your web application for vulnerabilities is, therefore, no longer an optional security measure. Let’s take a deep dive into this topic and understand why it’s so important to have a web application vulnerability management program at your organization.

What Are Web Applications?

A web application refers to any computer program that carries out specific functions via a web browser that is used to run the application. This is different from the traditional desktop applications that used the computer itself as the medium to run programs. However, in case of web application, it’s the web browser that becomes the client.

The benefits of using web applications for business are numerous, including ease of scalability and increased flexibility. It allows your clients to easily operate via a web browser, regardless of the type of their computer or operating system. For example, Google Docs can be accessed on any device as long as there is an internet connection available. Therefore, neither your location nor your device type affects usability or accessibility of the application. This also means that your employees can work remotely and can collaborate with teams at any hour of the day. Similarly, developers can fine-tune and scale web applications based on growing business needs.

Web Application Security Risks

The dispersed nature of web applications also expands is vulnerability to cyber threats. Web application attacks cost nearly $3 million a year. Therefore, it’s necessary to proactively formulate a web application security plan rather than relying on reactive measures once a breach occurs as that may bring huge losses to your company and its reputation. A single breach can result in a leak of all your business information and destroy your customer relationships really quickly.

A web application vulnerability scanning program will help you keep your business protected as your users will always be alert and will be able to find the most appropriate solutions in a prompt manner.

To be able to best protect your web applications from security issues, it’s important for you to understand the common means of exploitation. Here are the top 6 web application security risks.

1. Injection

This is a vulnerability that affects web application databases when unreliable data is sent to an interpreter by means of a query or command. The hacker may inject malicious code to a normal looking command to disrupt the system by making it use data without authorization or perform involuntary commands to compromise the application. LDAP, NoSQL, SQL, and XPath queries are prone to injection vulnerability.

On the other hand, fuzzers that test for command execution vulnerabilities can decrease the probability of an injection attack becoming successful.

Injection threats to web applications can lead to loss of valuable data, access authorization, or a complete loss of system control.

2. Exposure of Sensitive Data

Exposure of sensitive data particularly financial information such as account numbers, credit card details, and personal data such as residential or health-related information is a serious risk to any business. This vulnerability refers to the transmission and storage of these kinds of sensitive data. When attackers scan your system for this vulnerability, they may steal valuable information from your database and use it maliciously.

Server attacks and man-in-the-middle attacks commonly fall under this category. Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is especially at risk from these types of attacks.

3. Authentication Failures

Your systems may get compromised when access management or user logins are not properly implemented. If a vulnerability scan in web applications finds a failure, it may be due to loss of authentication. This critical vulnerability allows attackers to impersonate an authorized user and manipulate information such as usernames, passwords, unexpired session tokens, and more. A broken authentication attack can prove to be lethal as a single failed log-in can put the entire system and stored data in danger.

4. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

This happens when users believe they are accessing a secure and legitimate site but the hackers have injected malicious code into the web application through the user’s browser. It involves the application opening a new web page without proper validation or escaping or updating of an existing web page with user-supplied information via a browser API.

5. Security Mis-configuration

This one refers to breaches made by means of default accounts, unpatched flaws, or unprotected data systems. It covers a wide range of application implementation components including pre-installed virtual machines, web servers, network services, code, and more. An automatic vulnerability scanner program is a must-have for testing for mis-configurations.

6. Unsafe Deserialization

Deserialization is the process of recreating a data object from the byte stream. It becomes insecure when an untrusted code is used to create vulnerability or remote code execution. This is a more complex sort of attack and is, therefore, more damaging.

As web applications continue to evolve and offer more functionality, the threats and risks associated with them are also increasing. Given the importance of web applications in our professional and personal lives, it’s crucial that these applications are protected. Having a web application vulnerability management plan in place will help you stay one step ahead of cybercriminals by identifying and fixing vulnerabilities before a breach occurs.