With increasing cyber threats, web application security is more challenging than ever today. To protect your data from cybercriminals, your best option is implementing the right security measures.
Please read this guide to the end to learn more about web application security, why it is important, types of web application security and best practices, among other basics.
What is Web Application Security?
When you consider that a malware attack can set a company back over $2.6 million, it is easy to understand why many tech-savvy business owners are concerned about their security. However, what exactly is web application security?
Simply put, web application security is all about safeguarding your online business or service from cyber threats. These threats run the gamut from malware infections to hacking and data theft etc.
Web application security is essentially an umbrella term for the technologies and practices you implement to protect your business’ online activities from threats. In general, it involves two things: One; identifying security holes in your web applications, and two; implementing or applying the needed patches or measures to mitigate the attacks.
Why is Web Application Security Important?
If you thought cybercriminals only target big Fortune 500 companies, you are absolutely in error! According to an Accenture Cybercrime study, close to 43% of all cyberattacks target SMBs. In addition, the worst part? Only 14 percent of the accounted SMBs are prepped to handle such attacks.
To comprehend better the importance of web application security, think of web applications as the front door to your online business or service. While they (these web applications) allow users or your customers to interact with your network and access your content, they also expose your business to several potential cyber risks.
If you have not taken measures to secure your web applications properly, almost every motivated attacker can exploit their vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to your confidential data or network. This can harm your reputation and leave a significant financial dent in your business. That said, here is a quick summary of why you ought to take web application security in 2023 and beyond:
#1. Proactively identifying and remedying vulnerabilities:
A well-defined web application security or plan ensures you are continuously monitoring and scanning your web applications. This way, it is easier to spot vulnerabilities in your system and apply patches before hackers can get to them.
#2. Protecting your organization’s sensitive data:
Let us face it; most web applications handle an awful lot of sensitive data, which can range from financial details to personal information etc. If you make an effort to secure your web application through techniques like SSL certificate, you have a better chance of keeping this information away from hackers so they are not accessed or stolen. This could save your company from potentially draining legal consequences, among other costly damages.
#3. Peace of mind:
It is not easy to remain calm if you already understand that your web applications are one of the most preferred vectors for malicious characters. Here is where web application security fits in so nicely again. When correctly implemented, you can rest easy knowing that all your personal data have minimal likelihood of successful attacks.
Types of Web Application Security
A strategy for web application security is not complete if it does not outline several different security measures against potential vulnerabilities. In fact, it should be custom-tailored to your organization’s unique needs. Here is a quick roundup of some of the most important types of web application security and their roles in protecting your applications from attacks:
This involves verifying user identity when accessing web applications. Properly implemented, a stable authentication system can help you ensure that only authorized (specific groups of users) can access sensitive pieces of data. Biometric authentication, usernames with passwords and two-factor (2FA) authentication etc are some of the most common authentication options you may want to try.
After the user has been authenticated, authorization in web applications helps determine the specific actions the user can perform within the application. This can range from restricting the user’s access to some features or pages simply limiting the amount of data they can access or modify. Authorization can also be used to specify the specific transactions each user can do depending on the levels they can perform.
This involves converting every piece of sensitive data into a form that cannot be deciphered unless the person accessing the data has the decryption keys. Encryption options include SSL certificate/TLS certificate for safeguarding data in transit and AES for safeguarding data at rest.
#4. Application Security Testing:
Just as it sounds, this involves the evaluation of web applications for potential loopholes. Web application security testing may include automated testing, manual testing or penetration testing.
Web Application Security Threats
If you are serious about safeguarding your business’ confidential data — for the benefit of both your users or customers and your business as a whole-, you may be wondering about the various types of web application threats that could potentially undermine your security.
Once you have a clear understanding of the threats that exist and their potential impact on your business, it will be easier to take proactive measures to address them.
Here are some of the web application security threats you may want to be knowledgeable about:
1. Injection: Attackers insert malicious code into an application input field (such as a search box) to gain access to sensitive data.
2. Poor Logging & Monitoring: Inadequate tracking of user activities and system events makes detecting and responding to security breaches difficult.
3. XML External Entities (XXE): Attackers exploit weaknesses in XML parsers to execute malicious code, steal data, or crash a system.
4. Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities: Applications that use outdated or vulnerable third-party components can be susceptible to attacks.
5. Cross-Site Scripting: Attackers insert malicious code into a website to steal user data or take control of a user’s browser.
6. Sensitive Data Leakage: Attackers steal sensitive data (such as credit card information or personal identification) through unsecured application features or communication channels.
7. Security Misconfiguration: Incorrectly configured application security settings can leave the application vulnerable to attacks.
8. Broken Access Control: Attackers can gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or functionality by exploiting user authentication and authorization flaws.
9. Poor Authentication and Session Management: Weak authentication processes and insufficient session management practices make it easier for attackers to access sensitive data or hijack user sessions.
Web Application Security Best Practice
It does help to follow the web application security best practices if you wish to protect your web applications and the sensitive data they handle. Here is a quick roundup of the web application security’s best practices. In addition, how to implement them:
1. Maintaining Security in App Development:
Maintaining security during your web application development means adhering to secure coding practices. It may also involve conducting code reviews and performing regular testing to promptly identify and fix potential security holes.
Secure coding practices involve writing code designed to prevent common security risks, like injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS), and cross-site request forgery (CSRF). Regular security testing, such as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning, can help you identify any weaknesses in your application’s security.
Encryption is a core component of web application security. As explained earlier, it involves converting sensitive data into formats that cannot be read without the proper decryption key.
This is a key step in protecting sensitive data from being intercepted or accessed by unauthorized parties. There are several types of encryptions you may want to utilize, including symmetric encryption (using the same key to encrypt and decrypt data) and asymmetric encryption (using different keys for encryption and decryption).
3. Implement Authentication, Role Management and Access Control
Authentication involves verifying the identity of users before granting them access to sensitive data or app functionality. In role management, you will assign users specific roles and permissions based on their job functions or responsibilities. When it comes to access control, you will be limiting user access to sensitive data and functionality to only those users who need it.
4. Beware of Security Misconfigurations
Security misconfigurations are among the most common causes of web application security breaches.
Security misconfigurations can occur at any level of the application stack. In addition, they top the list of the most common cause of web application security breaches. Some of the most relatable examples of security misconfigurations include using default passwords, enabling unnecessary services or features, and leaving debugging code enabled in production environments.
5. Implementing HTTPS (and Redirecting All HTTP Traffic to HTTPS)
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is a protocol for secure communication over the Internet. It uses encryption to ensure that data in transit is securely guarded and safe from attack techniques like eavesdropping, interception, and tampering.
HTTPS is particularly important for web applications that handle sensitive data, like financial information or personal identification. To enable HTTPS on the site, it is necessary to buy SSL certificate. It is suggested to buy it from branded certificate authorities.
The potential risks of not securing your web applications can be devastating. Therefore, it is wise that you do not take any chances. Take action now, secure your web applications, and keep them out of reach of cybercriminals.