Web Application Security- Understanding the Importance of Keeping Your Website Safe

Web Application Security

Over the years, web applications have become more intricate and interconnected systems. Therefore, ensuring its security is of immense importance. This article will try to discuss web applications, their importance, and methodologies through which you can test the vulnerabilities of your web application. Prioritizing the security of your applications helps in mitigating risks of cyberattacks, shielding your data from unauthorized access as well as saving your and your business’ time and financial resources.

What do you mean by web application security?

Web application security commonly known as Web AppSec, is a comprehensive approach that safeguards a website’s assets against potential attacks, therefore, allowing smooth and uninterrupted functionalities. However, to achieve this, you need to employ a couple of measures that work in collaboration to establish a safe digital environment. Just like any other software, web applications are vulnerable to flaws that if exploited, can pose a threat to the organizations that depend on them. Web application security or Web AppSec, is like a defense mechanism against the exploitation of these flaws. This is done by utilizing security development practices and applying security measures throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC) through which problems at the design and implementation level are dealt with before they become an issue.

Understanding Why Web Application Security Is Important

Web application security testing refers to the detection of vulnerabilities in web applications and their configurations. The main aim is to test the application layer, which usually operates on the HTTP protocol.  Scrutinizing the behavior of the application by subjecting it to various inputs may cause anomalies and induce unexpected responses. Employing this strategy, which is also known as “negative tests” or  “contra-tests”, examines whether the system performs tasks beyond its intended capabilities. Web application security testing, must consider the entire web application and not just the included security features. It is also very important to assess whether other elements (such as business logic and usage of appropriate input validation and output encoding) are done securely. The main aim is to make sure that any services exposed via the web application are safe.

Following are the different types of Web application security tests:

  1. Dynamic Application Security Test (DAST): Automated application security tests are well-suited for low-risk internal apps which are mandated by regulatory assessments and are required to be secure. However, other applications, especially those of medium risk or undergoing small changes should use DAST along with some manually performed web security testing against common flaws.
  2. Static Application Security Test (SAST): This type of security test usually employs both automatic and manual testing. It is perfect for identifying vulnerabilities without putting applications live in a production environment. It also helps static analysis tools to detect and repair software flaws in source code.
  3. Penetration Test: This manual application security test is best for applications that are being updated regularly. The assessment incorporates industrial logic and adversary-based testing to detect more complex attack scenarios.
  4. Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP): Application security technologies are constantly evolving to enhance the monitoring and protection against attacks. These tools work by instrumenting an application so that any potential vulnerability can be quickly detected and blocked.

How does testing web application security reduce the risk factor of your organization?

Although web applications may be susceptible to various flaws in today’s environment, certain problems can immensely affect your application’s functionality and security.

Following are the examples of some web application attacks:

  • SQL Injection
  • XSS (Cross-Site Scripting)
  • Remote Command Execution
  • Path Traversal

The impact of the above-mentioned attacks is as follows:

  • Restriction in accessing the contents
  • Compromisation of user accounts
  • Putting in harmful code
  • Revenue lost from sales
  • Customers’ confidence loss
  • Reputational harm to the company’s brand, etc.

The list above demonstrates some of the most common assaults that are done by attackers, which may cause significant disruption to an individual program or the whole organization. Having a clear understanding of different attacks that make an application vulnerable as well as what these attacks can lead to, enables you to address any vulnerability and perform accurate testing for the same.

Identifying the main reasons for such vulnerabilities helps you to counter such problems by minimizing controls during the software development life cycle, preventing any problems from occurring. Also knowing how these assaults occur, enables the security testing of web applications to focus on well-known concerns. 

It is important to detect potential attacks and understand their consequences for the protection of your company. By understanding the severity of an issue identified during a security test, you and your team can more efficiently use time and resources to address it. Work on remediation efforts in order of highest-risk (most critical) issues first down to lowest impact problems.

Assessing the potential impact of each application in your organization’s application library before a problem occurs might help you prioritize application security testing. It is best to schedule security testing to focus on your company’s most important applications first, with more focused testing following to reduce the danger of a breach.

Features to review in a Web Application Security

The following are the factors that you need to take into consideration while performing web application vulnerability scanning. Each may lead to flaws, which lead to significant risk to your organization: 

  1. Application and Server Configuration: Vulnerabilities may be found in various areas including encryption and cryptographic configurations, and web server settings. Following the container security best practices is important, specifically for applications deployed in containerized environments. This incorporates ensuring proper container image security and implementing strong isolation policies between containers.
  2. Input Validation and Error Handling: If you are unable to handle input and output properly, it will lead to SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other prevalent injection vulnerabilities.
  3. Authentication and Session Management: user impersonation may occur. Therefore, you should consider the strength of your credentials and how well they are protected.
  4. Authorization: This refers to assessing the application’s ability to protect vertical and horizontal privilege escalation.
  5. Business Logic: Business Logic is important for various commercial applications.
  6. Client-side Logic: Client-side technologies include Silverlight, Flash, and Java applets which are becoming more and more common in the latest web pages. This type of feature allows for more interactive and dynamic pages.

Web Application Security in a Nut-Shell

To summarise, web security is very important for every organization. By understanding the importance of web application security, the different types of web application security tests, and how web application security testing can help mitigate your organization’s risk factor, you can make sure that your web page is safe and secure.

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