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10 Most Common Web Application Security Vulnerabilities and Threats

Web App Security Vulnerabilities and Threats

People are currently so used to getting almost any service or information about it online that it is difficult to imagine a modern company having no web application. Due to this fact, the requirements for web app quality, its operation stability, and most importantly, the proper level of security are extremely high.

Security risks in web applications are becoming one of the most pressing problems. In case attackers gain access to confidential data, the companies may face serious financial and reputational losses, all the more so because the list of potential website security flaws is quite long.

In this article, we will consider the top 10 most common web application security vulnerabilities and share some tips on how to prevent them.

1. Broken Authentication

Many apps require user identification to start working. If authentication and session management functions fail, attackers can gain access to user accounts without entering passwords. For instance, this happens when session keys or tokens used to identify users are intercepted.

How to prevent broken authentication vulnerabilities:

  • Most attacks of this kind occur due to using a password-only authentication method. Switch to multi-factor authentication.
  • Access control has to be executed on the server side, not on the client’s one.
  • Authentication failures have to be logged and, if they recur, a warning has to be sent to administrators.

2. Login and Password Theft

Users often take this issue lightheartedly and create far too simple passwords that are the same for different websites. Due to this fact, attackers have no problem sorting them out and gaining access to profiles. They can also fraudulently get them in one place and use them for authorization in another app afterward.

Login and Password Theft vulnerability

How to prevent login and password theft:

  • Prevent visitors from using simple passwords. You may insist on the following requirements: no less than eight characters-, upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Passwords can be less complex if you require two-factor authentication as an additional layer of protection.
  • To protect your web app from brute-force attacks, you can limit the number of password requests.
  • Secure authorization using the one-time generated code.

That is one of the most commonly exploited vulnerabilities according to the “OWASP Top 10 Security Risks & Vulnerabilities” report.

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3. Sensitive Data Exposure

If confidential data is stored or transferred using weak or no encryption algorithms, the data is vulnerable to various attacks. Preventing sensitive data exposure is crucial for web application security.

How to prevent sensitive data exposure:

  • Use secure HTTPS protocol for data transfer.
  • Encryption keys should be sufficient in size. If you use short keys, the encryption is vulnerable to brute-force attacks.
  • Delete obsolete or irrelevant data.
  • All data in databases has to be kept securely.

4. Injections

That is a kind of web application vulnerability that occurs when unverified user-entered data is transferred to the interpreter for execution. This way, any user can execute arbitrary code in the interpreter, and that allows them to access, modify, or delete data.

Web SQL Injections

How to prevent injection vulnerabilities:

  • Add filters for input data to prevent query manipulation.
  • Use parameterized queries supported by most web programming languages.
  • Validate the received parameters according to reference (the list of expected parameters is often known and limited).
  • Filter the entry by keywords and ban the attacker subsequently (complicates scanning for vulnerabilities).

5. Access Control Vulnerabilities

Website security issues of this sort occur due to web app code errors that open access to sensitive data for unauthorized users. Insufficient or bad access restrictions allow attackers to bypass authorization and execute actions only accessible to privileged users like administrators.

How to prevent access control vulnerabilities:

  • A web app can avoid this risk when it uses authorization tokens and sets hard control elements for them. That is a safe way to make sure users are who they claim to be.

6. XSS (Cross-Site Scripting)

The list of the most common web app vulnerabilities also includes those related to Security Misconfiguration. These flaws allow attackers to execute a cross-site scripting (XSS) session attack to intercept users’ session identifiers and carry out various actions in the app on their behalf.

XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) vulnerability

How to minimize security risks to websites:

  • An application can use input data filtering and user input screening to prevent this type of attack.

7. Unvalidated Redirects & Forwards

Example: Attackers use a redirect to forward users to a malicious website where they can steal sensitive data using malicious code or social engineering methods.

How to prevent these web application vulnerabilities:

  • Whenever possible, use static addresses and eliminate redirects. Otherwise, check the existing redirects carefully to avoid diddling.

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8. Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities

It is about frameworks, libraries, and other similar components allowing developers to avoid excessive work. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in such modules to launch an attack on your web app.

How to prevent these vulnerabilities:

  • The best way to minimize these sorts of security risks is to comprehend the vulnerabilities and weak points in the components used and update those components regularly.

Web API Vulnerabilities

9. CSRF Attacks (Cross-Site Request Forgery)

A CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) attack allows attackers to use victims’ browsers to send specific HTTP requests, including cookies, session files, and any other data automatically included in a vulnerable web app. This way, attackers can generate requests from users’ browsers, which an app considers correct and sent by users themselves.

How to prevent it:

  • Generate a unique token on your server for each authorized user. There is no way to forge headers without knowing the authorization token of a specific user.

10. Manipulation with Logs

Here the application writes untrusted data to the event log. Attackers can fake log entries or inject malicious code there.

Apps typically write transaction history to the log for further processing, debugging, or statistics gathering. Logs are parsed manually or automatically.

How to prevent:

  • Unstructured logging is insecure. Use structured logging instead. This approach allows preventing critically sensitive data from getting into the log.

To Sum Up

If attackers exploit vulnerabilities in an enterprise web app, a company may face large financial and reputation losses. A good trend is that companies take web app security seriously now even when their apps are for internal use only.

It is not so easy to achieve and then maintain a high web app security level. While pursuing this objective, it is important to adhere to two important rules as follows:

  • fix identified vulnerabilities as soon as possible;
  • automate this process wherever possible.

The Lvivity team has a pool of experience in developing web apps. We pay considerable attention to the security of the products we are working on. If you are looking for a reliable technology partner to assist you with such a project, please contact us to find out more.

Serhii Laba

Front-end Developer at Lvivity

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