Dennis Underwood
Published on
April 17, 2023

Web Application Security: Defending Your Apps

All web applications will have flaws and defects. But web application security allows you to defend your apps against these inevitable weak points.

Effective security measures are a must if you want to protect your web app and its users. These effective short and long-term strategies will enhance your web application's security.

It's normal for an app to have design flaws that make it easy prey for hackers. That's why you have to take the necessary steps to ensure it's secure. This guide will discuss web application security tests, associated risks for inadequate security, and the best strategies for defending your apps.

Related: How To Prevent Cyber Attacks: A Guide For Employers

What Is Web Application Security?

Web application security (Web AppSec) protects websites from malicious attacks, unauthorized access, and exploitation design flaws. It also prevents any data stored on the app from being compromised. Web application security aims to prevent hackers from taking advantage of vulnerabilities they can exploit. 

It accomplishes this by implementing security measures throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC). You'll rest assured that your website will continue to function normally, even during an attack.

Different Types of Web Application Security Tests

Web application security tests are the best way to identify web application imperfections. Once identified, the issue is assessed to determine how it impacts the application's overall security. Here are several different types of security tests:

Dynamic Application Security Tests (DAST)

DASTs inspect for design flaws in your system. They work best when the development process has been completed, and the application has been deployed. 

These tests excel at internally facing attacks and can be used to identify weaknesses in the application code quickly. Combining DAST with manual testing is recommended for minor changes to critical and medium-risk applications. 

Static Application Security Tests (SAST)

SASTs work by recognizing potential security issues during the development process. They scan the application's code for any design flaws in the application. It helps developers identify and fix security issues before the application gets deployed.

Penetration Tests (PEN)

Penetration tests pinpoint potential threats in the application and simulate a real-world attack. Users can execute these tests at will or allow them to work autonomously.

Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP)

RASP tests protect the application at runtime by monitoring and blocking any potential attacks or malicious activities in real time.

Related: What Are The 5 Pillars of Cyber Security?

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Common Risks Associated with Web Application Security

Before you can take the necessary steps to protect your app, you need to know its associated risks. Some common risks associated with web application security include the following:

Application Library Vulnerabilities

Using outdated or at-risk libraries in an application can lead to serious security issues down the road. All third-party libraries you use should be up-to-date and free from security flaws. One example of such an issue is Spring4Shell, which may require considerable time to resolve, giving hackers more time to inject malicious code into your system. 

Operating System Vulnerabilities

The operating system of your application can pose another potential risk. Always make sure your OS has all the latest security patches. An outdated OS can open the door to a ransomware or malware attack. This is especially important when hardware is used because the underlying operating system can be vulnerable to attacks.

Supply Chain Integration Attacks

Integrating third-party services into the application is a significant step in the development process. However, you must ensure these third-party services have the necessary security measures in place. 

For example, if a third-party service such as a payment processor or eHealth portal is integrated without proper authentication, it could lead to a data breach. Data breaches, in these cases, can cause the application to stop working or steal its data, putting sensitive information in the hands of the wrong people.

API Abuse

APIs enable applications to communicate with each other through a web service. API Abuse can happen as a result of public internet exposure because it allows attackers to access confidential data. Stolen OAuth tokens, for example, can give attackers access to your application and its data.

SQL Injections

SQL injections are familiar attacks on web applications. Unfortunately, all it takes is incorrect validation of input fields to allow attackers to execute malicious code on the server. However, it can be prevented by adequately sanitizing inputs and using parameterized queries to prevent SQL injections.

Strategies For Improving Web Application Security

Obtaining web application security requires a combination of short and long-term strategies. Here are some to consider:

OAuth Tokens

OAuth tokens authenticate users and control access to the application. Keeping these tokens secure is critical, as hackers can use them to access the application and its data. Web AppSec can monitor OAuth tokens regularly for any suspicious activity to prevent unauthorized access and protect the application from data breaches.

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

WAFs filter traffic before it reaches the server, blocking malicious requests and preventing attacks such as SQL injections. They work in real-time while allowing you to quickly detect any threats before it's too late. You can implement a firewall with custom rules or an automated tool like ModSecurity. 

API Gateways

API gateways filter traffic with the goal of protecting your app from security threats. You can minimize the risk by configuring your throttling, authentication, and rate-limiting features. API gateways detect malicious traffic and block them before it reaches the application.

Bot Management

Bot management works by filtering out desirable behavior to identify the sources of undesirable activity. It prevents design flaw scanning, comment spam, and brute force attacks. It even mitigates bots that participate in price and conduct scraping.

Encryption Certificate Management

Encryption certificates convert sensitive information into secret code to prevent data breaches. You'll know that they are functioning optimally when the lock symbol appears in the browser bar. You must always keep them updated as they are responsible for authenticating websites to protect users' data. 

Intelligent Logging

Intelligent logging helps monitor the application for suspicious activities and detect potential security threats. Logging data identifies trends and determines the source of any malicious activities. 

AI systems like CyberCrucible can learn what is considered normal behavior in your systems and promptly alert you of any performance issues and relevant metrics.

It even provides a root-cause analysis that tells you what attacked your system, how the attacker gained access to it, and what they accomplished during their attack in minutes.

Related: Top Network Attacks and Security Issues to Look For In 2023

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The Importance of Web Application Security

According to a survey by Dynatrace, 75% of CISOs worry that application vulnerabilities will leak into production despite the undertaking of security measures.

The research shows that managing vulnerabilities has become more challenging due to using multi-cloud environments, multiple coding languages, and open-source software libraries that create greater speed and complexity. There is an increasing need for observability and security to come together, which will allow for the development of SecDevOps practices. 

It is crucial to have a continuous and automated method of detecting and handling system vulnerabilities. The strategies mentioned above provide an extra layer of security and protect applications from potential threats and malicious actors.

Are you looking for a web application security built on zero-trust principles? Check out how CyberCruicible's automated ransomware security solution can help for free.

About the author
Dennis Underwood

Dennis Underwood is a veteran, cybersecurity leader, inventor, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. He is an expert at cryptography, intrusion discovery and analysis, having discovered multiple previously unreported intrusions to clients throughout his career. Currently, he is leading a team of like-minded experts delivering next generation intrusion discovery and ransomware response automation tools to consumers.

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