Web application Security: Vulnerabilities and major security practices
If any good has come from recent major data breaches, such as those affecting Yahoo! and Experian, it’s the attention they brought to the importance of securing your web applications against such attacks. Aside from writing codes that are functional, web application security is a major challenge for developers and organizations.
A minor vulnerability in your application could lead to a bigger attack on your servers. The repercussions can be huge including monitory or users losing trust in your business.
Hence, companies need to do better, and IT decision-makers need to take the lead in making web application security a priority. But where can you start?
One of the best places to start is The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). This worldwide nonprofit’s mission is to improve web app security by providing information about potential threats and the practices and tools necessary to prevent them.
OWASP advice can help you ensure your organization’s web app security, starting with a documented secure coding policy. This helps ensure consistency among development projects and across departments. In it, you should include best practices for user authentication, access control, data validation, and secure transmission among others.
Here are three additional general best practices to help you and your team get started on a plan to secure your web apps and build security into every stage of development.
Web application security auditing
Many IT leaders have no idea what web applications they are running and when they last performed updates. In your audit, take an inventory of your web apps and eliminate any that are no longer useful. Use a web application scanner as well as a network security scanner to ensure all services running on the server are secure.
Also, monitor server log files for suspicious activity so you can correct any vulnerabilities before malicious actors have the chance to exploit them.
According to the White Hat Security Application Security Status Report for 2017, most enterprise web applications have at least three vulnerabilities. Many of these vulnerabilities are due to web app login issues, and some of the most common include:
- Lack of a lockout mechanism. This allows intruders to attempt password cracks. Implement a lockout mechanism, then create an easy, effective password-reset function for legitimate users.
- Descriptive error messages. Messages that give users information about what’s wrong also tell intruders how to make their hacking attempts more effective.
- Unprotected logins. Use Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption to prevent intrusions into your enterprise apps and systems.
You can address many of these vulnerabilities through open source tools such as OpenID and OAuth. These tools provide secure authentication and authorization through a third-party application, eliminating the need for web developers to create their own login systems.
Web application security architecture
The best method for ensuring your enterprise web apps are secure is to build them with security architecture in mind. And the best way to do that is to cultivate a development security operations (DevSecOps) culture.
A DevSecOps model breaks down the barriers among development, operations, and security teams. All application stakeholders collaborate on development through testing and deployment. The collaboration begins with defining common goals across development and operations and creating a plan to meet them.
Teams then implement a circular process that involves constant collaboration, monitoring, and testing to detect malicious activity early. When you include security architecture as an integral part of your DevOps process, you can speed up development while avoiding bugs and vulnerabilities in finished products.
Web application security policies and guidelines
Outline expectations for secure code development, educate developers about secure coding practices, and research and implement the best tools for creating and ensuring the most secure web apps.
Create a detailed application security strategy, communicate it to developers and operations personnel, monitor their practices and results, and change up your strategy when necessary. Stay on top of new vulnerabilities and tools so you can be proactive in your web app security.
Your strategy must include enterprise-grade network security fundamentals while not allowing your security practices to interfere with worker productivity.
Integrate new solutions into current environments so users can continue working with familiar programs. You also need to be able to control access to enterprise data and content, even after it leaves the enterprise.
And you need the tools and expertise to protect your enterprise web apps from common vulnerabilities such as unvalidated data, broken authentication and session management, cross-site scripting errors, denial of service attacks, and buffer overflows.
True web app security requires a consistent, unified enterprise-wide strategy, constant vigilance, and continued education about the most recent breaches, hacks, threats, vulnerabilities, malware, and privacy concerns.
Those who don’t stay on top of network security fundamentals leave their organizations and users open to attacks, stolen passwords, private data loss, and fraud. Security breaches can harm users, tarnish reputations, and be financially devastating.
By following web application security best practices, you can avoid these issues and keep your apps safe.
Application security extends far beyond these three best practices, but you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help. Get the conversation started: Let’s talk application security.