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Why You Need To Secure Your Web Applications?

Website security is possibly today’s most overlooked aspect of securing the enterprise and should be a priority in any organization.

Increasingly, hackers are concentrating their efforts on web-based applications – shopping carts, forms, login pages, dynamic content, etc. Accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world, insecure web applications provide easy access to backend corporate databases and also allow hackers to perform illegal activities using the attacked sites. A victim’s website can be used to launch criminal activities such as hosting phishing sites or to transfer illicit content, while abusing the website’s bandwidth and making its owner liable for these unlawful acts.

Hackers already have a wide repertoire of attacks that they regularly launch against organizations including SQL Injection, Cross Site Scripting, Directory Traversal Attacks, Parameter Manipulation (e.g., URL, Cookie, HTTP headers, web Forms), Authentication Attacks, Directory Enumeration and other exploits. Moreover, the hacker community is very close-knit; newly discovered web application intrusions are posted on a number of forums and websites known only to members of that exclusive group. These are called Zero Day exploits. Postings are updated daily and are used to propagate and facilitate further hacking.

Web applications – shopping carts, forms, login pages, dynamic content, and other bespoke applications – are designed to allow your website visitors to retrieve and submit dynamic content including varying levels of personal and sensitive data.

If these web applications are not secure, then your entire database of sensitive information is at serious risk. A Gartner Group study reveals that 75% of cyber attacks are done at the web application level.

Why does this happen?

  • Websites and related web applications must be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide the required service to customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  • Firewalls and SSL provide no protection against web application hacking, simply because access to the website has to be made public.
  • Web applications often have direct access to backend data such as customer databases and, hence, control valuable data and are much more difficult to secure.
  • Corporate web applications have large amounts of bandwidth available. Since bandwidth is expensive, for a hacker to transfer huge amounts of illegal content, they revert to steal bandwidth from others.
  • Most web applications are custom-made and, therefore, involve a lesser degree of testing than off-the-shelf software. Consequently, custom applications are more susceptible to attack.

Various high-profile hacking attacks have proven that web application security remains the most critical. If your web applications are compromised, hackers will have complete access to your backend data even though your firewall is configured correctly and your operating system and applications are patched repeatedly.

Network security defense provides no protection against web application attacks since these are launched on port 80 (default for websites) which has to remain open to allow regular operation of the business.

For the most comprehensive security strategy, it is therefore imperative that you regularly and consistently audit your web applications for exploitable vulnerabilities.

Categories: Security Testing
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