The Complete Guide to Secure your Web Applications

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Digitization has led to the development of web applications, websites, and other tools. Besides changing the way that we share information, interact, or do business, these digital elements have transformed our lives for the better. Enterprises, in order to stay flexible, profitable, and competitive, are moving their operations online. This way, they allow their employees, clients, customers, and other stakeholders to stay connected 24×7. Also, employees working in remote offices across countries can interact and collaborate in real-time by using such technologies.
The introduction of Web 2.0 has brought convenience, speed, choices, and quality on a platter for the customers. The growing customers’ appetite for top-notch web applications has led businesses or entities to share sensitive data all across the value chain. The examples of e-commerce stores and online banking exemplify this trend. If such advancements have brought enormous benefits for individuals, businesses, and organizations, they have attracted hackers and scammers as well.

The news about malware, ransomware, trojans, and viruses playing havoc has become common now. In fact, cybercrime has become a $1.5 trillion industry as we move into the year 2020. It has the potential to push individuals, businesses, and organizations into a downward spiral. The cumulative effect of cybercrime has given rise to the industry of web application security.
Let us take you through the ways to secure your web applications in the form of a guide. Here, the focus would be on conducting a comprehensive web application security audit encompassing web application security testing.

Assessing the Target Web Application:

The process involves the use of an automated web vulnerability scanner provided the pre-scan activities are already done. However, the procedure is not foolproof and can give rise to several false positives as well. This happens as the web vulnerability scanners are meant to scan a number of complex web applications. The users, thus, need to align these scanners to the specific business needs.
The web application security testing can begin by conducting a manual assessment of the target web application. Get familiarized with the architecture and topology of the web application. Find out about the directory, file structure, number of pages, and files present in the application. Also, know about the application’s root directory, source code, online forms, and URL structure. Since there are a number of vulnerabilities specific to web technologies, it is better you know the one used to develop the application – PHP and .NET, among others. Find out if the web application had crawled from the black-box scanner before launching the scan. Remember, if the web application is not crawled and leaves out some parts or parameters, then securing the application will not happen.

Denial of Service (DOS) Checklist:

Web applications cannot distinguish between valid traffic and a malicious attack. Among the reasons, the uselessness of IP addresses as identification credentials comes at the top. For example, during a distributed attack the web application cannot identify a real attack from multiple users reloading at the same time. In this type of software application security testing, the number of sessions per user should be checked and regulated, if need be.

Penetration Testing:

Make sure all the web penetration tools are available in a centralized repository supporting the import and export of data. The application security testing services should use penetration testing – manually as well as using tools to check for logical vulnerabilities and to audit the application.

Web Application Firewall (WAF):

It can analyze web traffic emanating from IP addresses containing both HTTP and HTTPS. This way WAF can identify malicious traffic that works at the application layer. It can block connections to known vulnerabilities in a web application thereby preempting any malicious attack. However, it comes with a few shortcomings as well:

  1. Ability to detect only known security vulnerabilities
  2. Depends on the expertise of the user
  3. No fixing of security holes in web application
  4. The software application security testing should be conducted throughout the SDLC and not when the application goes live. It comprises of several methods such as:

Using a black-box scanner
Conducting a manual source code audit
Identifying coding issues using an automated white-box scanner
Penetration testing
Conducting a manual security audit

Conclusion
Web applications can be the ideal conduit for the ingress of malicious codes into an IT system. The quality of such applications can be enhanced, and security strengthened by using the right vulnerability scanner. By employing a focused application security testing methodology, both logical and technical vulnerabilities can be identified and fixed. The other avenues include limiting remote access, switching off unnecessary functionalities, using accounts with limited privileges, segregating live environments from development and testing, installing security patches, and staying informed.

About the Author

Hemanth

Hemanth Kumar Yamjala has 10+ years of experience in IT Services, predominantly Marketing, Branding, specializing in Digital. Currently a part of the marketing for Cigniti Technologies with functions such as leveraging digital marketing channels for lead generation and promotion.
Find out more about @hemanth-yamjala

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