The web is an indispensable part of many of the business activities your company engages in every day. It is the home of cloud-based digital storage and the repository of data. It holds the information that customers voluntarily provide via content management systems, shopping carts, login fields, and inquiry and submit forms.
As universal and convenient as these programs are, they are highly vulnerable to web application attacks from cybercriminals.
Learning how web applications work and studying their most frequently exploited weaknesses can help you and your security team develops and implement solutions. It will minimize the chances that your business and customers will be the next victim of a data breach.
How Do Web Applications Work?
Web applications do their job by first querying a content database and generating a web document according to the client’s specifications.
The information is presented so that it is accessible to all browsers, which run every script and make the document both readable and dynamic.
Web applications requiring little to no work to install on the user’s end can be purchased by companies ready-made or customized to meet a business’s unique specifications.
Web-Based Attacks Defined
When criminals exploit vulnerabilities in coding to gain access to a server or database, these types of cyber vandalism threats are known as application-layer attacks. Users trust that the sensitive personal information they divulge on your website will be kept private and safe.
Intrusion in the form of web-based attacks can mean that their credit card, Social Security, or medical information might become public, leading to potentially grave consequences.
Web applications are particularly susceptible to hacking because they are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to provide continuous services. Because these applications must be publicly accessible, they cannot be safeguarded behind firewalls or secured from threats with SSL.
Many of these programs have access, either directly or indirectly, to highly desirable customer data.
Hackers make it their business to seek out vulnerabilities so that this information can be stolen or rerouted. Seeking to prevent web application attacks should be a critical priority for your IT security team.
Most Common Types of Web Attacks
Although the tactics of cybercriminals are constantly evolving, their underlying attack strategies remain relatively stable. Below are some of the most common:
- Cross-site scripting (XSS). That involves an attacker uploading a piece of malicious script code onto your website that can then be used to steal data or perform other kinds of mischief. Although this strategy is relatively unsophisticated, it remains quite common and can do significant damage.
- SQL Injection (SQLI). This happens when a hacker submits destructive code into an input form. If your systems fail to clean this information, it can be submitted into the database, changing, deleting, or revealing data to the attacker.
- Path traversal. Also resulting from improper protection of data that has been inputted, these webserver attacks involve injecting patterns into the webserver hierarchy that allow bad actors to obtain user credentials, databases, configuration files, and other information stored on hard drives.
- Local File Inclusion. This relatively uncommon attack technique involves forcing the web application to execute a file located elsewhere on the system.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Such destructive events happen when an attacker bombards the server with requests. In many cases, hackers use a network of compromised computers or bots to mount this offensive. Such actions paralyze your server and prevent legitimate visitors from gaining access to your services.
Although bad actors don’t generally compromise data through these means, they often use it to “distract” your automated systems, leaving you vulnerable to other malware and criminal activities.
Protecting Against Website Attack
A company’s ability to use online resources to capture and store customer data has many benefits, but it also opens the door to malicious attackers. Fortunately, there are methods you can employ to provide analysis and protection for your site and its underlying servers and databases. They include the following:
- Automated vulnerability scanning and security testing. These programs help you to find, analyze, and mitigate vulnerabilities, often before actual attacks occur. Investing in these preventive measures is a cost-effective way to reduce the likelihood that vulnerabilities will turn into cyber disasters.
- Web Application Firewalls (WAFs). These operate on the application layer and use rules and intelligence about known breach tactics to restrict access to applications. Because they can access all layers and protocols, WAFs can be highly effective gatekeepers when it comes to shielding resources from attack.
- Secure Development Testing (SDT). This instruction is designed for all security team members, including testers, developers, architects, and managers. It provides information about the newest attack vectors. It assists the task force in establishing a baseline and developing a practical, dynamic approach to preventing website attacks and minimizing the consequences of breaches that cannot be stopped.
The prevention, control, and mitigation of web application attacks is a full-time job. Mounting a multi-pronged defense consisting of technology, automated programs, and human expertise will allow you to monitor, analyze, detect, and neutralize threats of all kinds quickly and effectively.