4 Most Common Application Vulnerabilities and Possible Remediation

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Cybercrime actors have changed tact since 2001 and are now shifting attacks from the servers to client-side applications. This is evidenced in Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR).

In this report, the researchers found that 43% of breaches were related to web application attacks. This was almost twice the previous year’s results.

The other unfortunate reality is that cybersecurity vulnerabilities and threats are continually evolving. As new vulnerabilities and flaws emerge in the system, attackers are prompted to device new cyber threats to exploit them.

This cements the need for every organization that wants to stay on the safe side to establish a working vulnerability management strategy. Snyk has elaborated the process of building a vulnerability management strategy and the necessary tools for the job.

Our team explains the 5 most common vulnerabilities that malicious attackers may exploit and their possible remediation.

Vulnerability Management: What is It?

Most Common Application Vulnerabilities and Possible Remed

To understand vulnerability management, let’s first define what a vulnerability in the application is.

In the context of applications, vulnerabilities refer to technological flaws and weaknesses that malicious attackers see as potential loopholes through which they can attack the product.

When bad actors discover a fault in a system, they may devise the necessary tools to take advantage of the loophole. Successful attacks compromise the data integrity and confidentiality of the application and anyone else involved in the SDLC.

So, what is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is a defined process used to identify, evaluate, mitigate, and make a report of weaknesses that attackers may exploit to compromise the product and the information in it.

A vulnerability management process needs to be continuous and proactive. This is critical in catching new vulnerabilities as changes are made in the systems, and new technologies are introduced in the network.

4 Common Types of Vulnerabilities

Data Integrity

1. SQL Injection

Also known as SQLI, an injection is one of the most common application vulnerabilities. Most of the recent high-profile breaches, for instance, the Freepik data breach, can be tied to SQL injections.

In this type of attack, malicious actors manipulate user-supplied data to bypass authentication and authorization processes.

After successfully going around these security measures, the perpetrators may gain access to the database server to create, read, add, delete, or modify the records in it.

Mitigation

SQL injection attacks can be prevented by sanitizing all user-submitted data using input validation.

Another way of protecting your products from such attacks is by using parameterized queries, prepared statements, or stored procedures instead of using dynamic SQL.

2. Cross Site Scripting (XSS)

A cross site scripting is an injection attack similar to SQLI. The significant difference between the two is that XSS is client-side based. This means that instead of eyeing the application, it targets its users.

During a cross site scripting attack, the actors masquerade as the victim to perform all the actions that the user is capable of and to access his/her data.

A successful XSS attack can easily ruin the relationship between an online business and its clients- which means that both the company and the clients are affected. Because the end user’s browsers can’t detect untrustworthy scripts, it executes them, causing the users to surrender their private data unknowingly.

Cross site scripting attacks can be categorized into 2;

  • Reflected XSS– a.k.a a non-persistent attack; it occurs when a malicious script bounces off the web application onto the user’s browser. Reflected XSS is embedded in a link, and it’s activated once the user clicks through it.
  • Stored XSS– this is the worst of the two. It involves injecting the script directly onto the web application.

Mitigation

The first way of preventing yourself from cross site scripting attack is by escaping user input. This involves taking the data received by the application through a sanitization process before forwarding it to the end-user.

You’ll need an encoding technique, such as CSS escape, JavaScript escape, or HTML escape, for this. Training and creating awareness to everyone involved in the SDLC will help a lot, too.

3. Security Misconfiguration

This type of application vulnerability involves failing to implement the necessary security control required in an application or server. The exposure is also imminent if the security controls have been implemented but are full of errors.

The inconvenience with security misconfiguration vulnerability is that it can occur anywhere within the application infrastructure, including the database, application server, web server, and containers.

When exploited, these errors allow malicious actors to access system data and functionality. At worst, they can compromise the entire system.

Mitigation

The most significant step to preventing this vulnerability is learning and understanding how each component of your system works and behaves.

It’s also important to implement a repeatable hardening process that allows you to deploy another correctly configured environment quickly.

Additionally, it pays to educate and train the IT team on how to configure web applications securely and the impact that any errors may have on the business.

4. Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

A cross site request forgery is a type of attack where authenticated end-users are tricked into executing an action they didn’t plan to perform. In most cases, CSRF attacks are targeted towards web applications that are not engineered to differentiate valid requests from forged requests.

Social engineering platforms, such as emails and chats, are the most preferred when launching a cross site request forgery attack.

For a CSRF attack to be successful, the user needs to be having an active session on the compromised web application. The perpetrator also needs to create an exploit URL and send it to the users via one of the social platforms that the end-users visit while using the web application.

When the user clicks the URL while on an active session, the application considers the request legitimate and goes ahead to complete it.

If successful, the user unknowingly performs a state-changing request, such as transferring funds, changing a password, deleting a record, or submitting a transaction.

Remediation

The surefire way of defeating a CSRF attack is by offering the application a way of differentiating between legitimate user requests and forged requests. Implementing an Anti-CSRF token is among the best ways of achieving this.

The other method of preventing a cross site request forgery attack is using the same site flag in cookies. In this method, the application treats requests as legitimate only if they originate from the same domain.

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Author: Hannah Lydia