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An Introduction to Web Based Security Risks & How to Prevent Web Application Attacks

web application attacks

An Introduction to Web Based Security Risks & How to Prevent Web Application Attacks

An Introduction to Web Based Security Risks & How to Prevent Web Application Attacks 1200 628 Status200

Today, almost every other business is being listed online due to the influence and importance of IT. Getting a web application or a landing page for your company is one of the most common ways to do so. The key reason is pretty simple, the internet is the cheapest, quickest, and fastest way to gain more attention than any other medium which is present. It has been observed for many years that web application attacks are very much probable.  The attack-to-breach ratio is 100,000 to 1. This is because, to find the weak points of your web apps, malicious hackers have now turned to automation.

This article describes what web applications are, how they work, types of web server attacks & How to prevent web application attacks. Let’s delve into the article to find out more!

What is a web application?

The web is a highly programmable environment from a technological point of view. It enables mass customization through the immediate deployment of a wide and diverse variety of applications to millions of global users. Flexible web browsers and web apps are two essential components of a modern website. Both of these are open to all for accessibility at almost no cost.

These web browsers bring many risks to them as well. 2019 was the year of the web application attacks. Researchers have reported more than four billion web application attacks in the 18 months between January 2018 and June 2019. Cybercriminals usually use these kinds of attacks to steal information. Their aim is to collect consumer information and financial data from websites by injecting malicious code. The web is the main source of data breaches. Web application attacks statistics in the first half of 2019 show that 79 percent of compromised documents reside within the functional web applications, asking for a trouble.

How Web Applications Work?

An ideal model of web application consists of three-layers. The first layer is typically a web browser or user interface. The second layer is a Web server that runs a single or collection of backend programming languages such as Java Servlets (JSP) or Active Server Pages (ASP). The third layer is a database containing content (e.g. news) and customer information (e.g. usernames, application passwords, social security numbers, credit card details, and others).

When it comes to the working layout, the web application accesses database servers to update and retrieve the information contained inside the database to perform the requested operation. Then the web application introduces the details via the browser to the user.

Have a look at some common web server attacks and the risks associated with them!

Types of web application attacks

Web based attacks are becoming increasingly popular. Web applications are becoming an easy target for cybercriminals as more information is being pushed by governments and companies online. From service failures and shutdowns to identity theft and data manipulation, they can result in a wide range of devastating consequences. Have all those complex cyber security words seen on the news ever been overloaded, and then going to Wikipedia make it feel more confused? Here we describe some of the most popular web applications attack list in the simplest way to help you get familiar with them.

1: Cross-Site scripting attack (XSS)

This remains one of the most common web application attacks we see. It involves around 40 percent of last year’s web attack attempts. XSS generally involves causing a website to execute arbitrary or malicious script code uploaded by an attacker. It usually occurs when the target web application fails to sanitize all of its entry points such as the input controls.

An attacker loads a malicious code in the form of text or file to an input control; that malicious code may contain SQL command or a JavaScript code. Unsanitized target web application accepts it and the rest becomes chaos. Through this act, an attacker can perform following operations.

  • Accessing a specific DB table, altering or even removing its info.
  • Deletion of an entire DB.
  • Administrative role in the target website.
  • Stealing of any sort of information.   

Most XSS attacks are not very complex to conduct. We see a lot of attacks coming from so-called script kiddies, who use scripts and software that other novice attackers have written.

2: Session hijacking.

Session hijacking is also among some of the common web application attacks. It is an assault in which an intruder takes over a specific user’s session. When you log into a program, such as your banking application, a session begins and finishes when you log out. The attack depends on the interpretation of your session cookie by the intruder. Therefore, people also call it as cookie hijacking or side-jacking cookie.

It is possible to hijack any computer session. The session hijacking most commonly denotes to the browser sessions. By stealing or anticipating a legitimate session token to obtain unauthorized access to the Web Server, the Session Hijacking attack compromises the session token. Few ways to perform this type of attack are:

  • Predictable token of session;
  • Sniffing of Session;
  • Client-side attacks (XSS, JavaScript malicious code, Trojans, etc.);
  • Masquerade attack.

3: SQL injection

Linked with the aforementioned point #1, Hackers inject malicious SQL commands into the entry fields that get executed on the server side. Such types of attacks are conducted in dynamic web applications. If there are some loopholes in the program execution, SQL injection attacks can be slipped easily into a web application. With this type of web application attack, perpetrators may change or remove existing information and establish false identities, such as being a database impostor administrator.

The basic solution to this web application attack is that it is important to double-check and ensure data sanitization by introducing regular expressions in all input fields (such as text fields, comment boxes, etc.) of a web application.

4: DOS and DDOS

DOS & DDOS are the common types of web application attacks.  By flooding the target URL with more requests than the server can accommodate, a DOS attack aims to make a web resource inaccessible to its users. That means that daily traffic on the website will be either slowed down or totally disrupted during the attack time.

A DOS attack that comes from more than one source at the same time is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. Using thousands (potentially hundreds of thousands) of unsuspecting zombie machines, a DDOS attack is usually created.

Collectively, the computers used in such attacks are known as “botnets.” These may have been previously infected with malicious software, so that the attacker can monitor them remotely. Tens of millions of devices are likely to be infected with botnet programs worldwide, according to different studies.

5: Man-in-the middle attacks

In man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack the most common technique used by the attacker is to interject himself into the communication process to intercept important data from your system.

In your conversation with the target platform, the intruder may be a passive listener, stealing your secrets quietly, or an active participant, modifying the contents of your texts, or imitating the person / system you think you’re talking to.

There are two types of man-in-the-middle attacks;

  1. One involving physical proximity to the intended target, and another involving malicious software or malware such as key logger.
  2. This second form is often called a man-in-the-browser attack, like presenting fake information to the user, winning his/her trust and getting whatever info is required.

How can we avoid them? 

You have to find all security problems and vulnerabilities within the web application itself until a malicious hacker finds and exploits them to ensure that a web application is protected. That is why it is very important that the identification process of web application vulnerabilities is conducted during all SDLC phases, rather than once the web application is live.

In web applications, there are many different ways to detect vulnerabilities. Here is how to prevent web application attacks.

XSS: Data sanitization

Sanitization of data is the alteration of input data to ensure that it is accurate. There are following techniques to adopt while writing code ensuring data sanitization:

  • Make use of regular expressions. Implement them in a way that they must strip any slashes, special characters and keywords from user input.
  • Ensure that no file should of type .exe or with any code extension should get uploaded. Also, don’t forget to check for maximum file size upload limit too.
  • Only support those input and file formats that your web application is anticipating to receive.   

Session hijacking: Make use of 2fa authentication. 

Two factor authentication, (2FA), also referred to as dual-factor authentication or two-step verification. It is a security mechanism in which two separate authentication factors are given by users to validate themselves. This process is done to help secure both the credentials of the user and the tools that can be accessed by the user.

2FA offers a higher degree of protection than one-factor authentication (SFA)-dependent authentication methods, in which the user only offers one factor, normally a password or passcode.

This authentication strategies rely on a password-providing user, as well as a second factor. Typically either a safety token or a biometric factor such as a fingerprint or facial scan. Two-factor authentication adds to the authentication process an extra layer of security.  This makes it more difficult for attackers to gain access to the computers or online accounts of an individual. As attackers then also need to bypass additional layer of security.

SQL injection:  Data sanitization. 

To prevent sql injection attacks, data sanitization refers the elimination of the system’s inbound waste data. It covers a variety of smaller minor subjects. But it is essentially a pre-check of the data before entering the system to ensure that it does not break it.

This can involve ensuring that all data conforms to current foreign keys, columns have not been lost in the source, and alpha data would not attempt to reach numeric columns, data is not older than a certain point, and/or existing data is not replicated, and similar objects. Basically, it only means cleaning it up before it reaches the system.

DOS and DDOS: 

1: Make uses of tools such as cloudfare. 

Cloudflare Spectrum is a reverse proxy service not just the web but for any application, for instance FTP, VoIP, SSH, gaming, or any application working over a TCP / UDP protocol, to supply DDOS security.

Spectrum provides L4 traffic with built-in load balancing and traffic acceleration. To protect against the biggest, most complex DoS and DDoS attacks, Cloudflare applies all of these techniques and more.

2: Make use of captcha verification. 

A Web Challenge is a form of CAPTCHA or CAPTCHA Challenge, used to differentiate whether a request is coming from the actual user or bot. CAPTCHA stands for ‘Completely Automated Public Turing Test”. Computers are usually unable to overcome the CAPTCHA (state the word and letters), while humans can. But with the advancement of AI, this technology is getting obsolete. Now, tech gurus use Re-captcha V3 to run a predictable analysis to identify whether the request is coming from a user or a bot, based on the requestee’s previous browsing behaviors.

Conclusion

Identifying and removing the threat is the first and foremost thing to ensure safety. The 5 most common cyber-security attacks that hackers use to disrupt and compromise information systems have been analyzed in this article.

As you can see, there are several ways for attackers to try to gain unauthorized access to critical infrastructure and sensitive data, such as DDOS attacks, malware infection, man-in-the-middle interception, DOS and DDOS, and SQL injection. Although measures to mitigate these threats vary, but the fundamentals of protection remain the same. This includes, keep your systems and anti-virus databases up-to – date, train your workers, configure your firewall to whitelist only the unique ports and hosts you need, keep your passwords solid, use your IT environment’s least-privilege model, make daily backups, and audit your IT systems continuously for suspicious behavior.

Contact us

Contact us at Status200 if you want to get a customized and secured web application from web server attacks as per your site’s requirement. We’ll advise on web application firewall protection policies and functionality, optimistic Solutions that may include sample application code to demonstrate how the detected vulnerabilities can be removed. So, within an affordable budget, get our reliable and successful website development services at Status200.