Web Application Security 101: How to Save your Business

Zoltan Fehervari

January 26, 2023

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We provide an overview of web application security and practical steps that businesses and developers can take to protect their applications from attacks.


In this post, we will look at the current status of web application security, common vulnerabilities that can put your organization at risk, and preventative measures that can be performed.

Web applications have become an essential aspect of how organizations function and interact with their clients in today's digital landscape. However, with increased reliance on web apps comes increased security worry. A single security breach can result in the loss of sensitive information, reputational damage, and significant financial losses.

Web Application Security - Bluebird

What is Web Application Security?

Web application security is the process of preventing unwanted access, usage, disclosure, disruption, alteration, or destruction of web applications and their associated data. It is a vital component of cybersecurity and the overall security of an organization's IT infrastructure.

Web applications are becoming increasingly popular as a means of providing consumers with information and services. They are utilized in a variety of areas, including as e-commerce, healthcare, banking, and government. As a result, web application security is more crucial than ever before.

The Threat is Real

The case of Target Corporation in 2013 is one example of the severe consequences of a web application security breach. The retail behemoth was the victim of a massive data breach that compromised the credit and debit card information of 40 million customers, as well as the personal information of 70 million customers.

The breach was estimated to cost around $202 million, and the CEO resigned as a result. This incident emphasizes the importance of investing in robust web application security measures to protect against data breaches.

The OWASP List

It is crucial for organizations to be familiar with the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 list and to take steps to address these risks in their web application security program. They are a reliable source for web application security risks and is used by organizations to guide their security practices and identify areas where they need to improve. This list can include regular penetration testing, the use of web application firewalls, and implementing secure coding practices. Additionally, organizations should regularly review the OWASP Top 10 to stay up-to-date on the latest security threats and vulnerabilities.

OWASP - Bluebird

Web applications can be vulnerable to a wide range of threats:

  • SQL injection is a sort of cyber attack in which an attacker inserts malicious SQL code into the input fields of a web application in order to obtain access to sensitive information in a database.

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS): A sort of cyber attack in which an attacker injects malicious code into the input fields of a web application in order to run harmful scripts in the user's web browser.

  • Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) is a sort of cyber attack in which an attacker convinces a user into doing an undesired action on an online application, such as purchasing something or changing their password.

  • File inclusion vulnerabilities: A sort of cyber assault in which an attacker is able to access and execute files on a web server that should not be accessible.

  • Direct object references that are insecure: An attack in which an attacker gains access to resources in a web application that they should not have by changing object references in the application's URLs.

Web Application Security lock

Organizations must build a thorough web application security program to protect themselves against these risks. This program should incorporate both technological and non-technical safeguards, such as:

  • Secure coding practices

  • Web application firewalls

  • Security information and event management (SIEM)

  • Regular security training for developers and other staff

Secure Coding Practices

For the prevention of web application vulnerabilities, secure coding methods are crucial. Input validation, escaping untrusted data, and employing prepared statements are examples of these approaches.

The process of verifying that input data is of the correct kind and format is known as input validation. This can aid in the prevention of SQL injection and other forms of attacks. The process of transforming special characters in input data into their matching HTML entities is known as escaping untrusted data. This can aid in the prevention of cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.

Prepared statements are a method of adding data into a database in a secure manner. They let developers to segregate data from SQL code, which can aid in the prevention of SQL injection threats.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a simulated attack on a web program to find flaws. This testing can be performed by either a third party or an internal team. Penetration testing can uncover a wide range of vulnerabilities, such as:

  • SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and file inclusion flaws

  • Direct object references that are not secure

  • Penetration testing should be performed on a frequent basis to ensure that vulnerabilities are detected and corrected as soon as possible.

Web Application Firewalls

Web application firewalls (WAFs) are specialized firewalls that are designed to secure web applications. They can be used to prevent SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks by blocking known attack vectors.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

SIEM is a security management system that collects, analyzes, and correlates security-related data from numerous sources. This information can be used to detect and respond to security breaches.

Insecure Direct Object References

Insecure direct object references occur when an attacker can alter the object references in a web application's URLs to gain access to resources that they should not have. This type of vulnerability can emerge when an application fails to properly validate user input, exposing sensitive information.

Web Application Security conclusion - Bluebird

Access controls

Organizations should incorporate access controls and input validation to prevent insecure direct object references. To restrict access to resources depending on a user's role and permissions, access controls should be utilized. Input validation should be performed to guarantee that user input is of the correct type and format, and that no dangerous code is included.

To summarize

The threat of web application assaults is real and growing, and businesses must take precautions. Businesses can considerably reduce the risk of a security breach by knowing typical vulnerabilities, employing effective security measures, and frequently updating and patching programs.

Additionally, investing in personnel security awareness training can help to increase an organization's defenses against cyber threats. Businesses must take web application security carefully because a single security breach can have significant financial and reputational ramifications.

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