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Top 10 Security Risks in Web Applications

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In today’s world, due to huge advancements on the internet, we can find anything and everything on the internet. Need something good to eat? Order food online, and it gets delivered in a few minutes. Want to buy some clothes? Order online! Not only products, but we can also book services online and even make payments. But all this is built upon modern applications be it web or mobile. Since we are heavily dependent on these websites, we do not mind storing our personal data or even financial details like credit card numbers, etc. on the web application. But sometimes this results in a great loss in terms of data and reputation. 


During the Covid-19 scenario, we have seen that the Internet is the backbone of everything, be it office meetings, online classes, virtual appointments of doctors, and a lot more. We are heavily dependent on web applications and the services and products that come with them. No physical contact has even pushed more and more sellers or service providers online. But this has also increased a huge amount of security threat that comes with it. The security of our data depends upon the website we are storing our information on. Recently, there has been a surge in security attacks, even the biggest brands couldn’t escape them. A few examples of recent breaches are Microsoft Exchange (March 2021), Facebook and LinkedIn (January and March 2021), Clubhouse (April 2021), Bose (May 2021). Therefore, protecting your web applications is of utmost importance, and today we are going to discuss the top 10 security risks that are associated with web applications so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent them!

1. Injection

Injection or SQL injection is a type of security attack in which the malicious attacker inserts or injects a query via input data (as simple as via filling a form on the website) from the client-side to the server. If it is successful, the attacker can read data from the database, add new data, update data, delete some data present in the database, issue administrator commands to carry out privileged database tasks, or even issue commands to the operating system in some cases. 

2. Broken Authentication

It is a case where the authentication system of the web application is broken and can result in a series of security threats. This is possible if the adversary carries out a brute force attack to disguise itself as a user, permitting the users to use weak passwords that are either dictionary words or common passwords like “12345678”, “password” etc. This is so common because shockingly 59% of the people use the same passwords on all websites they use. Moreover, 90% of the passwords can be cracked in close to 6 hours! Therefore, it is important to permit users to use strong passwords with a combination of alphanumeric and special characters. This is also possible due to credential stuffing, URL rewriting, or not rotating session IDs.

3. Sensitive Data Exposure

As the name suggests, this means that sensitive data stored is leaked to malicious attackers. This information can include personal data like name, address, gender, date of birth, personal identification numbers like Aadhaar card number or SSN, etc., financial data like account number, credit card numbers, health-related information, etc. This can result in a monetary loss if the attacker uses the financial information of users to carry out online payments (in most cases to cryptocurrency), identity theft, and reputation loss.

4. XML External Entities

This type is common to web applications that parse XML input. It is carried out when the input in the form of XML references an external entity but is processed by a weak XML parser. It can cause a huge loss to the brand as it can in turn allow distributed denial of service, port scanning, server-side request forgery, disclosure of sensitive information, etc.

5. Broken Access Control

Access control specifies limits or boundaries in which a user is allowed to operate. For example, the root privileges are usually given to the administrator and not the actual users. Having a broken or leaking access control system can result in unintended information leaks, modifying details of other user accounts, manipulating metadata, acting as the admin, unauthorized API access, etc.

6. Security Misconfiguration

This usually gives full access to the system to the attacker thus resulting in a complete system compromise. The web application might be vulnerable to such attacks if it has weakly configured permissions on cloud services, useless features are enabled increasing the chances for an attack, improper error handling that makes stack trace and related information visible in plain sight, lousy updating time period and if default accounts with passwords are not deleted. 

7. Cross-Site Scripting

Commonly called XSS attacks, these types of attacks take place when the adversary injects a malicious script (mostly as a browser side script) through the web application and sends it to another legit otherwise unsuspecting user of the same web application. The legit user in turn does not know that the code is not a part of the website and thus executes the script. The script can access any sensitive information of the user like session tokens and cookies. 

8. Insecure Deserialization

Serialization in web applications is usually used for databases, caching, preserving, file systems, cache systems, interprocess communication, web services, etc. If the web application deserializes hostile or tampered objects that are supplied by the adversary, the application becomes vulnerable to this attack. If the attack is successful, the attacker will be able to carry out remote code execution which is one of the most significant attacks.

9. Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities

Most websites today depend on component-heavy development patterns, which means that in some cases it is possible that the development teams do not even know the internal working of the component. This means, if the component used is itself vulnerable to threats due to some broken code, incorporating it with your application can induce threat vectors as well. This also comes if you’re using older versions of the components or nested dependencies.

10. Insufficient Logging and Monitoring

This is the most common reason for most major breaches to occur. Since most organizations do not invest in monitoring and effective logging or responding in a timely manner to the threat, the attackers can easily break the security system and can operate till days. Most organizations fail to identify a breach as months pass by, and it was found out that close to 91% of the breaches did not generate an alert. This results in a huge financial loss to the company as the hackers kept stealing data under the hood or may even have caused other damages.

These were the top 10 security risks involved with web applications and therefore can help you plan out how to handle such threats if they occur.

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Last Updated : 23 Nov, 2022
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