As technology improves, new ways for criminals to exploit it emerge. This is especially true for the Internet, where virtually anyone can launch an attack from anywhere in the world. This is why web security is especially crucial for organizations today.
Web security is the process of protecting your website and its users from various potential threats. These threats can take many different forms, including viruses, malware, phishing scams, and SQL injection attacks. And in today’s landscape, if you don’t know how to combat these dangers, you will be at a significant disadvantage.
This is where web security testing comes in.
Web security testing is the process of finding all known vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit to compromise your web application, which, in turn, ensures that your site is safe for people to visit.
For this reason, web security testing is one of the most crucial aspects of web security today. (Also read: Benefits of performing a vulnerability assessment.)
So let’s take a look at why security testing is important, how it’s done, and the essential resources to incorporate it into your organization:
Why is web security testing important?
Website security testing is essential because it helps you find and fix flaws in your website before attackers can exploit them.
It’s also important to regularly test your website, even if you don’t think there are any vulnerabilities. Indeed, new threats are constantly emerging; what was considered safe yesterday may not be safe today. (Also read: 6 advances in cybersecurity we owe to COVID-19.)
Testing also helps ensure that your website will be accessible to visitors when they need it. This is especially important for critical websites such as those of banks and other financial institutions.
Finally, web security testing can help you meet industry standards such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
How do you perform web security testing?
There are two main ways to test web application security:
- Manual test. White hat hackers, often known as ethical hackers, perform manual testing by attempting to break into systems to find vulnerabilities so they can be patched.
- Automated tests. This is usually done using web security scanners, which are programs that automate the vulnerability assessment process.
The benefits and risks of manual and automated testing are unique, as is the case with any other type of software. Manual tests are sometimes more thorough; but it takes time and is expensive. Automated tests are often faster and more affordable; but it may miss some vulnerabilities.
As such, using a combination of manual and automated testing is often the best method. This will give you the most comprehensive view of your web application’s security posture. (Also read: The Beginner’s Guide to NIST Penetration Testing.)
What resources can help with security testing?
Many consider the Open Web Application Security Project’s (OWASP) Web Security Testing Guide to be the best resource available today for web security testing.
The OWASP Web Security Testing Guide covers everything from setting up a test environment to identifying vulnerabilities; it’s easy to use and includes step-by-step instructions on how to test each type of vulnerability. In short, it is an essential tool for anyone in charge of web application security testing.
In addition to this test guide, OWASP– a non-profit organization providing web security resources – distributes the well-known OWASP Top Ten resource.
The OWASP Top Ten is a list, updated every few years, of what OWASP considers to be the 10 most critical web security issues. The most recent update, from 2017, includes information on new threats, such as cryptojacking and IoT attacks. (Also read: IoT Security Challenges: Why Companies Need to Assess Them Now.)
OWASP also provides a variety of other resources, including OWASP Test Projects and OWASP Codecs.
What are today’s top web security threats?
So, now that we’ve clarified what web security is, let’s find out: you need to know about it?
To answer that, let’s look at some of the top web security threats you need to be aware of.
1. SQL injection attacks
SQL injection attacks involve an attacker attempting to execute malicious SQL code against your database. If successful, this may allow the attacker to access sensitive data, such as customer information or financial records.
You can prevent SQL injection attacks when using parameterized queries and input validation. (Also read: The 7 basic principles of computer security.)
2. Cross-site scripting attacks
Next on our list is cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.
This code is then executed by unsuspecting users who visit your website. If successful, this may allow the attacker to steal sensitive data such as cookies or session information.
You can prevent XSS attacks by using content security policy and input validation.
3. Cross-Site Request Forgery
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks occur when an attacker uses a website to trick a user into submitting a malicious request.
This may allow the attacker to perform actions on your website on the user’s behalf, such as changing their password or making unauthorized purchases.
CSRF tokens and same-origin policies can help prevent CSRF attacks. (Also read: Data protection and privacy in the United States in 2020.)
4. Denial of service attacks
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are a type of attack where the attacker tries to make your website unavailable to users.
This is usually done by flooding your server with requests, making it overloaded and unable to respond to legitimate requests.
You can prevent DoS attacks by using rate limiting and filtering.
5. Man in the Middle Attack
Man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM) include, for example, eavesdropping attacks, in which an attacker interferes with communication between two parties. This can allow the attacker to eavesdrop on conversations or even modify data in transit.
Encryption and digital signatures can prevent MITM attacks.
6. Ransomware/Ransomware as a Service
Ransomware is a type of malware that usually involves an attacker encrypting files and demanding payment in the form of digital currency for decryption. It is often distributed via email, downloads or compromised websites.
Ransomware as a service (RaaS) is a low-code ransomware adaptation that hackers can purchase through the dark web and use to carry out ransomware exploits, such as phishing emails, without needing to know how to code .
You can mitigate the negative effects of a ransomware attack with the following guidelines from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):
7. Business Email Compromise (BEC)
A business email compromise (BEC), sometimes referred to as a man-in-the-email attack, occurs when hackers infiltrate a company’s critical data through the organization’s email system. Common manifestations of this type of attack include:
- Executive Fraudwhere hackers pose as the leadership of an organization.
- False invoiceswhere hackers request financial transfers to their own accounts.
This threat is notoriously difficult to report, as malicious emails often do not contain malware or other fraudulent email pillars. However, by staying up to date with best practices for preventing similar threats, like spear phishing, you can help protect your email system against BECs. (Also read: How to avoid being a victim of phishing.)
Here are seven examples of cyber threats; but there are many more. For more information on these and other dangers, visit OWASP website.
Simply having a website does not guarantee that it will be useful to visitors. It is therefore essential to ensure that your site is accessible at all times. This means having a strong defense against today’s top cyber threats – and to develop that, you need to know the top cyber threats today and how they could compromise your website security. (Also read: Top 5 Cyber Threats of 2020.)
The bottom line is this: you need to make sure your data is safe from hacking and loss. This includes protecting your data and that of your users.
And by following the guidelines in this article, you can help protect your website from abuse.