Data or information security is one of the core components of web application development. A web developer is expected to ensure the optimum security of a web application. The main reason behind this requirement is the exponential rise in the number of DDoS attacks that have been affecting the overall health of websites. As shown in the graph below, the number of DDoS attacks has consistently grown over the past few years and are expected to continue growing.
The year 2019 saw a considerable rise in cyber crime through IoT devices, home automation devices, spam emails, unprotected files, and week passwords. 2020 seems to be following the same trend with even greater security risks as the global pandemic has transformed the work and lifestyle of every person. As a result, the transition to the virtual world became a necessity. Therefore, data breaches and cyber-attacks have become one of the major potential problems resulting in a devastating loss to a lot of businesses. This further stresses the importance of web application security in the current scenario where everything and everyone is dependent on websites for their daily activities.
However, there is no way to guarantee 100% security as unforeseen circumstances may happen anytime, but there are methods that businesses can implement to reduce the chances of running into web application security breaches. Here we have compiled the 10 best practices for web application security that can help you make it out of this pandemic risk-free and secure.
1. Create a security blueprint:
Organizations must have a security blueprint or checklist with a detailed, actionable web application security plan. This blueprint should highlight the applications that need to be secured and prioritize their security needs. This must be created in sync with the organization’s growth goals which requires allocating a certain budget. Moreover, depending on the size of the organization, the blueprint could also involve the details of the roles and responsibilities assigned to different employees to keep the process in check at all times.
2. Conduct application security training at all levels:
Imparting security training to employees is a terrific way to get everyone in on the act of finding and eliminating vulnerabilities. It should not just be limited to app developers, but all the personnel involved in the development lifecycle, such as Quality Assurance, Project Management and operational staff should also be included. It will help to build a culture of security within the organization. Bringing everyone on board and making sure they understand the core security concepts lays the foundation for your security program.
3. List and prioritize your web applications:
Organizations must know precisely which applications they use in order to maintain effective web application security. After completing the inventory, sort them in order of priority into 3 broad categories – critical, serious and normal. By categorizing your applications, you can reserve extensive testing for critical ones and use less intensive testing for less critical ones, hence making the most effective use of your company’s resources.
4. Identify and define possible threats:
Once you have a list of what needs protecting, you may now start to figure out what the threats are and how can they be mitigated. It can be done in two manners; the first is bottom-up which is to understand how an actual attacker will work, by probing the systems and finding weaknesses and exploiting and pivoting until you get the desired data and the second is top-down where you look at the target and understand how someone may get access to it.
5. Always back-up your website data:
When a security breach or malware infection takes place, you will need to restore your app after. It would be disastrous then to not have an updated version of your website stored. When it’s time to go live again, you will be relaxed that you had it tucked away. So back-up your data as regularly as possible.
6. Strict authentication policies:
The passwords are the most common way of authenticating a user when it comes to web application authentication. The insecure nature of user passwords makes attacks like credential stuffing happen easily. A credential stuffing attack happens when the attackers gets their hands on a large database of user credentials which they then test, using automated tools, against a variety of other sites and services to see what works.
By some estimates, at Fortune 100 firms, as much as 90% of all login attempts on web-based applications are credential stuffing attempts rather than legitimate logins.
One way to avoid the problems with passwords is to use client certificates, token-based two-factor, and federated authentication instead of using passwords.
7. Broken access control:
It could be a case that any anonymous user could view certain files on a website simply by knowing what URL to request. All web applications should have an enforcement mechanism that denies access by default. The system should only grant them to users associated with specific user roles. A web application firewall along with detailed security logging integrated into robust SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools can offer protections against access related attacks.
8. Manage privileges:
Always try to use the least permissive setting in your software application. Not everyone in your organization needs to have access to everything. For the majority of applications, only system administrators should be given the complete access. Most other users can accomplish what they need with minimally permissive settings.
9. Work with bug hunters:
There are professional hacking firms and security researchers who work with bug bounty programs to uncover security vulnerabilities for cash prizes. If you are not already sponsoring a bounty for your applications, then you probably should pursue one.
10. Using advanced WAF technology:
Your web applications face a number of complex threats that are arduous and costly to defend against. Using advanced WAF (web application firewall) technology with flexible deployment options can help organizations of all sizes defend their critical apps whether they’re deployed in data centers or hybrid cloud environments.
A vulnerable website can be detrimental to any business. It has the potential of exposing your business to a monetary loss as well as reputation loss. You can hire an experienced web development company to checklist all your security measures properly. In addition to this, you can also take the above-mentioned measures to protect your web applications from hackers and reduce the potential data breaches to a great extent.