Security Best Practices for Web Application
Digital adoption is only increasing in today’s world. It brings with it the challenges of protecting financial and personal data from potential threat actors. Incorporating best practices for the security of web applications during application development can plug some of these holes and ensure that applications meet security standards and are free of vulnerabilities.
The impact of threat actors
First, it is important to consider the impact of attacks: the motives of the threat actors can range from economic gain to theft of user data, denial of service, damage the image of businesses, or simply create thrills.
Such attacks can cause the loss of valuable data from customers and end users, along with financial losses, service disruptions, brand damage or a boost for rival groups.
In October 2013, for example, Adobe announced that it had infiltrated its IT system and stolen personal data from 2.9 million accounts, including logins, passwords, names, credit card numbers and expiry dates.
A year later, Yahoo! announced that there had been a cyber attack affecting 500 million user accounts, the largest personal data breach against a single company in history.
Equifax, an American credit reference agency, revealed in July 2017, six weeks after a months-long cyber attack, that it contained the personal data, birth dates, Social Security numbers and driving license numbers of 143 million customers in the United States, Canada and Britain, as well as 200,000 credit card numbers.
Most recently, on July 15, 2020, 130 high-profile Twitter accounts were compromised from outside to promote a Bitcoin scam.
Important Best Practices for Web Application Security
It is best to incorporate best practices for web application security during the design and programming phase, otherwise you will need to rely on finding and repairing openings at a later date or after the release.
Consider securing your work right at the design stage. Fixing loopholes in this phase saves time and effort and reduces time to market. If the team is unfamiliar with the concept of secure design, they can use a process called Threat Modeling TM with the help of a career security team. This team will assess whether the design of the product is safe and compliant.
In this process, the TM and the development teams, together with security architects, conduct a series of discussions. The TM team asks a number of questions to understand whether the design team has taken risks into account. For example, have they introduced encryption for sensitive data at rest and in motion? Have they prescribed strong passwords? Have they implemented multiple levels of user rights? Does the application perform input validation? Implementing TM helps design efficiently and prevents any subsequent redesign to close loopholes.
Developers working on applications should be trained on the OWASP Top 10 of the Open Web Application Security Project and the SANS Institute Web Application Security Checklist. This will help them to be aware of the issues that need to be avoided while encoding. It is best to always use secure frameworks instead of writing your own code. You should also be sure to use the latest versions of libraries and third-party codes. Always check for openings in third-party and open-source software. Fix these before adding them to the code.
During secure encoding, your team should follow these best web application security practices to avoid code weaknesses:
Input Checks Make sure that input fields are validated on both the server and client side. Malicious processes can easily bypass them on the client side. In cases where a malicious user has bypassed client-side validation, the server side will handle it.
Always perform boundary checks to prevent buffer overflow issues. Buffer overflows can open the code to many types of risks, such as denial of service and remote code injection. Therefore, performing boundary checks on input fields can prevent such risks.
Introducing whitelisting instead of blacklisting to check input fields. Blacklisting can make it more difficult to restrict malicious input, which in turn could leave the door open for threat actors. Using whitelisting to allow only the required type of characters will help prevent many types of input validation risks.
Command Injection You should make sure that the code does not execute commands directly from the received input value. In this case, you may find openings such as the operating system OS Command Injection
. In this case, the threat actor can execute commands from the operating system on the server by injecting them into the input fields that have not been properly sanitized. Even in cases where it may be necessary to execute commands, you will always run with the least required privilege.
SQL Injection Structured Query Language SQL Injection
is one of the biggest risks you can encounter. In this type of attack, an SQL statement is entered into the input fields, causing these statements to be executed in the DB database, revealing the DB content and allowing the dumping of the entire DB or inserting malicious values into the DB. To avoid such risks, use prepared statements for the DB query instead of creating a query directly from user input.
Other Web Application Security Best Practices Many security headers have been defined to avoid problems such as cross-site scripting XSS, click jacking and other issues. Using headers is an easy way to ensure a minimum level of security for such issues and provide a profound barrier against these risks. Some common types of security headers are HTTP-strict transport security HSTS, X-XSS protection, X-content-type-options, X-frame-options and Content-Security-Policy.
In cases where the user is provided with an option to upload files, limit the type of file uploaded to the expected type. Make sure that the file extension and content of the uploaded file are checked. In addition, perform a scan of the uploaded file to check for malicious content.
Avoid a uniform resource locator URL or path input field. Using path input directly in the code can lead to risks such as local file mount, remote file mount, server-side request forgery, and unvalidated forwarding and forwarding. Even if it is necessary to have paths and URLs in the input value, use the correct whitelisting to prevent misuse.
Encryption is one of the most important aspects of securing your work. Make sure it is present for data in transit and hibernation, with particular care when data contains sensitive information. Always use HTTPS and never allow access over HTTP. It is important to use familiar encryption techniques instead of trying to implement your own.
When using encryption, one should avoid known weak algorithms, ciphers or versions. Even when storing sensitive data in log files or databases, the data must be encrypted.
Checking for passwords and logins
Make sure that the passwords your users choose are complex; the password should be at least eight characters longer, is better, and contains a mix of uppercase, subordinate, and special characters, making it more difficult to perform brute force attacks and dictionary attacks. To further improve this step, use two-factor authentication. In addition, you should introduce an account lock when the system detects the maximum number of password attempts.
To ensure that only authorized users join, use graded privileged access with the lowest privilege for the default role. Use role-based access to resources to ensure that access to certain resources is granted only to users with the required privilege.
Security tools for web applications
By adhering to Security Best Practices for web application security during the design phase, the security of the application can be improved. You can expand this base with various methods for testing the security of web applications to ensure that security is at the highest possible level before you deploy your work.
DevSecOps Integrate security practices within the DevOps process by performing scans during the build process.
SAST Static Application Security Testing SAST
is a scan method for the source code. You will find many security tools for web applications that can identify security risks in code with SAST. However, SAST can give a lot of false positive results, so analyze and filter the results carefully so that you can fix the real problems.
DAST Dynamic Application Security Testing DAST uses remote testing of inserted and running code to find openings. DAST tools send many requests with faulty packets to the code with the intention of finding holes, while simultaneously analyzing the results for actual defects. Integrate DAST with SAST in the build process.
Penetration Testing Penetration Testing, an advanced security method, uses a combination of dynamic scanning tools and manual exploitation techniques to find openings, allowing you to try to exploit them to gain access, steal data, compromise users or cause service interruptions, as a real threat actor would do. This is a more advanced technique than SAST and DAST, and it can detect more risks in the application when performed by a qualified team.
Buildings safe from day one
Security needs to be integrated into the application lifecycle, not just added afterwards. Developers and architects can ensure that their applications are more secure from attacks and protect their customers “data by following best security practices during the design and development phases.
Together with these practices and processes, you can hire a qualified team to validate and certify the attitude of your work through various testing methods. Together, these best practices will go a long way toward safeguarding new projects against cyber attacks and building a sense of trust among customers.