Importance Of Web Application Security Analysis

A significant rise in the number, frequency, and severity of attacks on web applications has made it a serious issue to be considered and acted upon.

Web applications find their usage in almost every kind of business and they can act as gateways to the critical resources like the web servers or the database servers, of a website. Applications are turning out to be a prime target of attack in the corporate network. This can be avoided to a considerable extent by having a security assessment or an analysis of the vulnerabilities present in the applications, prioritising them and suitably correcting them. 

Web application Security deals specifically with securing websites, web applications and web services from unauthorised access and illegal usage. An active analysis of the application for any weakness, vulnerabilities or flaws and suggested remediation forms a part of the web application security analysis. The main reason cited for security flaws is poor code design or improper control of the input and output from the web applications. Testing is done to check what parts of an application allow it to be easily cracked. Securing the underlying network and operating systems with basic mechanisms like firewalls, passwords, data encryption and other security controls does not make the applications immune to attacks. Hackers can force applications to do almost anything if they could know what information is being sent to an application.  Manipulation of the application can also lead them to use the trusted relationship between the web server and database to gain unauthorised access to confidential data. Applications can leak information's like their configuration or internal working, or their implementation details.

The main motive of Web security testing is to check if it secures its data and maintains its intended functionality. The fundamental concepts which form the basis of application security are:

  1. Confidentiality:  Only those authorised should be allowed to access the information.
  2. Integrity: Genuine and reliable information should be provided to the user 
  3. Authentication: The identity of the user should be verified before providing access.
  4. Authorisation: Providing authority to the users to use a service for which they have access to.
  5. Availability: Information and services should be available, as and when required.
  6. Non-repudiation: The assurance that someone cannot later deny a performed action.

A majority of Web application attacks occur due to SQL Injection, Cross-site scripting, Buffer overflow Denial of Service and password cracking. Attackers can get through to sensitive information by using the interface code, or front-end applications, resulting in identity theft, session hijacks or compromise of private and confidential information. There are many organisations and departments which stay focused towards developing policies and guidelines for ensuring web security. One such popular and effective project is the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) which gives a detail of the most likely attacks. It works towards reducing the risks associated with web application security. Confirming to such guidelines can help streamline an organisation's security practices.

Available are a number of methods to have a security assessment done for web applications. Mechanisms like 

Threat Modeling – A structured approach which helps to identify  quantify and address the security risk associated with an application

Risk Analysis-Defines and analyses the possible risks caused by various factors and tools

  • Vulnerability Scanners – Programs which play a very crucial role by diagnosing the security loopholes in a system
  • Security Scanners – Programs which communicate with the front end of a computer to detect vulnerabilities.
  • Penetration Testing Software   - Hacking one’s own organisation to discover and identify all the possible loopholes present.
  • Password Cracking Tools – Tools which can detect how safe and secure the passwords are from being cracked.
  • Ethical Hacking Tools - Tools which enable checking for, and exploiting the vulnerabilities present in the system, to assess the amount of possible damage.

 The way in which testing can be performed is categorised as: 

Static Testing- Performs a review of the code and other design documents to check for any errors. It acts as a preventive measure by detecting any threats present in the code.

Dynamic Testing:  Involves analysing the dynamic behaviour of the code. Various parameters are checked for by giving the input and examining the output. Adopts many techniques like Unit testing, Integration testing, System testing an accepting testing.

Websites are designed to be interactive .It receives a lot of input from a variety of sources. This actually increases the complexity of handling the information. It is possible for applications to come in contact with outdated versions of software or potentially harmful data .Such scenarios can be the kind of weak spots an attacker would have been looking for.

It might get quite complex to detect all kinds of upcoming threats and hidden vulnerabilities present in a system. Apart from having effective scanning tools run on the systems, performing timely security audits also builds awareness about what elements contribute in building a secure web application. Continuous monitoring for any discrepancies in the services or the functionality of applications, scanning for the resources accessing the web applications and verifying if the functionality of the application is being appropriately maintained, guides an organisation towards maintaining web security and identifying the hidden vulnerabilities.

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