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Andrew Monsoon
July 27, 2023
Updated July 27, 2023

Web Development Security: Protecting Your Applications from Major Threats

Web Development Security: Protecting Your Applications from Major Threats

Security in web development is an integral aspect of any successful project. The robustness of a web application's security system determines the preservation of user's confidential data, the resilience of the web service, and ultimately, the reputation of the company. In today's digital economy era, ignoring security issues can be a critical mistake.

Main security threats in web development.

Some of the most common threats in web development include:
SQL injections - this type of hacking occurs through the embedding of malicious SQL commands into database queries. SQL attacks can lead to unauthorized access to information, its alteration, or deletion. Protection against SQL is a critical aspect of web development security. There are various strategies and techniques that can help protect web applications from such attacks:

  • Prepared and Parameterized Queries: Using prepared or parameterized queries is one of the most effective ways to prevent SQL injections.
  • Escaping special characters: another approach where all special characters used in SQL (e.g., quotes) are replaced with their safe equivalents.
  • Privilege restriction: Assign to database users only those privileges that they genuinely need to perform their tasks.
  • Use of Web Application Gateways or Firewalls (WAF): They can detect and block SQL injection attempts by analyzing incoming traffic.
  • Penetration testing and regular security audits: Regular testing of web applications for vulnerabilities, such as SQL injections, can help identify and rectify security issues before they are exploited by malicious actors.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is one of the most common security threats in web development. An XSS attack is one where malicious actors embed harmful scripts into web pages viewed by other users.

Malicious scripts are often transmitted through input forms on websites that have an XSS vulnerability (those that do not filter or effectively filter user input). When other users view these pages, their browsers execute the malicious scripts.

Depending on the nature of the attack and the web application's security measures, XSS injections can be divided into three main types: Stored, Reflected, and DOM-based.

Stored XSS attacks occur when the malicious script is stored on the server and sent to each user who views the page. They are the most dangerous because they affect a large number of users.

Reflected XSS attacks are embedded in the URL and activated when it is opened. Such attacks usually occur when a malicious actor lures the victim into opening a specially prepared URL, for example, by sending it via email or through a message.

DOM-based XSS attacks occur when a malicious script alters the DOM (Document Object Model) structure of a web page, leading to the execution of malicious code.

To protect against XSS, it is important to use secure development techniques, including filtering and escaping user input, using Content Security Policy (CSP), and other security technologies.

Session Hijacking (or session interception) is a type of attack where a malicious actor intercepts and uses a user's session to perform unauthorized actions. Session hijacking is often used to bypass the authentication process and gain unauthorized access to web services and sensitive information. Network eavesdropping and cross-site scripting (XSS) are the main techniques for session hijacking.

Protection against session hijacking usually includes the following measures:

  • Use of secure data transmission protocols (such as HTTPS) that encrypt session data and prevent interception.
  • Limiting the lifespan of sessions and session tokens to reduce the time during which an attacker can use a hijacked session token.
  • Employing server-side security measures, such as user IP address validation, to ensure that the session token is used by the same user to whom it was initially issued.
  • Regularly updating and testing web applications to detect and eliminate vulnerabilities that could be used for session hijacking.

A CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) attack is an attack where a malicious actor forces a victim to perform an unwanted action on a site where they are authenticated.

CSRF verification, or CSRF protection, is a set of measures used to prevent such attacks. One common protection method is the use of a CSRF token, a unique and random number generated for each user session. When a user submits a request to perform an action, the server checks if the CSRF token in the request matches the token stored in the session. If the tokens don't match, the server rejects the request.

A CSRF verification failure usually means that the CSRF token check failed: the token is missing from the request or does not match the token in the session. This can happen if a user tries to submit a form with an expired token, or if a malicious actor attempts a CSRF attack.

Security in Web Application Design

The main principles of secure design include data protection at all application levels, the use of secure authentication and authorization methods, error handling without disclosing excessive information, and more.

The importance of ensuring security in the early stages of development. It's crucial to understand that security should be integrated at the design stage of the web application. This will help avoid costly changes in the future and provide reliable data protection.

Security at the Web Application Development Stage

Writing secure code requires programmers to understand the main threats and how to prevent them. Various methodologies and best practices exist, such as the "principle of least privilege" or "defense in depth".
The use of secure libraries and development tools can speed up the development process and make it more reliable.

Web Application Security Testing

Web application security testing is a process in which potential vulnerabilities in a web application that could be exploited by attackers are checked. As web applications become increasingly complex and hold more data, security testing becomes a key aspect of web application development.

Manual website security testing: Manual testing is typically performed by security experts who manually check the application for vulnerabilities. This may include checking for vulnerabilities to attacks such as SQL injection, XSS attacks, CSRF attacks, and others. Experts can also conduct stress testing to ensure the application can handle a high volume of requests without compromising security.

Automated website security testing: Automated testing involves using software to automatically check the application for vulnerabilities. This can be faster and more efficient, especially for large applications. Some popular tools for automated security testing include OWASP ZAP, Nessus, Burp Suite, and others.

Online website security testing: There are various online services that allow you to check a website for malware and other threats. Some of these include VirusTotal, Sucuri SiteCheck, and Quttera. Penetration testing: Penetration testing involves simulating a real cyber attack on a web application to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities. Penetration testing can be conducted by internal staff or independent organizations, and it typically involves a wide range of techniques and methodologies.

Web application security testing should be conducted regularly throughout the entire life cycle of application development to ensure its security and protect user data.

Maintaining Website Security

Continuous updating and improving website security includes updating the system and components of the web application. Auditing web application security and responding to website security threats in real-time requires constant monitoring and quick response to emerging threats.

It's important to remember that various methods of protecting web applications from attacks are not a one-time task, but a continuous process. Threats are constantly changing and evolving, and neutralizing them requires a systematic and consistent approach.

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