What exactly is a vulnerability on a website? A vulnerability in isolation is a state in which something or someone could potentially be harmed. In computer security, a vulnerability on a website or application would mean there’s a weakness on the site that can easily be exploited by a hacker. In the event a hacker successfully exploits a vulnerability, they would be able to access sensitive information and gain complete control of the web application.
Let’s give it some real-world context:
Consider purchasing or owning a house, by not having a secure lock for your door the house and its contents become vulnerable to a robbery because the potential hacker, or in this case robber, has easier access. The house-break in example referenced, as may be the case in website security, is merely one example of a vulnerability to consider. In most cases, there are multiple things to consider like adding burglar bars, an alarm system, or secure fencing.
When it comes to website security and identifying website vulnerabilities, ask yourself, are you easily able to spot a vulnerability and in turn implement measures to reduce these threats?
Types of web security threats to look out for:
1. SQL Injection – What is SQL injection?
This is a code injection technique commonly used by hackers to destroy an application by placing malicious code in an SQL statement. This type of attack usually happens on the back-end of a web application.
How can you prevent this? An automated SQL injection attack tool will do all the work for you.
2. Cross-site scripting – XSS vulnerability
This is another code injection technique, whereby instead of the hacker attacking the application itself, it targets the users who are making use of the application.
How can you prevent this? A web malware detection tool will scan and detect an XSS vulnerability.
3. Broken Authentication – Commonly used vulnerability!
Hackers exploit this vulnerability in two areas, namely session management, and credential management to gain access to sensitive information such as passwords. The aim here is to manipulate a user’s identity online.
How can you prevent this?
- Use strong passwords only – Disallow weak passwords, ensure it is a specific length and contains special characters.
- Enable Two-factor Authentication (2FA) – Add an extra step to the login process. Enabling this will require an additional user verification via an OTP (One-time password) before logging in to the application.
- Regulate web sessions – If there is no activity on a page after a certain period, be sure to close the web session.
4. Insecure direct object references (IDOR)
This is an access control vulnerability whereby a hacker is able to identify a filename or user ID in the URL; an attacker will change this information to access restricted information.
How can you prevent this? Avoid using direct object references in the URL.
5. SSL Stripping attacks – Secure your web address
This is an attack used by hackers to downgrade a user’s connection from HTTPS to HTTP exposing the user to a security breach.
How can you prevent this? Implement a policy whereby a browser won’t be opened unless it has HTTPS enabled and ensure your web application has an SSL certificate installed.
Always be ready, for attacks and prevent vulnerabilities where possible. It’s important to protect yourself and your company by practicing safe website security measures, having reliable recovery tools on standby, and conducting regular website audits to identify malicious malware.