Applications are vulnerable to unseen dangers, such as malicious intruders trying to break into your systems and breaching your data and assets.

To fortify your app security, it is necessary to first understand the threats that can put your applications at risk.  

Here we go over the top six application security threats that could compromise your system and uncover strategies to shield your software from devastating attacks. 

Application security: A quick overview

Application security protects software apps from vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks that compromise confidentiality, integrity, and availability. 

Application security involves implementing various security measures and best practices throughout your app’s development lifecycle to ensure it remains secure against potential risks. 

It covers a range of techniques, including secure coding practices, authentication and access controls, encryption, input validation, and error handling. 

Putting a premium on application security and investing in application security tools mitigates risks including data breaches, unauthorized access, and other malicious activities that harm your software and users.

Six app security threats to watch out for 

1. Insecure Direct Object References 

Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR) are vulnerabilities that are created when developers only use identifiers to directly point to page elements that require authentication or access controls. 

Attackers can exploit this vulnerability by simply manipulating your URL and gaining access to your database items.  

Attackers can edit your app’s URL without additional authorization to access critical information, breaching your data and assets. 

Tips to mitigate and prevent IDOR vulnerability risks:

  • Avoid disclosing references to objects within the URL. Use POST-based information instead of GET.
  • Deploy appropriate user authorization checks at relevant stages of your users’ web app journey to help keep out unauthorized access. 
  • Customize your error message to avoid revealing confidential user information that attackers can use to bypass your authorization checks or steal data. 

2. Injection attacks

If your web app is vulnerable to injection attacks, it can easily accept untrusted data from input fields without proper cleaning. 

Injection attacks can give unauthorized users access to your databases, allowing them to exploit admin privileges. 

Attackers can type a code into an input field to trick the server into reading it as a system command, launching the injection successfully. 

Common injection attacks include Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), SQL, and Email header injections. 

Tips to mitigate and prevent injection attacks:

  • Filter and sanitize all input based on a whitelist to prevent attackers from using malicious character combinations. 
  • Ensure you keep untrusted inputs away from your queries and commands. 
  • Use a reliable and safe Application Programming Interface (API) that uses parameterized interfaces or interpreters. 

3. Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is an injection-based and client-side attack that involves injecting malicious code into your web app to launch it into your browsers. 

Apps that don’t validate untrusted data properly are vulnerable to these types of attacks. 

Successful XSS attacks can lead to user session ID theft, redirecting users to malicious websites that facilitate phishing attacks, and website defacing. 

Tips to mitigate and prevent XSS attacks:

  • Leverage auto-sanitation libraries to help validate untrusted data appropriately. 
  • Whitelist inputs to prohibit particular character combinations that attackers commonly use to carry out XSS attacks.
  • Encode all data that users supply. Output encoding can help prevent XSS attacks by ensuring that user-supplied data is displayed as plain text instead of executed as code.

4. Broken authentication vulnerabilities

Broken authentication vulnerabilities can occur when session management tokens and authentication are not adequately implemented. 

Improperly implemented authentication allows attackers to “claim” legitimate users’ identities, gain access to sensitive data, and exploit designated ID privileges. 

Tips to mitigate and prevent potential attacks due to broken authentication vulnerabilities:

  • Invalidate session IDs as soon as the session ends to help prevent unauthorized access.
  • End sessions when a user is inactive for a specific period. 
  • Implement Multi-factor or Two-factor authentication for more robust user access security.
  • Set limiters on the simplicity of user passwords to ensure your app only accepts strong passwords. 

5. Unvalidated forwards and redirects

Website redirects are common on websites and applications as part of the navigation structure. 

To eliminate vulnerabilities that can lead to potential URL-based attacks, you must assess the credibility of redirections, or malicious actors can redirect users to websites containing malware or phishing sites from your app and carry out their attacks. 

Tips to mitigate and prevent potential attacks from unvalidated forwards and redirects:

  • Keep web page redirection to a minimum and only when necessary to reduce potential URL-based attacks. 
  • Provide a mapping value to the destination parameters instead of the actual URL. This way, the server-side code translates the mapping value to the actual URL.  

6. Security misconfigurations

Security misconfigurations are one of the most common threats to web applications. 

Default settings are easy to spot and exploit since they are designed to accommodate simple user experiences. 

When you don’t change default settings, such as reference IDs, usernames, passwords, and error messages, you can open your app to vulnerabilities that allow hackers to access your admin privileges and breach your database. 

Tips to mitigate and prevent security misconfiguration vulnerabilities:

  • Change default configurations as soon as possible so you don’t overlook or forget them. 
  • Run regular penetration tests to detect and remediate web app vulnerabilities promptly. 
  • Regularly maintain and update all your web app components, including operating systems, databases, firewalls, extensions, and servers, to spot security gaps and strengthen your existing protection measures. 

Understanding common app security threats

Understanding application security threats and implementing the right measures help fortify your apps against potential breaches. 

It equips you to safeguard sensitive data better and ensure uninterrupted service for your users. 

A robust security posture helps you confidently navigate the ever-evolving threat landscape and keep your applications safe. 

Arm yourself with knowledge, implement the best practices, and let security be the cornerstone of your software development journey.

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