If an app has a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to access a user's data, it could put them at risk of identity theft or data loss. As the security industry continues to grow, more people realize the importance of application testing.
Over the past few years, many have referred to application security as a cybersecurity issue. It usually refers to issues such as malicious software and phishing attacks. However, one of the most critical applications is in software development.
There are a lot of misunderstandings about what security testing is and how it can be done. This article aims to explain four different application security risks and how you can address them.
Application security is a set of techniques, policies, and technologies that ensure applications' confidentiality, authenticity, integrity, and availability.
What Is Application Security?
Application security is a set of techniques, policies, and technologies that ensure applications' confidentiality, authenticity, integrity, and availability. It also protects against fraud and malicious manipulation. You may have heard that app security is a ticking time bomb—and it's true!
But software developers can take care of these four types of application security risks:
1. Injection flaws
2. Logic and design flaws
3. Authentication and authorization flaws
4. Exposure of sensitive information
Injection flaws are where a hacker could inject malicious code into an application. The hacker accomplishes this by exploiting security vulnerabilities in the web browser or tampering with the input data passed to an application.
The most common exploit is SQL injection. Most security checks are done through the user-entered data as SQL statements (SELECT, UPDATE, REPLACE and INSERT). If a hacker can control the data, they might manipulate the database. The second form of injection exists in web services. This happens when an attacker sends a malicious XML document to an Axis2 service endpoint and causes it to execute arbitrary code or disclose information from or to another system or user they are not authorized to access.
Logic and Design Flaws
A design or logic flaw is an error that allows an attacker to access or control an application's functionality. An attacker can perform unauthorized actions or access sensitive data by exploiting these flaws.
The most common design and logic flaw is the insecure direct object reference. This vulnerability allows an attacker to access an object's data if they can change its reference. For instance, if an attacker changes the URL of a file, they can access its sensitive information.
Another common design and logic flaw is the insecure storage of cryptographic keys. An attacker can exploit this vulnerability to access the stored keys in an insecure location. For instance, if an attacker has access to the keys, they can decrypt or alter the data of an authorized user. They can perform unauthorized actions, access sensitive data, or bypass security controls. Organizations should regularly test and adopt secure design principles in their applications to minimize the risk of these flaws.
Authentication and Authorization Flaws
Authentication gives you access to a resource after you provide the correct credentials, while authorization grants you access to a resource depending on your permission levels. Now, a flaw means you are not limiting access to sensitive data based on any logic. For example, an application with sensitive data (bank accounts, home addresses) should contain strong authentication mechanisms like multifactor authentication.
Exposure of Sensitive Information
Unauthorized disclosure of information may occur through a buffer overflow vulnerability when an attacker submits a carefully constructed but malicious data request that overrides memory locations used to store sensitive information (such as cookie values). Data loss also occurs when an attacker gains access via a network or security breach and can send malicious requests with unintended codes.
Buffer overflows are often combined with injection vulnerabilities to gain control of resources (such as creating new threads) or execute commands without authorization. Most languages and all major frameworks contain some built-in protection against buffer overflows, but they can exist in any programming language. Some methods of protection may require protocol changes.
How Can I Fix My Application Security Risks?
Some say that willful security risks are not a problem. But even if you employ all the best possible safeguards and build a bullet-proof application, it's still possible to make errors. So, how do you defend against this type of risk? Here are five things to do to eliminate these types of errors.
A robust authentication mechanism can provide them with an additional layer of security by requiring a second factor, such as a code from a hardware token.
1. Use Strong Authentication Mechanisms
One of the most important factors that organizations should consider when implementing strong authentication is ensuring that their applications are secure. A robust authentication mechanism can provide them with an additional layer of security by requiring a second factor, such as a code from a hardware token. This type of security can make it harder for an attacker to access their app. Even if an attacker can access an app using a username and password, they still could not login without having the second factor.
Various types of strong authentication mechanisms can be used for your app, and they all have their own level of security to help protect it from attacks.
2. Use Secure Coding Principles and Design Patterns
Secure coding techniques can eliminate a wide variety of application security risks. One typical example is to make sure that every time the app receives user input, it must be validated first. If this is not done, an attacker could insert malicious software or keyboard data that would allow their code to run.
In addition, to protect against a brute force attack, the app should have multiple passwords that are required for logging in.
Be sure to test your code at every stage, not just during your first release into production. This prevents attackers from discovering your insecure parts through debugging or testing for other vulnerabilities in managed applications. It also makes it easier to identify errors when you update your code later. Failing to test all parts of your code can cause a wide variety of security vulnerabilities.
1. Broken or poorly coded interfaces
2. Unsecure authentication and session management, such as cookies and storage (to hold user IDs and encrypted passwords, for example)
3. Insufficient encryption for sensitive data
4. Weakly protected password systems
5. Insufficient authorization checks on sensitive data
4. Perform Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment
This allows you to spot insecure parts of your application, test their operations under attack conditions, and fix them. Penetration testing is an effective way to identify new vulnerabilities while your app is in development. It offers some assurance that the app will work as expected once you release it to the public.
It's also important to use covered input fields, especially those that multiple users can reuse. This will make it much more difficult for attackers to succeed in their attacks because they will have to ensure that each input field does not get reused by another user. It may take some time for an attacker to find new inputs, but since most injection flaws are common and easy to overlook, this safeguard is critical.
Every day, hackers exploit vulnerabilities in applications to steal data or hack networks. And every day, application developers are scrambling to plug these security gaps before they trap their users with an application they can’t use. But there’s hope: a diversity of automated tools like StackHawk allow developers to easily identify potential application flaws and work around them by optimizing the code.
This post was written by Mercy Kibet. Mercy is a full-stack developer with a knack for learning and writing about new and intriguing tech stacks.