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An Ultimate Guide to Web Application Security

If one thinks that they know it all about cybersecurity- this discipline was probably not explained appropriately to them.”- Stephane Nappo

With the rise of information technology, businesses have to opt for digital transformation. They leverage best-in-class web development languages to create applications that cater to the unique needs of users. Such apps gain traction and reach a wider audience from all over the world. 

But that traction can be harmful as it also attracts hackers. They exploit the weak aspects of the web application security or the vulnerabilities of your app to steal valuable dat a. This can cause some serious damage to business and their customers. 

More and more cybersecurity breaches are happening even in the government and large business organisations. The scale of harm such attacks inflict is only getting bigger. And in a time when eCommerce is booming, every customer and online store is at risk. Every digital payment system and its users are at risk. So what to do now? 

Business owners and developers need to implement measures that safeguard various aspects of web apps. Therefore, we present to you an ultimate guide on web application security.

Here, we will go through the basics of the concept, its importance, how it works and what best practices you can implement for its success.

What Is Web Application Security?

If any vulnerabilities are present in your app then cybercriminals can easily exploit it. Therefore, it becomes necessary to form web security policies for the protection of your apps. It helps you apply the best security measures like multi-factor authentication, maintaining privacy status and user state, WAFs, cookies validation and more. 

The purpose behind implementing these best practices is to validate all the user inputs. The purpose here is to identify the source of the user input and check if it is malicious or not. The input will be processed only if it is confirmed that it won’t be a security threat to the app or its data. 

Along with strengthening the security of their apps, users also need to keep an eye out for online threats that might corrupt their personal computers. If you are someone who works from home then nothing can provide you enough security than an anti-virus application. 

You have to identify the potential threats, formulate a strategy to handle them and follow it strictly. We will provide you with a few best security practices for your web apps but before that, we need to know why web app security is so important and how it works.

Importance of Web Application Security

From online shopping to digital banking, web apps are dominating in almost every field. But the popular ones also become an easy target. They are proficient at finding and exploiting the weaknesses or the vulnerabilities of the web app may it be in open-source code, a design flaw, access control, APIs or third-party integrations.

Attacks commonly targeted towards web applications include: 

  • Insecure deserialization
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Brute force
  • Cookie poisoning
  • Sensitive data disclosure
  • Credential stuffing
  • SQL Injection
  • Session hijacking
  • Formjacking injections

How Does Application Security Work?

Any approach you take to secure your web app will be about addressing any specific weakness or vulnerability. Web App Firewalls are utilised to monitor and filter the web traffic between an app and its users. This helps in defending against various cybersecurity attacks. 

These firewalls are configured with policies that help in determining which traffic is safe and which could pose a threat to the app. WAFs can do a phenomenal job of blocking malicious traffic. The purpose here is to prevent malicious traffic from reaching the app and accessing its confidential information.

Web app security best practices

1. Attack your website

The best defence is to attack. No, you don’t have to attack your attackers but your application. Knowing how your enemy thinks will provide you with the best protection. And your enemy thinks of attacking your web app. 

You can implement all the best security practices and tools you want but nothing can prepare you like actually simulating the attacks. An attack makes the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of your app visible.

You can hire experts to run such attacks in an isolated environment. It is to prevent inflicting any harm on business processes attached to the apps. You can do it for yourself but unless you are a cybersecurity expert, you won’t be able to do it effectively and hence you won’t get any good information from this approach. 

Non-technical people, beginners and amateurs can’t completely understand how security protocols work and where they fall short under attack. Therefore, you need to conduct various cybersecurity attacks like sensitive data leaks, XSS, broken authentication, DNS spoofing, SQL injection, CSRF and more under the supervision of an expert.

2. Invest in an SSL certificate

A Secure Socket Layer certificate will encrypt the data of your app and pass it through a protected network. This prevents hackers from seeing or intercepting it. 

Your app might have sensitive business and user information like usernames, passwords, addresses, bank details, credit/debit card details and more. Getting an SSL certificate will hide all that data from the attackers. 

Google has announced that every web app must have an SSL certificate if it wants to rank higher in its search engine results. 

It’s a simple technique that ensures the users of the Google search engine that the websites they will visit through search results will be completely secure. Now, if you want to provide a payment system on your app then you will need to obtain the PCI licence and for that, you need to have an SSL certificate. If you are wondering that with such importance, an SSL certificate might be expensive, then you are mistaken. It only costs around $8.00/year. 

3. Read and educate

Hackers can be lethal if your staff isn’t well-educated on the subject of cybersecurity. An educated staff is tough to fool even with social engineering attacks. 

You can get updates on the latest trends and technologies through popular blogs and YouTube videos. Your information must help you gain an edge over hackers. Uneducated users can easily fall victim to even non-targeted attacks.

4. Backup your data

Cyber attacks won’t come with a warning and they won’t even give you time to react. So, you have to regularly back up your data. It ensures that even if you lose against an attacker, you won’t lose your data. They might take down your site but if you have maintained a data backup, you can go live within a few hours. 

Now, where to back up your data? It is highly recommended that you use cloud-based storage devices. They are comparatively safer and are easily available in addition to hard drives which can be stolen or corrupted easily.

5. Scan your website

Attackers make malware scanner-proof but if you use quality scanners then you can detect and quarantine the threats that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and caused some serious damage. 

Therefore, on a regular basis, you must scan your entire website, maybe once a month to stay clear of cyberattacks. But threats are not always injected directly into the web apps, they might emerge through your computer too. Therefore, scanning your app alone is not sufficient, you must also scan your computer regularly. 

Scanning your web applications will help you find and remove potential threats and vulnerabilities.

6. Keep your software up to date

As your staff needs to stay updated with the latest trends, your software also needs to be updated. If you leave it be, your software will slowly become outdated and such apps can be easily compromised. 

Therefore, if you want to keep the attackers at bay, you have to keep updating your web apps. In some platforms, updates are done automatically, but some apps demand manual updates. 

So, look out for your app and update it regularly. Only an updated app can protect sensitive information from attackers.

7. Manage your passwords

Some people tend to forget complex passwords because it would be careless of us if we wrote them down somewhere. What if the attacker can get a hold of it? Well, every now and then, you can keep changing your passwords. But many people hate that too. 

Also, setting an easy password is not an option because it will be easier to crack. Now, you can apply constraints on your app while users set their passwords. It will help them set a difficult password. 

It advises users to utilise different characters, symbols and numbers to make a strong password. It is said that setting a 14-digit password is good as it makes it difficult to guess with brute force and bots. 

In addition to a strong password, a user can implement two-factor verification to strengthen the security of the application.

A 4-6 digit code is sent to the user for two-step verification. Only after entering that code, the user will be authorised to use or access the app. If after multiple attempts, the user fails to provide the authentic code, the app would automatically block the IP address of the user.

Final Thoughts

The online marketplace has become highly competitive. We won’t know which means a hacker would use to attack your web apps. It is the duty of the owner and the developer to fortify every wall, as the attack might come from any front. 

First, you have to secure the weak and vulnerable sections as we discussed in this blog. It will prevent them from exploiting any opening to your fort. 

Advanced arsenal can be of big help as the hackers also use modern attacks like DNS spoofing, CSRF, SQL injection, DDoS, and XSS. You not only need to know how these attacks work but also need to have advanced technology to nullify those attacks. 

I hope the insights provided in this article are helpful. Still, cybersecurity is a vast topic, and every app is a different case. Know your web apps well, know how they can be attacked and know how you can defend them. That’s the gist of the security best practices.