Hey Experts, Is Application Security your Stepchild?
The web has evolved and has changed from providing only static experience to an interactive and dynamic platform which is being used today by all major businesses and organizations to conduct business. As time has progressed, the technology has changed, and so have the web applications. Web applications today are evolved in terms of their functionality, user experience, and complexity. Data of all kinds are exchanged through them which more often than not is of a sensitive nature. This has obviously raised a concern about the security of these applications and while organizations have paid a lot of attention to secure their data entry points like network, and secured them with advanced technologies, web application layer security has taken a fall back and emerged as the Achilles heel of their entire security posture. The cyber-miscreants have noticed this, and are increasingly targeting web applications to gain entry and thereafter control of an organizations assets.
The need for advanced application security tools
Relying on traditional security tools has not brought the desired result, and web applications continue to fall prey to attacks. 70% of attacks are targeted on the application layer, and not much is changing. A large number of applications, both web, and mobile, are vulnerable and are serving and will continue to serve as an entry point for many cyber-attacks.
Organizations are trying to secure their missions in critical applications. And while this is better than not doing anything at all, it’s not enough. Hackers do not target only the critical application. They realize that while we are working on barricading our main door, there will be some windows, which can be broken into…and once they manage that, it really doesn’t matter if the main door is locked from outside.
What can you do to secure your web applications?
Breaches are bad for any organization, and web applications, unfortunately, have become the number one attack path of most of the successful breaches. These applications are low-hanging fruits, which hackers prefer going for rather than the ones requiring more effort. This is how they earn their living, and they will not stop, so the onus lies on us to secure these applications and avoid becoming a target to another one of these attacks.
In house security team or experts from a security organization?
Many organizations today decide to hire and rely on their internal security teams. While it may be considered as a viable option, it might not give you the best results. The threat environment today constantly changes and it is not feasible for internal security teams to keep abreast with them. The need is of security organizations, who understand the cybersecurity environment inside and out, remain updated with the changing trends and change their security strategy accordingly.
They understand the separate needs of separate organizations and can offer solutions depending on the same. For e.g., While a bank will be targeted by hackers for customer login and financial data, a government website will be in more of a danger from politically motivated hackers who resort to tactics like defacement to cause harm.
Many solutions are also available as Managed services (MSS) and can be used by organizations.
Prioritize and protect
Web applications are riddled with vulnerabilities and it’s not always a plausible solution to fix them all at once. One needs to prioritize the vulnerabilities that need foremost attention, based on their level of sensitivity, and work towards fixing them. A Web Application Firewall (WAF) can be used for blocking attacks on the others. While a traditional WAF cannot achieve this, a managed WAF is more than capable of protecting your applications against such threats.
Multiple-layer Web Defense is the need of the hour
Organizations can opt for multiple layer security, to get total application security. Use of a web application scanner, can manually scan all your apps and inform about possible vulnerabilities and malware.
For a deeper and proactive approach, penetration testing can be done, which essentially means that you try to hack into your applications and during the course, find the weak points which hackers can potentially use for entering. Once found, these weak points can be fixed and patched.
A WAF not only protects your vulnerable apps but also provides protection against DoS and DDoS attacks. It can differentiate between automated and human requests, and hence protect against BOTs.
Security audits-Pain but a necessity
Complete audits of applications, especially the ones involving financial transactions, should be done. PCI DSS mandates that all organizations handling cardholder’s data should follow a certain set of rules and regulations, to encourage and enhance cardholder data security.
Regular software updates
It’s a commonly known, but often ignored security necessity. Patches are regularly provided for vulnerabilities existing in applications. It is important to update the software regularly so that these patches are installed and any existing vulnerability does not offer a way in for hackers.