Thanks to the rapid advent of technology and penetration of the internet to even remote places, there has emerged a large crop of businesses of various kinds and sizes that operate and provide services online. With such an online presence, there is a large amount of data generated on websites and apps which include customers’ confidential and sensitive information. And where there is data, there is a high risk of breaches and cyber-attacks since hackers and cyber-criminals are automatically drawn there.

Data breaches do not just cause financial losses but cost businesses heavily in terms of loss of customers, reputation, brand image, post-attack response, escalation costs, etc. While the bigger players may be able to recuperate from such losses faster, it may not always be the case with the smaller businesses. So, it is crucial that online businesses are well-prepared. Here is a web application security guide to aid online businesses.

Acknowledgment: So, the first and foremost thing in web application security for online businesses is to acknowledge that you are potential targets for security breaches and cyber-attacks.

Be proactive in your approach to web application security, be alert and stay one step ahead of hackers and cyber-criminals so that you have fixed your vulnerabilities before they can find it or leverage it.

Sound and dynamic cybersecurity strategy: Cybersecurity must not be ad hoc or scattered but a sustained effort with direction, purpose, and focus. With a clear understanding of needs and priorities, potential sources of risks and threats, strengths and weaknesses of the organization in terms of cybersecurity, a sound, and dynamic strategy must be drawn out.

Regular scanning and audits of all applications: You must know what vulnerabilities and gaps exist in the apps, systems, and networks before they can be fixed. To this end, perform daily scans of your web applications as well as when there are changes in your functionalities, business policies, infrastructure, etc. You could also automate these scans. Choose automated scanners that are endowed with machine learning and have access to information on existing and emerging global threats.

Apart from the regular scans for viruses, malware, malicious activities, defacements, etc., conduct penetration testing and security audit every once in a while, with the help of expert professionals so as to identify gaps and vulnerabilities in your cart, passwords, forms, etc. and business logic flaws.

Employ a Web Application Firewall: Identified vulnerabilities take over 100 days to be fixed, even critical vulnerabilities. During this period, the application must be secured from possible attacks and Web Application Firewall (WAF) helps with this. It acts as a shield to your web applications by automatically and immediately blocking malicious requests by patching the application-layer vulnerabilities until these are fixed. It continuously monitors emerging threats and DDoS attacks and analyzes patterns in bad traffic and attack behavior. Choosing the right WAF is crucial. It is advisable to choose a managed WAF as it combines automation with the human expertise of certified professionals. Also, look for a managed WAF that is intelligent in that it allows the security personnel to choose what course of action needs to be taken for a specific request. Cloud-based WAFs are budget-friendly.

Hire security experts: Nothing can replace human intellect and unconventional thinking. So, hire certified security experts to ensure that vulnerabilities that may escape machine intellect such as business logic flaws do not go unnoticed and to ensure that there are zero false positives. These experts will be able to customize your cybersecurity strategy and build customized products that suit the needs of your business.

Leverage security analytics just like you would with business analytics to gain deep insights about attack patterns, causes, MO, etc. and strengthen your web application security further.

Some Other Tips:

  • Keep all your software updated since updates contain critical patches.
  • Using HTTPS helps in securing and maintaining the confidentiality of user information such as credit card details, address, social security numbers, financial information, etc.
  • Enforce a strong password policy and multi-factor authentication to access the web application.
  • Ensure that all sensitive data and passwords sent through emails are encrypted.
  • Keep your all your data securely and regularly backed up.
  • Use your discretion and limit user permissions, privileges and remote access.
  • Keep your application clean. If there are some unnecessary or outdated functionalities on your web application, switch off/remove them.
  • Stay Informed.

Educate yourself and your stakeholders: Keep yourself in the loop about the latest trends and developments through the numerous blogs and content available online to strengthen your web application security. Create awareness among your stakeholders too about the need for and their role in upkeeping cybersecurity.

Engage in web application security proactively and keep your customer trust and brand image intact.

Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, Indusface

Venky has played multiple roles within Indusface for the past 6 years. Prior to this, as the CTO @indusface, Venky built the product/service offering and technology team from scratch, and grew it from ideation to getting initial customers with a proven/validated business model poised for scale. Before joining Indusface, Venky had 10+ years of experience in security industry and had held various mgmt/leadership roles in Product Development, Professional Services and Sales @Entrust.