Welcome!

Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Vincent Brasseur, Gilad Parann-Nissany

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, Security

SOA & WOA: Article

Common Web Application Security Vulnerabilities and Mitigation

It's easy to avoid common vulnerabilities with little precaution

Web applications are vulnerable to a multitude of security attacks. This exposes the underlying businesses and the consumer data to public view. However it is a common observation that web developers hardly take any preventive steps to secure their web applications.

Most of the time web application developers focus only on authentication and authorization to secure the web applications. This may be a viable approach for designing an intranet application. However, for the Internet application, multiple programming practices need to be followed to prevent such attacks.

This article details in brief the various security vulnerabilities web applications face and how they can be mitigated.

Bypassing Input Validation
Generally developers validate the user input using JavaScript validations. Once the information is sent to the server side, developers do not validate again, since they assume that JavaScript validations can block all invalid data.

Hackers, however, can simply save the page to their local hard disk and modify the JavaScript to not do the validation. They can then submit the page.

Mitigation
All input should be validated twice - first on the client side and then on the server side. Client-side validation is done using Java Script. The server-side validation is done using the respective server-side technology like Java, .NET or PHP

SQL Injection
An attacker can submit input that would pass the JavaScript and server-side validation. However, the input is actually an SQL query. Since the input is used to construct the SQL queries, such an input would alter the SQL query and give unauthorized information back to the attacker.

Mitigation
Use Prepared Statements to fire queries. Don't use string concatenation with the user input to create dynamic queries

Unprotected Resources
The attacker can guess the URLs of unprotected resources. Such information can be divulged by reading the code comments or it could be guessed.

Mitigation
All web content must be protected by authentication. In the case of Java web application programming, keep all the unprotected and sensitive code under WEB-INF. A similar solution exists for PHP and other server-side technologies.

Reverse Engineering
For rich client applications such as those using Java Applets, Adobe Flex, Microsoft Silverlight, etc., the entire byte code gets transmitted to the client side. An attacker can decompile the byte code and gain sensitive information.

Mitigation
The client-side code shouldn't contain any business logic. It also shouldn't contain business logic validation. The code should be obfuscated before sending to the client.

Weak Authentication
Many times attackers can gain access to a secure website by using common terms like ‘admin,' ‘test,' etc. Developers often use these user names and passwords for testing purposes and often forget to remove them from the production systems.

Mitigation
Developers should not be given access to a production database for testing purposes. All testing must happen in UAT and it should use real user names and passwords.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
When you open two websites in two different browser tabs, you don't expect one website on a given tab to steal your passwords from another tab.

However, this is possible, if you are using an old version of the browser or if you're using an infected browser

Mitigation
Encourage users to upgrade to the latest version of the browsers. Also technologies that use secure sandboxing such as Java Applets and Adobe Flex and many others should be used for creating rich-client applications.

Conclusion
About 80% of all web security breaches can be prevented by addressing the above vulnerabilities. A regular code review is very much required to correct the oversight on the part of programmers.

There are also various tools available that will detect the common vulnerabilities for you. Many of these tools, however, generate false positives and need substantial time to separate false positives from real alerts.

Ultimately these tools can't fix the code. That has to be done by the developer. Thus, appropriate review procedures must be established and awareness should be propagated to educate developers on the vulnerabilities and their mitigation.

More Stories By Mahesh K Punjabi

Mahesh K Punjabi is a senior technology architect with Infosys Technologies Ltd. He has extensive experience designing enterprise applications using Java and multitude of RIA technologies including Flex and GWT. His other passions include photography and speaking with Toastmasters' clubs.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.