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Web Application Security: How to Secure Your Web Application from Attack

Use a web application firewall A web application firewall (WAF) is an essential component of Read More

web application security
web application security

Web Application Security: How to Secure Your Web Application from Attack

Use a web application firewall

A web application firewall (WAF) is an essential component of web application security architecture as they protect web applications from many common attacks such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and denial of service attacks to name a few. A WAF has two main functions; the first is to inspect HTTP requests and responses for patterns that indicate malicious activity, and the second is to protect your application by blocking requests that contain malicious payloads or are destined for unauthorized resources on your network. There are many free and commercial WAF products available in the market today, which makes choosing one difficult.

Securing your server

There are multiple steps involved in securing your server. One of these steps is adding a level of encryption via HTTPS. While not required, it’s good practice and considered a best practice by web application security standards. You can secure your site using HTTPS by purchasing an SSL certificate or using an existing certificate (if you have one), enabling HTTPS on your site, and ensuring that all interactions with your site are encrypted over SSL/TLS. Also note that setting up HTTPS only secures communications between users and your site.

Securing your APIs

APIs are application programming interfaces, and they’re central to most modern web applications. They allow users and developers to interact with your apps by sending requests and receiving responses. In order for them to work properly, you’ll need to protect them from intrusion. If a hacker manages to get through your defenses, he or she can potentially exploit these avenues of entry into your system, gaining access into other areas. But if you secure them properly, they won’t be able to do any damage at all.

Ensuring your content delivery network (CDN) is secure

It’s not a matter of if your web application will be attacked; it’s a matter of when. These attacks can happen in myriad ways and from all over, including by organized hacker groups, government agencies and even disgruntled employees. You can never completely stop or prevent these attacks, but you can take steps to ensure that your content delivery network (CDN) is protected against most attacks.

Auditing log files

An auditing tool can help you monitor activities on your web server, such as changes to databases and attempts at accessing sensitive files. Google Audit Viewer and free security tools such as Portswigger’s Burp Suite are good options for keeping an eye on your web application. Free penetration testing tools can also help you spot problems with your site; for example, Qualys’ SiteCheck scans sites for common vulnerabilities.

Limiting third party access

Limiting third-party access is a fundamental security practice and should be part of every organization’s web application security policy. Due to the often obscure nature of third-party use, it is sometimes challenging for organizations to identify which services have unauthorized access or not. A penetration test can provide insight into how third parties are using an application, as well as uncover potential vulnerabilities that could lead to an attack. Penetration testing reveals what malicious actors are capable of doing without revealing exactly how they do it.

Encrypt your data

You can protect your application data by encrypting it. This will prevent attackers who are monitoring your data traffic or who have access to it at rest from accessing and viewing sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. As an added layer of protection, you should also store your application database in a secure location and use firewalls on all Internet-facing web servers.

Use Role Management and Access Control

Website security is as much about maintaining access and controlling user roles as it is about patching your code and applying updated versions of popular software. Think of web application security as a team sport—your defense includes both offense and defense, with players rotating in and out depending on where their skills are needed most. Using role management systems gives you granular control over website users, allowing you to create different permissions for different groups and individuals. Access-control lists that extend beyond a single server can also help keep unauthorized users at bay.

Apply operating system security patches and updates promptly

This process is known as keeping your system up-to-date. It’s a critical component of any computer system security plan and should be used with all new software applications, systems, or hardware purchases. The general rule of thumb is that you should apply operating system patches as soon as they become available—or within 48 hours after a patch has been announced. No matter how much you dislike an update, you must install it as soon as possible.